Socialist Worker

Belmarsh prison - New Labour's own Guantanamo Bay

Issue No. 1882

IN A damning report Amnesty International has accused the government of creating a 'Guantanamo Bay in our own back yard'.

Home secretary David Blunkett threatened to resign his membership of Amnesty after it published its report, Justice Perverted Under the Anti-Terrorism, Crime and Security Act 2001, last week.

Blunkett has got a nerve. Amnesty is a body dedicated to upholding international standards of justice. That is a far cry from what Blunkett is doing.

New Labour has created its own mini-version of the US internment camp at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba.

At Belmarsh maximum security prison in south east London 17 foreign nationals have been held under the powers Blunkett granted himself in the wake of 11 September 2001. Fourteen of them continue to be held. They have not been charged or appeared before a court. They are caged indefinitely on the 'suspicion of the home secretary'.

Amnesty's report last week found that the Home Office's secret tribunal, which upheld the incarceration, admitted that it was prepared to rely on 'evidence extracted under torture'.

The men held in Britain, some for two years, are suffering from mental breakdown. This is exactly what is happening in Guantanamo Bay. Yet Blunkett has been secretly undermining attempts to have British prisoners returned for an open trial in Britain rather than a secret US military tribunal.

The military court due to sit in Guantanamo is such an affront that even the US army lawyers appointed as the defence team have resigned. They do not believe their clients will receive a fair trial.

The Guardian's James Meek spent months talking to former internees and US army insiders. He recently revealed the torture at Guantanamo Bay inflicted on hundreds of internees, some of them children.

One of the victims is British citizen Moazzam Begg, who was seized in Pakistan two years ago.

His father Azmat says, 'We do not know what is happening to him in Guantanamo Bay. The authorities censor everything. Neither the family nor lawyers are allowed any contact. And despite what the British government claims, we now know they have been working to keep him there rather than bringing him here.

'Mr Blair has no right to go around the world pretending to be a champion of human rights. He should resign.'


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Sat 20 Dec 2003, 00:00 GMT
Issue No. 1882
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