Serbian Government Denies Guantanamo Allegations

Serbian government officials deny that they discussed the possibility of transferring Guantanamo detainees to Serbia’s Zabela prison.

“The Serbian government did not discuss receiving prisoners from the US-controlled Guantanamo prison in Cuba to the special ward of the Zabela Correction Facility near the town of Pozarevac,” the director of the Serbian government’s media relations office, Milivoje Mihajlovic, told Tanjug news agency on Tuesday.

Serbian daily Danas, quoting sources close to the Serbian government, reported on Tuesday that the proposal for relocating Guantanamo prisoners to Zabela exists and that its goal is to strengthen bilateral relations with the US.

Guantanamo Bay has hosted a detention camp for alleged militants since 2002.

The Barack Obama administration planned to shut down the prison camp within the year and to either repatriate the 240 detainees or move them to high security jails in the US.

However, the US Senate passed an amendment on May 20, which blocked the necessary funds for transferring detainees.

Danas reported that Serbia would be able to accept the prisoners once a law on special prison regimes for those convicted of terrorism and organised crime has been adopted. This law is in the process of being passed by parliamentary.

Balkan Insight can reveal that the Justice Ministry has not been informed about the reported transfer proposal. The ministry appeared to contradict the newspaper report in saying the new law would only apply to prisoners currently held by Serbia.

On Tuesday, Danas included a special section on Zabela jail, known in Serbia as the ‘prison inside the prison’, which the daily claims would host the Guantanamo prisoners. The unit has recently been renovated and can hold 120 prisoners The facility now features strong security features. It is enclosed by a six metre high fence, has four guard towers, and 100 cameras monitor the area.

The US and EU endorsed a joint statement on the closure of the Guantanamo Bay detention facility on June 15, pledging that their future counterterrorism cooperation would be premised on shared values, international law, respect for human rights and the rule of law.

The joint statement fully backs the US decision to close the detention centre and allows EU member states to receive former detainees cleared for release, upon US request.

Some countries, such as the UK, France, Spain, Italy and Portugal have announced that they might be able to place Guantanamo inmates in their prisons, while Austria, Sweden, Australia, Denmark and the Netherlands refuse to accept the prisoners.

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