Guantánamo Bay: Justice for all at Camp Delta

Amnesty International UK Director Kate Allen said:

'It is absolutely right that the US authorities should halt any plans for unfair military trials for Britons Moazzam Begg and Feroz Abassi, but the US needs now to clarify both their status and that of all other Camp Delta detainees.

'This development raises fresh questions without answering any existing human rights concerns.

'The fundamental facts are that no-one at Guantánamo Bay should face a military tribunal, no-one should be held without charge or access to a lawyer and no-one should be held indefinitely.

'There needs to be justice for all the hundreds of detainees held in legal limbo at Guantánamo Bay and not selective justice for favoured groups.

'While seeking to ensure proper procedures for Britons in Camp Delta, we should also see beyond a 'looking after our own' mentality and realise the long-term dangers of failing to speak out if other Guantánamo Bay detainees receive worse treatment than British nationals.

'The fact remains that nothing short of full and fair trial procedures should satisfy our government and without such guarantees the British authorities should be calling for repatriation to the UK and the prospect of either proper evidence-based trials here, or release.'

Last week Amnesty International condemned as a 'travesty of justice' the military tribunals that two Britons - Moazzam Begg and Feroz Abassi - may face, after it emerged that they were among the first six foreign nationals in US custody to be named as eligible for such trials.

The human rights organisation has long criticised the prolonged and indefinite nature of the detentions in Guantánamo Bay, and the conditions in which the detainees are held, and opposes plans for military 'commissions' that deny basic fair trial rights and allow for the imposition of the death penalty.

Amnesty International has repeatedly requested access to Camp X-Ray and Camp Delta at Guantánamo Bay, but has been denied this access.

Among the unfair characteristics of the 'Military Order' signed by President Bush in November 2001, and the military commissions it envisions are:

  • lack of independence - the President or Secretary of Defence Rumsfeld (or his deputy) can name defendants, appoint/remove commission members, pick the appeal panels and make final case decisions;
  • restrictions on the right to lawyer of choice and to an effective defence - defendants will be represented by a US military lawyer (even if they do not want one) and will only be able to retain a US civilian lawyer if the government incurs no costs;
  • client/lawyer confidentiality is not guaranteed
  • a lower standard of evidence than civil courts - hearsay evidence would be admissible
  • no right of appeal to an independent court - only a review by a three-member panel of military officers appointed by the Deputy Secretary of Defence
  • discriminatory - US nationals will not be tried by military commission, even if accused of the same offence as a foreign national.

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