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Mr. Straw: I thank my hon. Friend for his remarks. He, too, has been assiduous and tenacious in his representations on behalf of his detained constituent, Mr. Abbasi. On the issue of support, most of it, such as medical services, will be the responsibility of local medical authorities and local authorities. Our aim, not only in law but in respect of services to which those individuals are entitled, is that they should receive the same services as any other British citizen. Given the special circumstances of their detention of up to three years, I am happy to receive representations from my hon. Friend and to follow them up. On his final point, it has been difficult seeking to balance the security of the international community and this country with the rights of those individuals, but I have always believed that the approach of the British Government is the right one.
Mr. Douglas Hogg (Sleaford and North Hykeham) (Con): The right hon. Gentleman knows that I have pressed him many times in the House about the illegality of what the United States has done. Assuming that none of the nine is charged before a British court, would it not be right for the British Government to press the United States to compensate them for clearly illegal action? Would he also ask the prosecution authorities in this country to reflect before they prosecute any of the nine? If any of them were convicted and sent to prison, they would not get any credit for the time that they have been held unlawfully in Guantanamo Bay.
On the issue of compensation, if we receive representations, we will consider them, just as we do for other British citizens, and follow them up. If those people were subject to trial in this country and conviction led to their detention in prison, the question of whether they could be given credit for their previous
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detention would not be a matter for me but for the learned judge in the case. The right hon. and learned Gentleman knows better than I the way in which that system operates.
Mr. Adrian Bailey (West Bromwich, West) (Lab/Co-op): May I welcome the Minister's statement, and acknowledge the role that the Foreign Office played in securing the release of the three detainees from Tipton last year? Subsequently, however, those three and others have made allegations of torture and ill-treatment in Guantanamo Bay. Their perception is that the Foreign Office is not listening to them, so will the Minister give an undertaking that if they wish to present their allegations to him, he will meet them and, if necessary, make representations to the US Government?
Mr. Straw: First, the Foreign Office does listen to representations. A significant part of its job is making representations on behalf of British citizens who face consular difficulties, small and large. Secondly, I am happy to see my hon. Friend and the families concerned if there is timeif not, I will ask another Minister to do soand if appropriate.
Mr. Edward Davey (Kingston and Surbiton) (LD): My constituent, Bisher Al-Rawi, was arrested on a legitimate business trip to the Gambia and has been illegally incarcerated for more than two years. In reply to my hon. Friend the Member for Brent, East (Sarah Teather), the Foreign Secretary said that he cannot make representations on behalf of people such as Bisher, who is not a British national but who has permanent residency rights in the UK. In the past, however, he and his officials have implied that the FCO is prepared to ask questions. That being the case, does he know whether the Americans plan to release people such as Bisher? If so, will he undertake to seek Bisher's release to the UK to face charges, if there is any evidence against Bisher?
Mr. Straw: I saw the hon. Gentleman and the family concerned. In that case, although the gentleman lived in the UK for many years and would be entitled to British citizenship, he voluntarily chose not to seek British citizenship and to maintain his Iraqi citizenship, although other members of his family chose to become British citizens. That situation creates a dilemma, and people must make a choice. We can represent British citizens, including those who are well qualified for British citizenship and who acquire British citizenship after birth. We cannot represent those who choose not to seek British citizenship and who make their own choices, presumably because they want to maintain the citizenship of their birth. That is the law of the land, and it is the law of the international community.
I went to the trouble of seeing the hon. Gentleman and the family and gave them a lot of time. Other Ministers and I continue to be available to meet hon. Members and families, whether the matter concerns British citizens or others, but the degree to which we can make representations in respect of individual cases is limited. We will continue to test the envelope on behalf
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of the hon. Gentleman and other hon. Members and their constituents. However, I do not want to raise hopes in cases in which the circumstances are very difficult.
Keith Vaz (Leicester, East) (Lab): I congratulate my right hon. Friend, the Prime Minister and the Attorney-General on their workthey have given us excellent news in advance of Eid celebrations, which will take place next week. Will my right hon. Friend confirm that if the detainees were subsequently to decide to pursue an action against the United States of America, Sir David Manning and his officials in Washington would give them and their legal representatives every possible support?
Mr. Straw: I am grateful to my hon. Friend for his remarks. If actions were taken against the US Government in the US, we would consider any representations, but we cannot make such decisions in advance.
Mr. Alex Salmond (Banff and Buchan) (SNP): Given that a Law Lord has described Guantanamo Bay as a position of utter lawlessness, will the welcome return of the four individuals under the rule of law bring about in a change in the Government's attitude to those detained without trial or charge in Belmarsh prison?
Mr. Straw: The position of those in Belmarsh is and always has been completely different from that of those detained in Guantanamo Bay, and it is ludicrous to compare either the conditions or the nature of the detention. The position of those held in Belmarsh is controversial, and it was at the heart of their lordships' decision. However, it is a fact that the individuals held in Belmarsh can leave the United Kingdom, if they can find another country to take them. That facility was never available to anyone in Guantanamo Bay, which all nine individuals would have left if the same arrangements had been in place. It is ludicrous to make any comparison whatsoever.
My right hon. Friend the Home Secretary is actively considering the future of detentions under part 4 of the Anti-terrorism, Crime and Security Act 2001, and he will make a statement as soon as he can.
Mr. Gordon Prentice (Pendle) (Lab): A few moments ago, my right hon. Friend said that he would consider applications for compensation. Will the Government consider making ex gratia payments, provided that those individuals are not charged by the police in this country for offences under the terrorism Acts? It seems to me that those individuals will live under a cloud and will be virtually unemployable.
Mr. Straw: We consider representations in respect of applications before the US courts. In this country, however, ex gratia payments are made by the British taxpayer in respect of unlawful detention by Her Majesty's Government. Those detentions were neither made nor approved by Her Majesty's Government, so the question of ex gratia payments does not arise.
Mr. John Redwood (Wokingham) (Con):
How can it be that there is enough evidence to detain five people for many months, but not enough evidence to bring any
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case against them under the terrorism Acts or other criminal legislation? Were the detentions mistaken, or does our terrorism legislation miss some important points and need to be strengthened?
Mr. Straw: There is a world of difference between the criteria adopted by the US Government to detain those individuals, most of whom were captured either near or at the face of terrorist action or training, and the evidence that British courts properly require to ensure detention following conviction, or even detention under part 4 of the 2001 Act.
Mr. Tam Dalyell (Linlithgow) (Lab): In 43 years of listening to ministerial statements, I have scarcely heard a senior Minister having to defend what is frankly indefensible. What does that say about the cavalier attitude of recent Republican Administrations in the United States to both human rights and international law? What are the Government going do about this situation: discussions about assassination squads, possibly operating across international borders, are really going on in Washington, and the presence of assassination squads has been made more likely by the appointment of Mr. Negroponte in Baghdad? Does the Foreign Secretary remember what we all said in the 1980s about Negroponte's behaviour in central America?
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