MSPs and campaigners pledge renewed struggle to close Guantanamo

Update Friday 12 January - Reda Dendani's SIAC hearing scheduled for today has been postponed

Press Release from Scotland Against Criminalising Communities
Thursday 11th January 2007

MSPs, campaigning groups and individuals pledged at a meeting held in Scottish Parliament today to press for the closure of the the US prison camp at Guantanamo Bay. They issued a statement saying:

"We deplore the British government's continued inaction on these matters and we undertake to do all that we can to press the British government to take action. We will ourselves use whatever channels are available to us locally, nationally and internationally to demand justice for people unjustly held by the US as part of it's "war on terror." (see below for full text)

Campaigners wearing orange boilersuits had earlier in the day gathered outside the US Consulate in Edinburgh to protest against the Guantanamo prison camp and had handed in a letter expressing their concerns. The protest was supported by Amnesty International, Scotland Against Criminalising Communities and Edinburgh Stop The War Coalition. Afterwards the campaigners, still wearing the orange boilersuits, braved wind and rain to walk through the city centre to participate in a lunchtime meeting in the Scottish Parliament hosted by Solidarity MSP Tommy Sheridan and attended by MSPs from the Scottish Green Party, the Scottish National Party, the Scottish Liberal Democrats and the Scottish Socialist Party.

The action statement agreed at the meeting was in response to a message passed to Scotland Against Criminalising Communities from Sabah El-Banna, the wife of Guantanamo detainee Jamil El-Banna. Jamil El-Banna is a Jordanian citizen who fled from persecution in Jordan and was granted refugee status in Britain in 2000. He was abducted by the CIA in November 2002 shortly after arriving in the Gambia on a business trip from the UK. The abduction was motivated by misleading intelligence supplied by MI5 to the CIA. A key element in the allegations against Mr El-Banna was that he had been arrested at Gatwick airport carrying a "suspicious device" that proved to be a battery charger widely available in high street stores.

Mr El-Banna has five children and has never seen his youngest daughter, born in 2003.

In her message to people in Scotland, Mrs El-Banna gave her thanks to everyone who attended meetings and demonstrations in support of the Guantanamo detainees, saying that it gave her hope in her terrible situation. But she also reminded us that, in spite of all these meetings, Jamil has not yet come home. She asked that we try to make sure that, this time, concrete steps are taken that will bring justice to the detainees. And she asked us to try, when we went to the Scottish Parliament, to make sure that those who have a little power would use it on behalf of the detainees, who have none.

The statement issued at the meeting in the Parliament is a small step towards doing what Sabah El-Banna asked of us. We hope that it marke a renewed determination to put an end to the abomination that is Guantanamo Bay.

In addition to discussing the statement, people at the meeting watched a film documenting the cases of two rendition victims, Khaled El-Masri and Binyam Mohammed Al Habashi. Khaled El-Masri is a German citizen and was released after several months of illegal imprisonment. Binyam Mohammed is an Ethiopian who sought asylum in the UK in 1994 and was granted leave to remain. He is still being held at Guantanamo. According to testimony given to his lawyer, MI5 were closely involved in his case, as they were in the case of Jamil El-Banna and other detainees.

As well as its complicity in detention without trial by the USA, the British government is responsible for the the detention without trial of a number of men in Britain. In theory, such detentions were outlawed in a landmark ruling by the Law Lords in December 2004. In practice it continues, under the guise of detention pending deportation. A number of men detained on this basis have decided that would rather return to countries where they risk ill-treatment than remain in British high security prisons, trapped in a legal labyrinth where their only recourse is to a kangaroo Court called the Special Immigration Appeals Commission – a "court" that is hardly better than the widely-condemned Military Commissions that try "unlawful enemy combatants" in the USA.

It is a disgrace that refugees from persecution have been pressurised into jumping from the frying pan into the fire in this way. It is a further disgrace that even these wishes have not been respected. In a bizarre twist to the story, a number of Algerian men who have said they wish to return to their country of origin are still being held in British jails. It is impossible to avoid a suspicion that the government wishes to keep these men in jail and that indefinite detention without trial awaits them. One of the men, Reda Dendani, recently issued a statement describing himself as a "hostage." He says that the prisons in which he and other "suspected terrorists" are held are Britain's version of Guantanamo Bay.

In Britain's Guantanamo, just as in George Bush's Guantanamo, people are driven to despair and mental breakdown by the Kafkaesque nature of their predicament. Just as in George Bush's Guantanamo, prisoners have attempted suicide. And just as in George Bush's Guantanamo, prisoners have been on hunger strike.

Reda Dendani was formerly known as "Detainee Q." The ban on publishing his name has recently been lifted at his own request. His case will come before the Special Immigration Appeals Commission tomorrow, 12 January.

It is because of cases like this, and because of the well-documented involvement of the British intelligence services in rendition, torture and illegal detention, that we simply don't believe government ministers when they say they are opposed to detention without trial at Guantanamo Bay.

That's why we have pledged to campaign against Guantanamo Bay using whatever channels are available to us, as well as by urging the government to accept its moral and legal responsibilities.

More Information

SACC briefing on Guantanamo Bay - includes statements from the families of Guantanamo detainees and the full statement issued by Reda Dendani.

Full text of the Declaration agreed at Holyrood, 11 January 2007

We undertake to press urgently for the closure of the US Prison camp at Guantanamo Bay and for the closure of other centres where people are detained without charge or trial as part of the "war on terror."

We undertake to press for all those detained in these prisons to either be charged with recognisably criminal offences and tried in fair and open courts, or else to be released to safe countries.

As people living in Britiain, we recognise a particular responsibility to act on behalf of detainees who had been based in Britain prior to their detention, and we undertake to do all that we can on their behalf.

We believe that the British government has a duty to press in the strongest possible terms for its ally the US to close the Guantanamo Prison camp and its other detention centres, which offend against international standards of justice, decency and humanity.

We also believe that the British government has a duty to make vigorous representations to the US on behalf of people detained in the US who have been resident in Britain. Most people in this situation are refugees, either in a legal or a practical sense, and have no other country to which they can turn for help.

We deplore the British government's continued inaction on these matters and we undertake to do all that we can to press the British government to take action. We will ourselves use whatever channels are available to us locally, nationally and internationally to demand justice for people unjustly held by the US as part of it's "war on terror."

Signed:

  • Tommy Sheridan MSP (Solidarity)
  • Mark Ballard MSP (Scottish Green Party)
  • Sandra White MSP (Scottish National Party)
  • Donald Gorrie MSP (Scottish Liberal Democrats)
  • Frances Curran MSP (Scottish Socialist Party)
  • Naomi McAuliffe ( on behalf of Amnesty International)
  • Richard Haley (on behalf of Scotland Against Criminalising Communities)
  • Julia Davidson (on behalf of Edinburgh Stop the War Coalition)
  • Wendy Pearman (Scotland Against Criminalising Communities)
  • Caroline Masen
  • Naomi Johnson (Amnesty International)
  • Sheena Cleland (Scottish National Party)
  • Reldin Johnson
  • Edward Johnson (Amnesty International)
  • Ailsa Ross
  • Clementine Hill O'Connor (Amnesty International)
  • Sarah Nash (Amnesty International)
  • Peg Spotov
  • Graham Campbell (Solidarity/African and Caribbean Network Glasgow)
  • Liban Noah (CMA Glasgow)
  • I. M. Gandolf
  • Alastair Statham
  • Jo Mercer
  • and three others