Guantanamo inmates not entitled to UK help, court rules

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The Independent Online

Three British residents held at Guantanamo Bay for more than three years have lost an attempt to force Jack Straw, the Foreign Secretary, to come to their aid.

Bisher al-Rawi, Jamil al-Banna and Omar Deghayes argued that the Government had an obligation to intervene on their behalf. But the High Court found in favour of the Foreign Office, which insists it cannot help them as they are not British. The men's families vowed to continue their legal battle, saying they would appeal against the decision immediately.

Mr Rawi, who lived in Britain for 20 years, is an Iraqi national, Mr Banna is a Jordanian who has been granted refugee status, and Mr Deghayes is a Libyan whose family fled the Gaddafi regime 20 years ago.

There are thought to be several other British residents in Guantanamo Bay.

Lawyers for the three men argued there was "compelling evidence" that they have been "severely tortured and suffered inhuman and degrading treatment" at the US military camp in Cuba. They maintained the men were entitled to help similar to that received by British nationals who were freed from Guantanamo after the Foreign Office made formal requests for their release.

But the judges said they could not interfere with Mr Straw's decision that he was under no obligation to act.

However, the Foreign Office has indicated it is to make a "security-related request" on behalf of Mr Rawi, whose lawyers told the court that he helped British intelligence in the past.

Kate Allen, UK director of Amnesty International, described the court ruling as extremely disappointing. "Instead of propping up the Government's policy of picking and choosing which of the UK residents held prisoner at Guantanamo it was willing to stand up for, the High Court could have sent out the message that they all need the Government's help," she said. "We have been saying for years that the Government's reluctance to act on behalf of long-term residents of this country has been shameful."

Mr Banna's wife Sabah said: "We must continue and we will appeal."