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Mr. Straw: Any allegations that the gentlemen make will be pursued vigorously. Indeed, we are already pursuing some allegations in advance of their release. I think I answered the question about whether our concern extends beyond our nationals held in Guantanamo Bay. The answer is yes, but obviously the context in which we can make representations is different. We can only do that in respect of individuals if they are British citizens.
On the process that the US Government have established, it was as a direct result of representations by us on two of the four detainees that they abandoned their efforts to take those individuals before the military tribunals, which we regarded as flawed in process. On the establishment of the special prisons, I have only seen the newspaper reports on that. It is a matter for the US Government. They will have to make the decisions and be answerable for them.
Mr. Hugo Swire (East Devon) (Con): The Foreign Secretary said that he was not aware of other British citizens held in similar circumstances in Guantanamo Bay. My right hon. and learned Friend the shadow Foreign Secretary asked whether he was aware of British citizens held elsewhere in similar circumstances. Will he answer the question?
Tony Lloyd (Manchester, Central) (Lab): Although I, like others, welcome the release of the men from Guantanamo Bay, the episode is nevertheless a dark stain on the reputation of the United States and has damaged our country's reputation throughout the world, particularly among Muslim nations.
My constituent, Jamal al-Harith, who was released last March, tells me that he has not been interviewed by the police since he arrived in Britain. He has certainly not been interviewed by Foreign Office officials or other
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domestic officers about the treatment he received in Guantanamo Bay; nor has there been an assessment of his mental or physical state of health. That is wrong. I would be grateful if my right hon. Friend could dwell on that. If we are to establish the facts that took place with respect to the four, it is important that proper interviewing takes place, including retrospective interviewing of my constituent.
Mr. Straw: My understanding is that each of the five who returned last March was interviewed by the police on arrival. I am as certain as I can be that that was the case. Police liaison officers were appointed for each of them.
As to whether we should proactively interview them about wider issues, it is normal for individuals who have complaints about treatment abroad to make those known to us, not directly, but through their Members of Parliament or solicitors. At that stage, we investigate them. It is my long experience that individuals are never slow in coming forward to make representations and we are always speedy and efficient in investigating them. It goes without saying that if my hon. Friend, the individual or his solicitor have concerns about his treatment which the individual thinks have not been made known to the British Government, we are happy to receive those representations. By definition, the concerns have to be initiated by the individual. We cannot second-guess his experiences.
Mr. John Gummer (Suffolk, Coastal) (Con): Does the Secretary of State accept that the very long time it has taken to get the United States to accept what surely ought to have been a natural reaction to representations by what has been her closest allyeven though many of us are unhappy about what we have donecasts doubt on the nature of the alliance? It is therefore important that he accepts the task of encouraging, pressing and pushing the United States to change its attitude to the kind of detention that has taken place in Guantanamo Bay. Its attitude damages the fight against terrorism because we have adopted there, as I believe we are adopting here, the very attitudes to human rights that we are trying to stop others removing.
Mr. Straw: Our position was different from that of the United States Government all the way through, and I set it out in the House on 24 February 2005, when I said that our overall position remained that the detainees should either be tried in accordance with international standards or returned to the United Kingdom. I do not think that the fact of Guantanamo Bay, difficult as it has been, casts doubt on the nature of the alliance. Indeed, had it not been for the nature of our alliance with the United States, we would not have got those nine detainees back. The issue of liberty and order and the way in which we deal with it is raised in its most acute form at times of war and terrorism. It is easy to defend ordinary human rights when the most important onethe right to lifeis not under attack. When it is under attack, that defence becomes much more difficult.
I fully subscribe to the right hon. Gentleman's implication that we should never stoop to the level of the terrorists. However, it is accepted in the language of the European convention on human rights, many other international conventions and our own practice in the
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United Kingdom that when that most basic right, the right to life, is under attack, democratic liberal Governments are entitled to take action which, in normal circumstances, they would not be entitled to take, to defend it, as without it all other human rights become completely nugatory.
Ms Karen Buck (Regent's Park and Kensington, North) (Lab): May I welcome the decision to release my constituent, Richard Belmar, who has been detained for three years without charge? I welcome the continued work behind the scenes by the Attorney-General and the Foreign Office while deploring the time that it has taken for the United States Government to respond. Many of my constituents, especially, but by no means exclusively, my Muslim constituents, have expressed the gravest concern about the suspension of due legal process. Without doubt, the existence of Guantanamo Bay has created perceptions in the Muslim community that due process does not apply equally to Muslims and non-Muslims. Can my right hon. Friend assure me that he will pursue a three-track strategy of providing proper support to the family of my constituent; ensuring that due process is followed in the event of any charges or investigation; and doing everything possible to assure my constituents that public safety remains paramount?
Mr. Straw: I thank my hon. Friend for her remarks. As with other hon. Members, she has been assiduous and tenacious in her representations on behalf of her constituent who was detained. On the issue of proper support for the family, most of that will be provided locally rather than nationally, but if there are issues of concern, I am happy to meet her to discuss them. The answer to both her second and third points is yes.
Sarah Teather (Brent, East) (LD): The news of Martin Mubanga's release is obviously hugely welcome for his family in my constituency, and I thank the Foreign Secretary for giving me advance notice of his statement. This morning, I spoke to Martin's family, who are relieved but also cautious. They are hardened, having steeled themselves for two or three years for bad news. They are unsure about how Martin will be on his return, given his allegations about torture and mistreatment while in Guantanamo Bay. However, there is not any news of my other constituent, Jamil el-Banna, a Jordanian refugee who is a long-time British resident. What efforts are being made to secure his release, and will the Foreign Secretary confirm that the Government will not seek to revoke his refugee status, as previously suggested by Ministers in the other place?
Mr. Straw: I am grateful to the hon. Lady for her remarks. I understand the caution of Martin Mubanga's family, who are bound to be worried until each of those individuals is on British soil and back with their families. I hope, however, that that will be in the very near future. I am happy to receive any representations that the hon. Lady and the family wish to make.
As for Mr. el-Banna, the House will be aware that in international law we only have the standing to take up consular matters in respect of British citizens. That is a fact of international law, and it applies to citizens and nationals of all third countries. It means that we cannot make representations on behalf of people, however long
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they have been resident in the UK, who are not our nationals. More to the point, the US Government, consistent with their obligations under international law, would not accept such representations. I know that that is frustrating, and I have seen the families of a number of people in that position, but that is the situation. On the issue of that gentleman's refugee status, I am afraid that I know nothing whatever about it and, in any event, it is not a matter for me but for my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary.
Geraint Davies (Croydon, Central) (Lab): I warmly welcome the statement by right hon. Friend on behalf of the family of Feroz Abbasi, who feared that he might be incarcerated in perpetuity without charge in Guantanamo Bay. Will my right hon. Friend confirm that, as the standard bearers of peace, democracy and justice, we will continue to fight for the rights of individuals to fair trial and fair treatment, whether in Guantanamo Bay or anywhere else in the world? Given the mental stress that the detainees have suffered for three years, will he ensure that there is a full evaluation of their mental health, and ensure that appropriate medical and financial support is provided for their rehabilitation? Can he reassure the British public that every effort will be made in future to protect both their security and their right to a fair trial, whether in Britain or abroad?
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