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Viewing cable 08REYKJAVIK115, ICELAND: PARLIAMENTARY RESOLUTION CONDEMNING GUANTANAMO

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
08REYKJAVIK115 2008-06-19 19:07 2011-01-13 05:05 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Reykjavik
VZCZCXRO3544
PP RUEHFL RUEHKW RUEHLA RUEHROV RUEHSR
DE RUEHRK #0115/01 1711904
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
P 191904Z JUN 08
FM AMEMBASSY REYKJAVIK
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 3697
INFO RUEHZL/EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE
RUEKDIA/DIA WASHDC
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHDC
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 REYKJAVIK 000115 
 
SIPDIS 
 
DEPT. FOR EUR/NB, S/CT, L, DRL 
 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 06/18/18 
TAGS: PREL PGOV PTER PHUM KPAO IC
SUBJECT: ICELAND: PARLIAMENTARY RESOLUTION CONDEMNING GUANTANAMO 
APPROVED 
 
REF:  SECTO 003 DTG 070102Z JUN 08 
 
Classified by Amb Carol van Voorst for reasons 1.4 (b) and (d). 
 
1.  (SBU) SUMMARY: Iceland's parliament unanimously passed a 
non-binding resolution on May 30 calling for the closure of the U.S. 
detention facility at Guantanamo Bay. The resolution further called 
for the Government of Iceland to convey that message to the U.S. 
government; Iceland's Foreign Minister did so later that day during 
her meeting with visiting Secretary of State Rice.  Given the timing, 
news of the resolution and the issue of Guantanamo Bay dominated the 
press coverage of the Secretary's visit.  Some media -- implicitly 
criticizing the FM -- have since speculated that the resolution and 
its timing irritated the U.S. enough to scuttle hopes of U.S. support 
for Iceland's UN Security Council bid.  END SUMMARY. 
 
2.  (U) In the early morning hours of May 30, the Althingi (Icelandic 
Parliament) unanimously voted in favor of a non-binding resolution 
which calls for the closure of the Guantanamo Bay detention facility. 
The resolution cites the "inhumane treatment of prisoners" as a 
justification to close the facility. The GOI is also charged with 
communicating the position of the Althingi to U.S. authorities, 
according to the resolution. (Full resolution text para. 8.)  All 
political parties represented in the Althingi supported the 
resolution, which led to a vote of 52 in favor, zero opposing, and 11 
not present. Nine parliamentarians sponsored the bill, all of whom 
belong to the Left-Green Party of Iceland. The Althingi Foreign 
Affairs Committee approved the resolution on May 28, sending the 
resolution to a full floor vote the following day. 
 
3.  (C) Although the resolution passed on the eve of Secretary Rice's 
visit, this timing seemed more a function of the legislative calendar 
than an effort to send a political message.  The resolution was 
originally introduced in February and had been lingering in the 
Althingi since then, until the legislature's last-week sprint to 
finish its work before the summer recess beginning on May 30. 
However, the timing ensured that Guantanamo Bay would be a central 
issue in coverage of the visit.  (Comment:  Ministry contacts have 
confirmed to post that they failed to realize how much the issue 
would overwhelm other reporting on the visit and as such had not 
tried to intervene in the legislative calendar.  End Comment.)  Press 
and blog speculation about whether or not Foreign Minister Ingibjorg 
Solrun Gisladottir would present the Secretary with a copy of the 
resolution began immediately after the Foreign Affairs Committee vote 
on May 28. That said, the final text incorporated several amendments 
softening the language to remove a description of the Guantanamo 
facility's operations as "illegal" and eliminating a call for the 
Icelandic Government to work in international fora towards the 
facility's closure. 
 
4. (U) FM Gisladottir raised Guantanamo with Secretary Rice during 
their May 30 meeting and passed a copy of the resolution to the 
Secretary (reftel). In her comments to the press afterwards, FM 
Gisladottir confirmed that she did indeed bring up concerns about 
Guantanamo while meeting with the Secretary. When asked about the 
resolution by the press, Secretary Rice stated that she strongly 
objected to the notion that there are human rights violations 
occurring at Guantanamo Bay. The Secretary also noted that returning 
inmates to their country of origin is quite complicated. She added 
that there have been instances of former detainees engaging in 
attacks on US forces and innocent civilians. Finally, Secretary Rice 
suggested that members of the Althingi read the OSCE Parliamentary 
Committee report on Guantanamo Bay.  (Full press conference 
transcript: http://www.state.gov/secretary/rm/2008/05/105 447.htm) 
 
5. (SBU) As expected, Icelandic press coverage of the Secretary's 
visit was heavily focused on the Guantanamo Bay resolution. Most 
print articles mentioned that FM Gisladottir provided Secretary Rice 
with a copy of the resolution; most also noted the Secretary's 
rebuttal of the charge of human rights abuses at Guantanamo Bay. In 
response, a June 2 editorial in daily paper of record Morgunbladid 
entitled, "Condescending Rice," stated that Secretary Rice had a 
condescending attitude toward the Althingi's resolution. 
 
6.  (C) More provocatively, a June 9 editorial comment in 
Morgunbladid claimed that Secretary Rice was angry and caught off 
guard by the resolution. The article went on to say that the 
relationship between the Secretary and the Foreign Minister was 
greatly damaged due to this resolution, and speculated that as a 
result the U.S. might not support Iceland in elections to the UN 
Security Council this fall. Ambassador immediately communicated to 
the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) that this story was in no way 
sourced from USG participants in the meeting.  Separately, the MFA's 
Counsellor for Human Rights issues told Pol Chief that the resolution 
was "silly" and did not offer a useful contribution to the debate 
about how international law should handle the detainees or similar 
cases.  This tendency to focus on the emotional principle of closing 
Guantanamo rather than the legal issue of the detainees' cases was 
 
REYKJAVIK 00000115  002 OF 002 
 
 
reinforced in the scant local coverage (mostly translated wire 
reports) of the U.S. Supreme Court's ruling on June 12 in Boumedine 
v. Bush. 
 
7.  (C) COMMENT:  Detainees at Guantanamo continue to be a hot topic 
here, and as elsewhere in Europe there is a broad consensus that the 
detention facility should be closed, with no critical examination of 
how the law should best deal with the detainees' cases.  In this 
climate the Althingi's unanimous vote on the resolution was nearly 
inevitable.  However, as the June 9 editorial comment indicates, all 
news is local, and some have seized upon the issue as a chance to 
criticize the MFA for allegedly sloppy handling of Iceland's foreign 
affairs.  One further wrinkle is the possibility -- which post deems 
unlikely -- that the June 9 piece was intended to criticize the U.S. 
for being overly sensitive on the Guantanamo issue.  Nonetheless, we 
have since seized every opportunity to both point out that the 
Secretary's conversation with FM Gisladottir was simply a frank talk 
between allies as well as encourage a sincere discussion of the 
complex legal principles involved.  END COMMENT. 
 
8.  (U) Text of Althingi resolution:  The Althingi condemns the 
inhumane treatment of prisoners at the US detention camp at 
Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, urges that the camp be closed and charges the 
Government of Iceland to communicate this position to the US 
authorities. 
 
End text. 
 
 
VAN VOORST