US rebuffs UK call to close Guantanamo camp

Campaign News | Friday, 13 October 2006

Margaret Beckett's view rejected by White House

The US government has rebuffed UK calls to close its controversial detention centre at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba.

The UK foreign minister said it was unacceptable on human rights grounds and ineffective in fighting terrorism.

But a US spokesman said the camp was needed to house "some very dangerous people", including those who were behind the 9/11 attacks.

Meanwhile fresh allegations of abuse of inmates by US prison guards at the camp have emerged.

Marine Sgt Heather Cerveny, who went to the base three weeks ago as a legal aide to a military lawyer, said five navy guards described in detail how they beat up detainees.

"The one sailor specifically said 'I took the detainee by the head and smashed his head into the cell door'," she said in an affidavit.

The BBC's James Westhead, in Washington, says the allegations are significant because they come from a serving member of the US military.

Sgt Cerveny has reported the matter to the military's inspector general, who is looking in to setting up a formal inquiry.

'Not forever'

US State Department spokesman Sean McCormack brushed off calls for Guantanamo to close, saying it would remain open as long as required.

"Look, we don't want Guantanamo open forever. We don't want to be the world's jailers. We certainly would look forward to the day when Guantanamo is closed," he said.

Last month, US Congress passed a bill to allow special military tribunals to prosecute Guantanamo detainees after the Supreme Court blocked the administration's proposals to deal with the inmates.

The UK's Foreign Minister, Margaret Beckett, is the highest ranking British official to publicly criticise the US for its detention of suspects without trial at the camp.

Mrs Beckett said the US detention camp did as much to radicalise extremists as it did to promote security.

"The continuing detention without fair trial of prisoners is unacceptable in terms of human rights, but it is also ineffective in terms of counter-terrorism."

The Red Cross said on Friday it had met with the alleged mastermind of the 11 September 2001 attacks, currently held at the centre.

It was the first time that Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, and 13 other high-risk detainees, had met with anyone from outside the Cuba-based camp since they were arrested.

Some 450 terror suspects are thought to be detained at the camp.

Guantanamo camp should close, says UK Foreign Minister

The US detention camp at Guantanamo Bay is "unacceptable in terms of human rights" and should close, Foreign Secretary Margaret Beckett has said.

Mrs Beckett warned that the continuing detention without trial of hundreds of suspects at the base on Cuba may be doing more harm than good in the fight against terrorism.

Speaking as she launched the Foreign Office's ninth annual report on human rights, Mrs Beckett defended Britain's practice of seeking assurances from countries such as Jordan and Algeria that terror suspects deported there will not face torture on their return.

These memorandums of understanding with regimes with a previously poor human rights record did not undermine the UK's long-standing opposition to the use of torture, she insisted.

In the report, Mrs Beckett warned that repressive regimes around the world were using the fight against terrorism as an excuse for tightening restrictions on the human rights of their own citizens.

But the report argued that it was a "complete fallacy" to draw a link between the "legitimate national security" measures of democratic regimes and the repressive acts of authoritarian states.

Addressing the issue of Guantanamo Bay, Mrs Beckett said: "As the Prime Minister has said, we believe that camp should close.

"The continuing detention without fair trial of prisoners is unacceptable in terms of human rights, but it is also ineffective in terms of counter-terrorism.

"It is widely argued now that the existence of the camp is as much a radicalising and destabilising influence as it is a safeguard to security."

Mrs Beckett said that she was aware of accusations that the Government's use of deportation with assurances undermined Britain's long-term commitment against torture. But she said: "That's not true. We have been given assurances and we are building the means to verify that the human rights of those returned will be respected.",,-6142596,00.html

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