Blogging from the Highlands of Scotland until I return to the Murcia region of Spain in the Autumn for a month or so
'From fanaticism to barbarism is only one step' - Diderot

Sunday, 30 November 2003

Deal may be close to repatriate UK nationals held at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba

Following on from my posting yesterday, the Observer is today reporting that a deal is imminent between the US and the UK for the 9 Britons held [illegally, in my opinion] by the US authorities at 'Camp Delta'. Of the 9, two may well be released without ANY charges being brought - according to the British lawyer acting for them, Clive Stafford Smith, a British human rights lawyer based in the US.

Stafford Smith apparently believes the other 7 may be required to confess to 'spurious' charges so as to get the Americans to acquiesce in this:


The price of escaping from a nightmare

"The British Government has finally realised it has to help the Americans out of the corner they have painted themselves into. This deal will most likely consist of the British having to plead guilty on some nonsense charge and come back here to serve their sentence. However it seems highly improbable that Iqbal and Rasul will be charged with anything. There simply is nothing there."

Read this related report in today's Independent and you will see just how far-fetched one of the predicted charges sounds. (Of course, and in the interests of the scrupulous objectivity I try to display, the apparent absurdity of such charges if brought does not, of itself, indicate they are necessarily unfounded)

The BBC lists the nine British detainees as:


UK Detainees held in Camp Delta

Shafiq Rasul, 24, of Tipton, West Midlands

Asif Iqbal, 20, of Tipton

Ruhal Ahmed, 20, of Tipton

Martin Mubanga, 29, from north London

Jamal Udeen, 35, from Manchester

Richard Belmar, 23, from London

Tarek Dergoul, 24, from east London

Moazzam Begg, 35, from Birmingham

Feroz Abbasi, 23, from south London


- with the first two, known as the 'Tipton two', being those it is predicted will be released without any charge being filed against them.

Whatever any of these people may have done, they deserve to be tried in a court organised according to the normal tenets of western justice, if there are charges that can be brought plausibly against them. Had the US conducted itself in a civilised manner and taken them before a court in the United States where any allegations against them could have been tested fairly, this whole matter could have been progressed a LONG time ago. Proposing bringing them before a kangaroo 'Military Commission', as had earlier been announced by the US Government, definitely does NOT meet this standard. One of Britain's top judges, Lord Justice Steyn, has rightly condemned the detentions at Guantanamo Bay as:


The opinion of one of Britian's senior judges

"a monstrous failure of justice"

The US is often, and rightly, seen as a beacon of justice in what is a pretty dangerous world, but its behaviour in holding people quite deliberately in a place where they are beyond the jurisdiction of any system of law or the protection of any court, is a stain on this record. If a solution is close then at least that aspect of the nightmare these nine have been subjected to for two years will be over - and the US can genuinely claim that the UK, as President Bush contended during his recent State Visit to this country, is the Unites States' "best friend in the world".

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