Accessibility links

Britain's Top Lawyer Criticizes US Over Guantanamo Prisoners - 2004-06-25


Britain's attorney general says U.S. plans for military tribunals for terrorist suspects held at a U.S. base in Cuba are not acceptable, and will violate international legal standards.

British Attorney General Peter Goldsmith has issued his opinion in a speech prepared for a meeting of the International Criminal Law Association in Paris Friday night.

He says terrorist suspects held at the U.S. naval base in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, will not receive a fair trial in accordance with international standards under the proposed U.S. military tribunals.

"There are certain principles on which there can be no compromise. Fair trial is one of those," Mr. Goldsmith said.

There have been nine Britons held among the 600 suspected terrorists at Guantanamo's Camp Delta prison.

Five of the British prisoners were released in March, and then freed without charge once they returned to Britain.

Two of the remaining four Britons at the prison are scheduled to be among the first suspects to go before a military tribunal.

A lawyer who represents two of the British detainees, Louise Christian, told British radio, the government of Prime Minister Tony Blair must act now to get the remaining prisoners back home.

"All the evidence that's come out about the treatment of people at Guantanamo Bay, the use of stress positions, sleep deprivation, the use of this extreme reaction force,? Ms. Christian said. ?All kinds of things, which collectively, I'm afraid, amount to compelling evidence of torture at Guantanamo Bay, make it absolutely incumbent on the British government to do something to bring them back."

U.S. Justice Department opinions issued in 2002 concluded that Taleban and al-Qaida suspects captured in Afghanistan were "illegal combatants" not covered under international agreements that forbid torture and coercion of prisoners of war.

However, President Bush ordered that the prisoners be treated humanely and in accordance with the principles of the Geneva Conventions, as far as military necessity would allow.

The issue of the Guantanamo detainees has been delicate for the United States and Britain, Washington's chief ally in the war on terrorism.

Legal experts point out that any special concessions for British detainees could lead other countries to demand the repatriation of their nationals.

XS
SM
MD
LG