UK's response to September 11 attacks violates rights

The report denounces the treatment and conditions of detention of those detained in the aftermath of the events of 11 September. The detainees are subjected to 'small-group isolation' and 22-hour-a-day lock-up, where they are not receiving adequate health care.

'The regime under which detainees are held can lead to a serious physical and mental deterioration of their health which, in turn, could undermine their capacity to prepare their defence,' said Livio Zilli, Amnesty International's researcher on the UK.

Detainees have not had the right to immediate access to a solicitor. Upon their arrest and detention at Belmarsh Prison all of the men were refused permission to make telephone calls to solicitors, whether they had pre-existing solicitors or not. At least one of the detainees had to wait for about a week to see his solicitor; his request to telephone his solicitor on the first day of detention was refused and instead he was told to write a letter.

'These men do not know the evidence against them and have not been charged. The least the authorities could do is ensure that they can prepare an adequate defence with their lawyers,' said Livio Zilli.

The detainees' contact with relatives and the outside world has been severely impeded. Social visits with relatives are tape-recorded and have a prison officer present despite a glass screen. Detainees stated that they were strip-searched before and after every visit.

Initially, detainees were only allowed to communicate with family members in English or have an interpreter. On one occasion, a detainee complained that his visit could not proceed, despite having applied for his visit because his interpreter was not being admitted to the unit as she was refusing to remove her headscarf.

As of 17 July 2002, none of those detained under the Anti-terrorism, Crime and Security Act 2001 (ATCSA) had been interviewed by the UK authorities.

'The government has effectively created a shadow justice system devoid of the crucial components and safeguards present in the criminal justice system,' said Livio Zilli. Amnesty International is today presenting a Memorandum to the UK Government urging it to address these deficiencies.

'The case of Lotfi Raiss is a powerful illustration that in the search for 'suspected terrorists' innocent people can get caught up -- violating their rights and those of their relatives to liberty and livelihood,' said Livio Zilli.

Lotfi Raissi was arrested and detained for five months after the US authorities sought his extradition on the basis of suspicions that he may have been involved in the 11 September attacks. The extradition proceedings were brought to an end seven months later after the presiding judge ruled that he had received no evidence to support the US claims. Despite this, the UK prosecution services maintained that Mr Raissi continues to be the subject of an on-going investigation.

'The US authorities reasons for seeking Lotfi Raissi's extradition included the fact that his identity and profession fit a certain profile: an Algerian man and a Muslim, a pilot and a flight instructor in the UK,' said Livio Zilli.

Amnesty International received confirmation from the UK authorities in May, that seven UK nationals were being detained in Camp X-Ray in Guantanamo Bay. The authorities also confirmed that the men had twice been 'visited' by UK officials, including from MI5 and that they had been interviewed in relation to issues relevant to the UK's national security.

The UK authorities have failed to make representations to protect the rights of their nationals being held in Guantanamo, where they are denied prisoner of war status. In particular, Amnesty International is concerned that detainees, including UK nationals, have been denied legal counsel during questioning by US and UK intelligence officers.

'The defence of human rights begins at home. The UK authorities real commitment to human rights is now being put to the test,' Livio Zilli concluded.

Background

Eleven people have been detained in the UK without charge or trial, for an unspecified and potentially unlimited period of time, following their certification by the Secretary of State as 'suspected international terrorists' under the Anti-terrorism, Crime and Security Act 2001. At least another 25 people have been reportedly arrested under the Terrorism Act 2000, some of whom have been released without charge. The UK authorities have also detained a number of individuals pending the outcome of extradition proceedings received from other governments, including the French and the US authorities.

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