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Home > Politics

What's a few more weeks between friends?

20 February 2004

Foreign Secretary, Jack Straw, has announced that five Britons held in Guantanamo Bay will be released at some point "in the next few weeks." No rush Jack. They've only been held illegally for 2 years. Another few weeks won't kill them.


"No one who is returned... will actually be a threat to the security of the British people" David Blunkett assures us. Presumably because they're too weak and scared and brutalized and confused to be a threat to anyone. After all, as we should constantly remind ourselves:

- The camp metes out what Amnesty takes to be 'cruel inhuman or degrading treatment'.

- The Red Cross have noted a 'worrying deterioration' in the mental health of the captives.

- The captives are not entitled to even the most basic legal or human rights accorded to prisoners of war because the US has re-classified them as 'illegal combatants', a concept they invented on the hoof. In fact, under international law, the combatants who are acting 'illegally' are the American troops themselves.

- Despite there having been no trials, Donald Rumsfeld has repeatedly described the prisoners awaiting trial as 'hard core, well-trained terrorists'.

- Feroz Abassi has already tried to kill himself with a towel.

- So far the Red Cross can tell, there are four other Britons in Guantanamo, besides the five scheduled to be released.

So why the hold up? And why only five? The reason given recently by Blair was that: "it is extremely important we balance up the absolutely proper consideration they get a fair and decent trial with the need to protect people in this country."

Quite apart from the fact that it's always terrifying when a politician goes out of their way to say 'yes, yes, I believe in fair trials', what's the conflict here? What security threat is posed by a defendant remanded in custody and awaiting trial?

One final thing to remember: the American list of terrorists and those 'representing a potential problem' is now up to five million. That's the entire population of Jordan.

Or Finland.

Comment on this article: letters@thefridaything.co.uk

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