Algerians in Guantanamo Could Return Home Soon
Published: February 29, 2008 (Issue # 1352)
ALGIERS — The United States may soon sign an agreement with Algeria on the possible return home of Algerian prisoners from the Guantanamo Bay prison camp, the official Algerian APS news agency reported Wednesday.
Visiting Assistant U.S. Secretary of State David Welch told Algerian reporters that Washington hoped “to conclude soon an accord with Algeria” on the issue, APS reported.
Algerian newspapers have said there are believed to be between 17 and 25 Algerians held at the facility on Cuba.
U.S. President George W. Bush has said he would like to close the camp, which holds about 275 detainees and he calls a necessary tool in the war on terrorism.
Human rights groups and foreign governments have said holding suspects for years without trial violates basic international legal standards.
“The question is to know if we have prisoners who ought to be prosecuted,” APS quoted Welch as saying. “Even if that is not the case, that does not mean that they are not dangerous.
“We want to send prisoners back to their countries of origin, but we must assure ourselves that they do not represent a danger, because we have seen examples of prisoners returning to their countries and who were later released.”
U.S. officials say some governments will not take custody of their citizens held at Guantanamo, others would not treat their citizens humanely and still others are not willing to provide security guarantees Washington believes are necessary.
Algerian President Bouteflika offered an amnesty for Islamist rebels in 2006 as part of a reconciliation policy aimed at ending years of violence in the north African country.
As part of the reconciliation drive he authorized the release from jail of more than 2,000 former members of an Islamist armed rebellion that aims to overthrow the government.
Algerian newspapers say some of the released former fighters rejoined the rebellion after they were freed and have taken part in attacks on government targets in recent months.