Guantánamo: what next?

As the daily carnage out of Gaza dominates news coverage, you could have missed this story in the Times today. It says: the USA and the UK are effectively negotiating an arrangement for Britain to take Guantánamo prisoners who need to be released but have nowhere safe to go to.

The story is slightly mysterious (having already surfaced over the Christmas period but then quickly disappearing again) but the Times could be onto something and it could be “good news”, of a kind.

The outgoing US ambassador to the UK Robert Tuttle apparently believes that Britain should take some of the GITMO prisoners – a line I’d agree with but not for the reasons that Tuttle apparently holds.

It’s not a question of Britain taking prisoners because it criticised the detention centre (which is what the Times says Tuttle thinks). Britain should do it because it can. Because it will help end the ordeal of individuals unlawfully held in this legal black hole, and because bringing to a close an international human rights scandal has got to be worth doing.

Read more Amnesty background on EU countries offering “humanitarian protection” to about 50 Chinese, Uzbek and other nationals “cleared for release” but facing probable torture (or worse) if shipped back to their home countries here.

There’s another angle as well. One way and another, Britain has been up to its neck with Guantánamo. First – contrary to the line you now here from UK ministers – Britain was not critical of the camp during the early years. Remember Tony Blair’s “anomaly” description, dragged out of him with evident reluctance on his part?

Second, several UK-linked Guantánamo prisoners have ended up at the prison after “tip-offs” and the otherwise shady behaviour of MI5 and Britain’s intelligence services. Third, even now the UK is blocking the release of documents that could, according to his lawyers, help show that former UK resident  Binyam Mohamed (still at the camp and not earmarked for release) has been tortured, “rendered” and dumped at GITMO, and is suffering accordingly. Please take action for him via the link.

This Sunday marks the seven-year point since those bound, goggled and ear-muffed men were shown behind the wire-link fences at Camp X-Ray. I was here at Amnesty even then (with slightly fewer grey hairs!) and it’s truly shocking to think we’re still trying to get this mess sorted out this far on. (In that time, by the way, it's gone from Amnesty being almost a lone voice to most people thinking that GITMO is a disaster).

Amnesty’s wants incoming President Obama to “name the day” over Guantánamo’s closure and we’ve got a new online film out next week calling on him to do the right thing on GITMO, secret detentions and torture. Contrary to the expectations of some of his more starry-eyed supporters, Obama can’t work miracles but he can clean up the USA’s dirty “war on terror”. More soon…

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Our blogs are written by Amnesty International staff, volunteers and other interested individuals, to encourage debate around human rights issues. They do not necessarily represent the views of Amnesty International.
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