January 8, 2007

Would that our own elected officials would speak so strongly...

Guardian: (h/t Hugh)

MPs will today debate the plight of nine British residents believed to be among about 400 terror suspects still held at Guantánamo Bay as the US detention camp nears its fifth anniversary.

Ed Davey, Liberal Democrat MP for Kingston and Surbiton, whose constituent Bisher al-Rawi is one of the nine, has secured an adjournment debate in the Commons to highlight their treatment.

[..]Mr al-Rawi's lawyers yesterday warned that the 36-year-old was on the brink of losing his sanity after more than four years detention without trial.

But his supporters' hopes were raised by reports suggesting that British officials had said he could be freed within four months.

All British citizens were released from Guantánamo by September 2004, but the government insists it has no power to intervene on behalf of foreign nationals, even if they were long-term residents of the UK.

This week will see a series of demonstrations to mark the fifth anniversary of the arrival of the first detainees at Guantánamo on January 11 2002.

[..]Mr Davey said: "These men have been held for over four years without trial. It's ironic that during their detention the House of Commons threw out Tony Blair's own attempt to introduce 90-day detention without trial."

[..]Mr al-Rawi's lawyer, Clive Stafford-Smith, who has seen him within the last month, told the Observer yesterday that his client was showing signs of secure housing unit psychosis, a recognised clinical condition that afflicts high-security prisoners.

"I have had several clients on American death rows who have developed it and it's clear to me that he is sliding down that path.

"The conditions in which he is being held are worse than any death row I've ever seen."

The early-day motion being tabled today by Mr Davey and Ms Teather calls on UK authorities to provide consular assistance to the nine British residents who they say are being held "in breach of every fundamental legal principle and directly at odds with the very values the war on terror purports to defend."

The motion also backs demands for an investigation into allegations of abuse of detainees and calls on the government and the international community to do everything in their power to get Guantánamo closed.

Ms Teather will join members of Mr al-Banna's family on Thursday to hand in a petition to Downing Street. "It's time that the UK Government accepted its moral duty to act," she said.

"They handed over these men to be tortured and held indefinitely and now they are the only thing standing in the way of their release.

"The government's claim that they have no standing in international law to request the release of these British residents is abject nonsense."

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