DUBLIN — Ireland's agreement Wednesday to accept two Guantanamo prisoners demonstrates that patient diplomacy between the U.S. and Europe is starting to play its part in shutting down the notorious U.S. prison.
Daniel Fried, the Obama administration's special envoy tasked with closing the camp, is back in Europe this week seeking to build on a European Union agreement clearing the way for any member of the 27-nation bloc to accept prisoners who could face persecution in their homelands.
While most European states remain frosty to the idea, a growing number of nations, including Belgium, Finland, Hungary, Italy, Portugal and Spain, say they definitely or probably will take at least one of the approximately 50 prisoners.
Ireland is the second EU nation, after France, to make a firm commitment to take particular prisoners. Slovenia is the next stop on Fried's European tour.
The moves offer ammunition to critics of U.S. lawmakers who, faced with strong opposition from their home districts, have opposed any Guantanamo resettlements on American soil.
The human rights watchdog Amnesty International says many European nations have complained about the illegality and injustice of the internments without trial in Guantanamo -- and now must step up. It lauded Ireland's commitment to take two Uzbek men who would likely face torture and reimprisonment if sent back.
"While Guantanamo is the responsibility of the United States, other countries made it possible," said Colm O'Gorman, executive director of Amnesty's operations in Ireland. "They allowed people to be transferred through their territory, actively participated in illegal detentions and kidnapping or, as in Ireland's case, they allowed their territory to be used as a staging area for rendition operations."
Some of the biggest EU players, Britain and France, say they want to restrict their intake of ex-Guantanamo prisoners to people with citizenship or residency ties. Nonetheless, France became the first EU member in May to take a foreign ex-prisoner, a 43-year-old man from its former colonial possession Algeria.
Others, like Germany and the current EU president, Sweden, say they have taken many refugees from earlier conflicts and expect the U.S. to explain why it shouldn't be the first port of call for all of Guantanamo's homeless.