Tony Blair doesn’t like to talk about the Guantánamo gulag. The most he can be made to say on it is that it is an “anomaly” that would have to be “dealt with”. Obviously blair can’t bring himself to criticise the USA even for the most outragious violations of human rights and international law. Other members of his government haven’t felt so restricted. Peter Hain has called for the closure of the camp and quite recently Lord Falconer called it “shocking affront” to the principles of democracy. But Guantánamo is still functioning and its inmates are still being tortured.
Nine of these inmates are British residents; the last of the prisoners who were British citizens were freed in March 2004 and early last year after massive pressure was put on Blair’s government to secure their release. The remaining British residents have been abandoned by the British government which claims it has no duty to protect them. That may be legally true, however, it is common knowledge that they are being tortured and you’d think the Government would at least try to help them. Not Blair’s government! In September this year we learned that The British Government wouldn’t even send doctors to give aid to these prisoners.
More than 100 senior doctors today accused the government of colluding in war crimes by refusing to give medical aid to British residents detained at Guantánamo Bay.
The doctors called for an urgent independent investigation into the medical needs of the detainees at the camp.
In a letter published in The Times newspaper today, the doctors condemn the Foreign Office for its “shameful” refusal to respond to a request from the British Medical Association (BMA) to send a team of doctors to the detention camp in Cuba.
The medics also criticise the failure of the Foreign Office’s medical and legal panels to discuss the plight of the detainees for the reason that they are not British passport holders.
Nine British citizens have been released from the camp since 2004, but at least eight men who have British residency rights are believed to still be there.
“Our government’s excuse is that it does not wish to set a precedent to act for British residents, rather than British citizens. We find this morally repugnant,” said the letter, which was signed by 120 medical professionals.
They add: “It is clear that an independent scrutiny is urgently required by physicians outside the US military. The silence of the Foreign Office is shameful and reflects the collusion of this country in a war crime.”
Now we are learning that the US Government is offering to send these prisoners back to the UK but the British Government does not want them to return, preferring instead that they face more torture in the gulag despite knowing that they pose no threat and have not been charged with any crime.
The United States has offered to return nearly all British residents held at Guantánamo Bay after months of secret talks in Washington, the Guardian has learned.
The British government has refused to accept the men, however, with senior officials saying they have no legal right to return. Documents obtained by the Guardian show US authorities are demanding that the detainees be kept under 24-hour surveillance if set free – restrictions that are dismissed by the British as unnecessary and unworkable.
Although all are accused of terrorist involvement, Britain says there is no intelligence to warrant the measures Washington wants, and it lacks the resources to implement them. “They do not pose a sufficient threat,” said the head of counter-terrorism at the Home Office.
The possible security arrangements appear to have caused months of wrangling, but senior UK sources have told the Guardian the government is interested in accepting only one man – Bisher al-Rawi – who is now known to have helped MI5 keep watch on Abu Qatada, the London-based Muslim cleric and al-Qaida suspect who was subsequently arrested.
At least nine former British residents have been detained without trial at Guantánamo for more than four years after being taken prisoner in the so-called war on terror. Their lawyers say some have suffered appalling mistreatment.
This is disgraceful. If these men are suspected terrorists they should be tried fairly in a real court and punished according to established law if found guilty. If there is no evidence against them then they should be released, and if they were British residents then surely the Government has some duty to help them. If they face further torture in their country of origin then that is even more reason to help them.
Tags: Guantánamo, Torture, Blair