Guantanamo ruling welcomed

New letter to Gordon Brown raises concern for UK residents, including ‘health and well-being’ of Binyam Mohamed

Amnesty International has welcomed today’s ruling from the US Supreme Court that prisoners at the US military prison at Guantánamo Bay in Cuba have the right to challenge their detention in US civilian courts.

Meanwhile, ahead of the US president George Bush’s state visit to the UK (15-16 June), Amnesty International’s director Kate Allen has written to Gordon Brown calling on him to raise the issue of Guantánamo when he meets the president.

In particular, the prime minister is being asked to press for guarantees of a safe trial - “in an ordinary civilian court” - or safe releases for three Guantánamo prisoners who are either formerly resident in the UK or with links to the UK.

Amnesty International UK Guantánamo campaign manager Sara Mac Neice said:

“This ruling is yet another clear message to the US government that it must end the travesty of justice at Guantánamo.

“No-one should be held for years on end without charge or trial and it’s vital now that every prisoner at the camp - including at least three with links to the UK - are either given a fair trial in a US civilian court or safely released.”

The three Guantánamo prisoners with ties to the UK are Binyam Mohamed, an Ethiopian formerly resident in London, Shaker Aamer, a Saudi national formerly resident in south London, and Ahmed Belbacha, an Algerian who has lived in Bournemouth and could be at risk of ill-treatment if sent to Algeria. Mr Mohamed is currently set to face a “military commission” at the camp; both of the others are reportedly near release but there are serious doubts about how and when they are to be transferred from the prison.

In the letter to the prime minister Kate Allen, referring in the letter to the six and a half years since the first prisoners were taken to Guantánamo, says:

“There is a broad consensus that Guantánamo should close. I urge you to discuss in detail how and when the USA is intending to do this and how EU countries might be able to help.”

Ms Allen makes it clear that the UK should show constructive support for the closure of Guantánamo, “for example by agreeing to take those cleared for release who cannot be returned to their countries due to the risk of torture and or the death penalty.”

In addition to pressing the president on a timetable and specific details over Guantánamo’s closure, Amnesty’s letter also insists that Mr Brown should make clear the UK’s opposition to planned “military commission” trials at the prison camp. Last week Binyam Mohamed, recently described by his US lawyer as “thin, fragile and weak”, was named as one of a small number of Guantánamo’s 270 detainees who are set to be placed before one of these unfair military trials.

Meanwhile, the letter also urges the prime minister to raise the issue of prisoner treatment, specifically “waterboarding” - where a detainee is tortured through a simulation of drowning. “Rendition” flights are also raised - in particular the need for the PM to follow up on the circumstances of the “rendition” through Diego Garcia of two (unnamed) detainees referred to in a House of Commons statement by the Foreign Secretary David Miliband earlier this year.

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