Berlin The United States and its allies must make sacrifices to close the Guantanamo Bay detention center, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder said Wednesday in a high-profile appeal for Europe’s help.
Holder spoke to the American Academy in Berlin, not long after telling reporters that the United States had approved the release of about 30 Guantanamo detainees.
“We must all make sacrifices and we must all be willing to make unpopular choices,” said Holder.
“The United States is ready to do its part, and we hope that Europe will join us — not out of a sense of responsibility, but from a commitment to work with one of its oldest allies to confront one of the world’s most pressing challenges,” he said.
There are currently 241 inmates at the facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and Holder spent the past several days privately asking European leaders in London, Prague and Berlin for help relocating detainees the United States wants to set free.
Holder spoke before a select group of policy experts, academics and journalists in a crowded room of about 100.
In answer to a question about Bush administration officials’ decisions to authorize tough interrogation techniques, Holder said he believed that many of them would, privately, admit to having made some mistakes in the pressure and worry that followed the Sept. 11 attacks.
“I don’t suspect that would be true of Vice President Dick Cheney,” Holder added.
At another point, a questioner earnestly asked of those Guantanamo detainees who are believed to be innocent could be put in a hotel somewhere.
“Hotels might be a possibility; it depends on where the hotel is,” joked Holder.
Before the speech, Holder met with reporters, saying the United States has made decisions on a group of about 30 detainees, but has not yet decided where it wants to send them.
He said the United States is weeks away from asking certain countries to take detainees.
“We have about 30 or so where we’ve made the determination that they can be released. So we will, I think, relatively soon, be reaching out to specific countries with specific detainees and ask whether or not there might be a basis for the moving of those people from Guantanamo to those countries,” Holder said.
Germany’s former justice minister, Herta Daubler-Gmelin, a fierce critic of previous President George W. Bush, said Holder “made a very good impression. He’s very honest about this society in transformation in America.”
She said she expected Germany would eventually be one of the countries that accepts Guantanamo detainees.
The Bush administration had approved about 60 detainees for release, and Holder aides would not say if the 30 he was referring to were part of that group. Additionally, about 20 detainees have been ordered released by the courts, though those cases remain unresolved.
President Barack Obama has ordered the controversial detention site shuttered in the next nine months and assigned Holder to oversee that effort.