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Guantanamo prisoners: pros and cons

By Messenger Staff
Friday, March 26
On March 23 it became known that three Guantanamo detainees will be transferred to Georgia for the rest of their sentence. This news created agitation in the Georgian political spectrum and the public. Everyone has started expressing an expert opinion on this issue, with the opposition in particular using the decision as a means to further criticise the Saakashvili administration and some of them rouse anti-American sentiments.

There are various grounds for the opposition's concern. Their first objection is that all the negotiations concerning the transfer of these prisoners to Georgia were done behind closed doors, although officials have several times denied this. The second is that this step makes Georgia vulnerable to terrorist attacks. Some opposition parties suggest that as soon as the detainees arrive in Georgia they will be identified and their fellow supporters will do their best to rescue them and take them out of Georgia. This could eventually stimulate undesirable developments.

The opposition say that accepting the detainees threatens Georgia’s stability and security and they blame Saakashvili and his regime for this. Official sources however assure the population that holding the Guantanamo detainees here is absolutely safe. Deputy Minister of the Interior Shota Utiashvili has explained to the population and those interested that the three Guantanamo detainees, who are from somewhere in the Middle East, have themselves selected Georgia as the place in which they want to serve the remainder of their sentences. They will live in Georgia absolutely freely, be given jobs and helped to learn the Georgian language, although they will not be allowed to leave the country or receive Georgian citizenship. These are at least the major restrictions. The costs of their transfer to Georgia, their living costs and other expenses will not be covered by the Georgian Government.

It is interesting to know why the Georgian state has expressed its readiness to accept Guantanamo detainees. Officially this is an expression of support for Georgia’s major strategic ally the USA, which assists Georgia very substantially in different ways. Secretary of Georgia’s National Security Council Eka Tkeshelashvili has stated that Tbilisi’s decision confirms Georgia’s utmost loyalty to the US. However members of the non-Parliamentary opposition have a different view. They say that Saakashvili has done this in the hope that the US will therefore ignore the various infringements of democracy which take place here. Members of Zurab Noghaideli's Movement or Fair Georgia believe these hopes will be frustrated as the US administration will never turn a blind eye to abuses of freedom, democracy and rule of law and violations of human rights.

If everything goes as the administration says it will accepting the detainees will not threaten stability in Georgia and everything will go smoothly unless there are provocations from the forces determined to aggravate the situation in Georgia. So far the US Government has expressed its utmost satisfaction that the Georgian Government has accepted the Guantanamo detainees.