USA: Blair in USA - PM should call for Guantánamo closure

As Tony Blair prepares for talks with US President Bush in Washington today, Amnesty International said the Prime Minister should call for the US detention centre in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba to be closed.

Amnesty International UK Director Kate Allen said:

"Yet again Tony Blair has an opportunity to tell the US president that the Guantánamo prison camp should be closed down and prisoners either released or brought before proper courts on the US mainland.

"Eight long-term residents of the UK are among the nearly 500 prisoners held without charge or trial at the camp. A strong plea from Mr Blair on their behalf is now long overdue."

Many of the estimated 460 prisoners at the detention centre have been held for over four years, yet no-one has yet been prosecuted for any criminal offence. Meanwhile, detainees’ lawyers and former prisoners have made numerous torture allegations concerning US guards at the camp, including reports that personnel have used violent force-feeding methods to forcibly break a hunger strike by detainees protesting at their indefinite detention.

Since the release of all remaining British nationals from Guantánamo in January 2005, Amnesty International has emphasised the need for the UK government to make representations on behalf of the long-term residents of the UK still held. These "forgotten prisoners" are: Bisher al-Rawi, Jamil al-Banna, Omar Deghayes, Shaker Abdur-Raheem Aamer, Binyam Mohammed, Ahmed Errachidi, Ahmed Ben Bacha and Abdulnour Sameur.

The UK government has so far reportedly made representations for release and repatriation on behalf of only one of the eight men - Bisher al-Rawi. His case appears to be regarded as unique by the UK government, after an acknowledgement from government ministers that Bisher al-Rawi had been involved with the British security services. There are also claims that British security officials may have been involved in Mr Al-Rawi’s detention in Gambia in 2002 before his eventual removal to Guantánamo.

Last week Amnesty International expressed fresh concern about the physical and mental health of inmates at Guantánamo after violent disturbances took place there, reportedly after a number of detainees attempted to commit suicide.

The organisation, which has previously highlighted the case of a Bahraini prisoner, Jumah al-Dossari, who has reportedly attempted suicide on 12 separate occasions, is calling for independent medical experts to be allowed into the camp as a matter of urgency to ensure that a full range of medical and psychiatric treatment is available.

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