The Archbishop of York, Dr John Sentamu, has launched a passionate attack on President George Bush, saying his administration's refusal to close the notorious Guantanamo Bay camp reflected "a society that is heading towards George Orwell's Animal Farm".
Dr Sentamu, the Church of England's second in command, urged the UN Human
Rights Commission (UNHRC) to take legal action against the US - through the
US courts or the International Court of Justice at The Hague - should it
fail to respond to a report, by five UN inspectors, advising that Camp Delta
at Guantanamo Bay should be shut immediately because prisoners there are
The report was published on Thursday, as a senior High Court judge, Mr
Justice Collins, stated that American actions over Guantanamo's Camp Delta
do not "appear to coincide with that of most civilised nations".
As a result of his ruling, three of eight British inmates held in the camp
are to appeal to the Foreign Secretary Jack Straw to intervene with the Bush
administration on their behalf.
Archbishop Sentamu's comments will strengthen the increasingly insistent
international pressure for Guantanamo to be closed. Archbishop Desmond Tutu
called for its closure, after similar appeals by Peter Hain, the Northern
Ireland Secretary, and the UN secretary general Kofi Annan.
Dr Sentamu said the UNHRC should seek a writ of habeas corpus, compelling
the US to bring those being detained at Guantanamo to court, to establish
whether they are imprisoned lawfully and if they should be released.
"The American Government is breaking international law," he told
The Independent. "The main building block of a democratic society is
that everyone is equal before the law, innocent until proved otherwise, and
has the right to legal representation. If the guilt of the prisoners in
Guantanamo Bay is beyond doubt, why are the Americans afraid to bring them
to trial? Transparency and accountability are the other side of the coin of
freedom and responsibility. We are all accountable for our actions in spite
of circumstances. The events of 9/11 cannot erase the rule of law and
"The US should try all 500 detainees at Guantanamo, who still include
eight British residents, or free them without further delay. To hold someone
for up to four years without charge clearly indicates a society that is
heading towards George Orwell's Animal Farm."
The Government has already managed to secure the release, in March 2004, of
the four British nationals who were detained at Guantanamo Moazzam Begg,
Feroz Abbasi, Martin Mubanga and Richard Belmar although only after
guarantees they would be constantly monitored and face an investigation to
ascertain whether they can be charged in this country.
Washington had claimed all four were "enemy combatants" who
trained at camps run by al-Qa'ida. But they were released after UK police
concluded there was not enough evidence to charge them with any offence. The
men said they had been tortured at Guantanamo, allegations the US denied.
So far the Prime Minister appears unmoved by the growing sense of
indignation brought on by the UNHRC report. He reiterated a statement first
made a year ago that the base in Cuba was "an anomaly".
Sir Menzies Campbell, the acting Liberal Democrat leader, said: "This
is not an anomaly which needs to be sorted sooner or later. This is an
outrage that needs to be sorted out now. Guantanamo Bay has damaged the
reputation of the US and its allies across the globe, and particularly in
the Middle East."
The Attorney General, Lord Goldsmith, told the BBC the military tribunals
proposed by Washington to try detainees at the base did not amount to a fair
trial "by standards we would regard as acceptable". But last
night, Donald Rumsfeld, the US Defence Secretary, rejected Mr Annan's calls.
"He's just flat wrong. We shouldn't close Guantanamo," he said. "
We have several hundred terrorists, bad people, people who if they went back
out on the field would try to kill Americans ... To close that place and
pretend that really there's no problem just isn't realistic."
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