The forgotten Britons

Click to follow
The Independent Online

The satisfaction of British ministers at securing the release of the remaining British citizens from the legal time and space warp at Guantanamo Bay should be punctured by the continued detention of British residents in whose fate they should also be interested. There are at least five prisoners there who are not British citizens, but who had the right of residence here, whose families live here and are British. One claims that the British authorities knew all about him and had already concluded that there was no evidence to link him to terrorism.

The satisfaction of British ministers at securing the release of the remaining British citizens from the legal time and space warp at Guantanamo Bay should be punctured by the continued detention of British residents in whose fate they should also be interested. There are at least five prisoners there who are not British citizens, but who had the right of residence here, whose families live here and are British. One claims that the British authorities knew all about him and had already concluded that there was no evidence to link him to terrorism.

His defence has not been, and now probably can never be, tested in a court of law. Yet it is an arithmetical certainty that some of the hundreds of men still detained at Guantanamo are innocent, and that an injustice has been done. That was admitted, in effect, by the US and British authorities when the first batch of British detainees were released and told to "Mind how you go" by the Metropolitan Police reception committee waiting for them at Paddington Green high-security police station.

Donald Rumsfeld, the US Secretary of Defense, used to entertain his staff by leading them in a chant that mocked the critics of the Iraq war. "What are we getting into?" he would ask. "A quag-mire!" they would all shout. He was crowing about warnings that US troops would find invading Iraq bloody and difficult. Well, we are in a quagmire now; a moral quagmire in which the US has lost all claim to moral leadership. The detention without trial, the torture and the ambivalence about it expressed by the President and the Pentagon, the deaths in custody in Afghanistan and Iraq - these are no way to defend democracy against terrorism.

The stories of the "forgotten Britons" in Guantanamo should be a reminder of the extent to which America - with the timid acquiescence of the Blair Government - has lost its way.

Comments