Clive Stafford Smith: Britain must stand up to the obscenity of Guantanamo

From a speech by the human rights lawyer to the Centre For Crime and Justice Studies at King's College, London
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The Independent Online

I have just returned from seeing my clients, Moazzam Begg and Richard Belmar, in Guantanamo Bay. I cannot repeat what they said to me. Their words are "classified". We know that Moazzam has been tortured because he said so in a letter that did slip through the censors' net. But as for any other evidence, the US government is saying, "If we torture your client, thereby committing a war crime, we don't get prosecuted because we have the power, but if you tell anyone about it, you go to prison for 40 years." This is an obscene process.

I have just returned from seeing my clients, Moazzam Begg and Richard Belmar, in Guantanamo Bay. I cannot repeat what they said to me. Their words are "classified". We know that Moazzam has been tortured because he said so in a letter that did slip through the censors' net. But as for any other evidence, the US government is saying, "If we torture your client, thereby committing a war crime, we don't get prosecuted because we have the power, but if you tell anyone about it, you go to prison for 40 years." This is an obscene process.

The British government has criticised the use of military tribunals to try Guantanamo detainees. It is true that they are kangaroo courts, but these tribunals provide the accused with a military lawyer, inform him of the charges he faces and even allow him to call witnesses. Perhaps this is why only four of 549 detainees have been allowed a tribunal. For the rest, and for my clients, there is only the Combatant Status Review Tribunal (CSRT).

I like to think of this as a wallaby court - with due process that is even less developed than a kangaroo. The prisoner gets no lawyer, only a Personal Military Representative reporting to his superior officer; no real right to call "readily available witnesses"; and evidence exacted through torture is admissible.

Tony Blair's government has been complicit in this, helping the United States to conduct its sham tribunals. As a result, Moazzam, Richard, eight other people from Britain, and 540 people from around the world, can be detained indefinitely - for "two generations" or 40 years, according to George Bush and his lawyers.

This is also obscene. The British Government must stand by our principles, and just say no to kangaroo courts, no matter what their relative size.

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