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Britain must bring the Guantanamo men home

Press Release from Scotland Against Criminalising Communities, 6 October 2007

SACC supports the call by Amnesty International for the UK government to fulfil its obligations under domestic and international law and ensure the immediate return to the UK of all the British residents held at Guantanamo Bay.

The call follows reports earlier this week that the United States has offered to return nearly all the British residents detained at Guantanamo but has been snubbed by Britain.

A Foreign Office spokesman has told the BBC that the UK cannot intervene under international law on behalf of people who are not British nationals.

This is plainly nonsense. International law does not and cannot prevent the UK from expressing its views forcefully on any matter that it wishes. British views are likely to be accorded particular weight at present, with the Bush administration isolated internationally and dependent on British troops to support its over-stretched occupation forces in the Middle East.

The Guantanamo detentions are in any case contrary to international law. Britain and other members of the international community have a duty to do everything possible to press the US to respect the system of human rights law that has been so painstakingly constructed since the end of the World War II.

In addition to its duty to press for the release – either to freedom or to fair legal process – of all the Guantanamo detainees, Britain owes a special duty to the men from Britain. Many of them are long-term British residents with families that are settled in Britain and have full British citizenship. Having come to Britain as refugees from their countries of origin, they cannot now turn to those countries for assistance. It is pedantic and offensive for this country to deny them the help they need just because they don’t possess British passports.

Lord Falconer said this week there was "continuing dialogue" with the US over this issue. Almost five years have passed since the first detainees were sent to Guantanamo Bay. It’s time for Britain to put a bit more energy and determination into the "dialogue".

As well as demanding the return of the men to Britain, SACC joins with Amnesty International in demanding that they are afforded at least the same status on their return as they enjoyed before their unlawful detention at Guantanamo Bay, and are not subsequently sent anywhere where they would be at risk of torture or other ill-treatment. If any of them are reasonably suspected to have committed a recognisably criminal offence, they should be charged immediately and tried in fair proceedings.