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Britons in Guantánamo Bay: Talks should lead to restoration of human rights, not shabby deals

With talks set to take place today between the UK attorney general Lord Goldsmith and the US’s Pentagon general counsel William J Haynes, Amnesty International is warning against compromises that would leave in place obstacles to a fair trial process and of the dangers of setting a precedent for hundreds of men held in long-term detention at Camp Delta.

Recent media reports that the two British detainees facing possible military tribunals - Moazzam Begg and Feroz Abbasi - may already have been pressured to ‘plea bargain’ despite having no legal representation, gives rise to fresh concern that due process continues to be ignored at the military base.

Amnesty International UK Director Kate Allen said:

“An enormous amount rests on the outcome of UK-US negotiations on Guantánamo Bay.

“There should be no shabby deals that dilute basic fair trial standards and the greatest exception should be taken to any sign that British detainees are being pressured into plea bargains without legal counsel.

“The talks could begin the process of restoring human rights to the hundreds detained at Camp Delta, or they could set a precedent of allowing only tinkering half measures that undermine fundamental human rights standards.

“We would like to see Lord Goldsmith saying that nothing less than independent legal representation and open civilian trials with full appeal rights will get the legal mess of Gauntanamo Bay back on track.”

Amnesty International has consistently opposed plans for trials before ‘military commissions’ on the grounds that they are discriminatory (applying only to non-US nationals), allow a lower standard of evidence than is admissible in ordinary courts, entirely lack independence from the executive and forbid appeals to an independent and impartial court.

Rooms are said to have been prepared at Guantánamo Bay in which to conduct military commissions and the possibility of locating an execution chamber at the naval base has reportedly recently been discussed.

More than 650 individuals are currently held without charge or trial in Guantánamo Bay. Many have been held for well over a year in conditions the totality of which may amount to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment in violation of international law. None has had access to a court, to legal counsel, or to relatives. Most are held in tiny cells for up to 24 hours a day with minimal opportunity for out-of-cell exercise.

Further information

USA: The Guantánamo scandal continues:

USA - Military commissions: Second-class justice: /p>

USA: Presidential order on military tribunals threatens fundamental principles of justice: /p>

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