Thursday, June 11, 2009

Bermuda's Premier Explains Uighurs In Their Midst

Political Punch
ABC News Senior White House Correspondent Jake Tapper

Bermuda's Premier Explains Uighurs In Their Midst

June 11, 2009 10:56 AM

The Premier of Bermuda, Dr. the Hon. Ewart F. Brown, JP, MP, just released a statement on the four Uighur detainees resettled in Bermuda today.

Brown refers to the "infamous prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba," saying of 'the prisoners held there many are innocent men, held without trial or any form of due process; many are refugees from their own lands whose political views are contrary to the regimes in power there. They have committed no crime. They have laid no plans to harm innocent citizens of any nation, but have been caught in a web of reaction to tragic events which at the time of their happening were not well understood.

"In the eight years since these men have been detained the Government of the United States has been clear for some time of their innocence and moreover of their inability to return to their countries of origin. Their detention at Guantanamo Bay in the face of these facts has been termed by international human rights organizations as unjust. The decision to close the prison and to therefore relocate these men is not an easy one and the reluctance of many within the family of nations to absorb them into their populations is evidence of that fact.

"Those of us in leadership have a common understanding of the need to make tough decisions and to sometimes make them in spite of their unpopularity; simply because it is the right thing to do."

Brown says that the Uighurs "are landed in Bermuda in the short term, provided with the opportunity to become naturalized citizens and thereafter afforded the right to travel and leave Bermuda, potentially settling elsewhere...

"The nature of their arrest and detention is such that they are essentially stateless, without documentation and without the benefit of a fresh start will be condemned to languish as innocent men in some form of detention even after the closure of Guantanamo Bay.

"The United States Government will bear the cost surrounding this relocation and the Government of Bermuda will facilitate documentation, residence and employment. Bermuda has extended itself in this manner previously. In the 1980s in the wake of the natural disasters and political issues in Vietnam, Bermuda accepted Vietnamese families and they have, for the most part, become a part of this community or have settled overseas.

"It is important for everyone to understand that this process in not complete. I met with His Excellency the Governor this morning, and on behalf of the United Kingdom, he is seeking to further assess the ramifications of this move before allowing the Government of Bermuda to fully implement this action. Our colonial relationship with the United Kingdom certainly gives him license to do so.

"Therefore, this fast moving situation now rests at Government House and we await a decision… in many respects, the international community awaits a decision. But in the meantime, I can say on behalf of the Government, we are confident this decision is the right one from a humanitarian perspective."

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