September 30, 2014 / 8:10 PM / 5 years ago

OAS asks Latin American member states to take in Guantanamo detainees

Jose Miguel Insulza, Secretary General of the Organization of American States, (OAS), speaks during a news conference a day ahead of the 46th Special Session of the OAS General Assembly in Guatemala City, September 18, 2014. REUTERS/Jorge Dan Lopez

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The head of the Organization of American States this week issued an appeal for member countries to take in detainees from the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay, calling it a chance to address a “serious humanitarian” issue.

OAS Secretary-General Jose Miguel Insulza said the U.S. government had asked that countries in the hemisphere consider receiving some of the dozens of prisoners at Guantanamo who have been ruled eligible for transfer, but are unable to leave because they have nowhere to go.

“These are people who have not been judged, nor will they be, for any crime,” he said in a declaration issued on Monday. Insulza noted “exhaustive evaluations” by U.S. authorities have determined that they would not pose serious risks.

More than half of the 149 prisoners still at Guantanamo have been cleared for release.

U.S. President Barack Obama signed an executive order to close the much-criticized military prison the day he took office, but nearly six years later, it is still open. The U.S. Congress has repeatedly halted efforts to close it, notably by blocking moves to transfer detainees to facilities in the United States.

A plan to transfer six prisoners to Uruguay has been delayed until after presidential election next month and possibly longer.

Advocates for closing the camp say it violates U.S. principles by holding prisoners without charge and force feeding hunger-striking detainees. They also say it is a recruiting tool for anti-American militant groups and is expensive to run.

It costs $2.7 million to $2.8 million per year to keep each detainee at Guantanamo, compared with $78,000 per inmate at the highest security prisons in the United States.

Reporting by Patricia Zengerle; editing by David Storey and G Crosse

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