Human rights activists congratulated the Brown government on Tuesday for requesting the return of five British residents being detained at the US concentration camp at Guantánamo Bay. The Foreign Office and Home Secretary Jacqui Smith have announced that they will request the return to Britain of Jamil el-Banna, Omar Deghayes, Shaker Abdur Raheem Aamer, Binyam Mohammed and Abdennour Sameur. Foreign Secretary David Miliband has written to US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to formally make the request.
Amnesty International campaigns director Tim Hancock called on the government to “move quickly. We’ve been saying for several years that Britain should have been seeking the fair trial or safe release of the British residents imprisoned at Guantánamo,” Mr Hancock pointed out. “Guantánamo is a travesty of justice and it’s important that the government starts speaking out about the hundreds of men who are still held there – they must not become Guantánamo’s forgotten prisoners,” he insisted.
Omar Deghayes’s sister Amina said that she was “getting mixed messages” and would not be able to celebrate until her brother is back in Britain. “Some people are telling me he is definitely coming back, but others are saying that they may not be successful for a while,” Ms Deghayes reported.
The British government has admitted that negotiations with Washington “may take some time.” US ambassador to London Robert Tuttle vowed to “study the request to release them very seriously and get back with all due, deliberate speed.”
Mr Aamer’s father-in-law Saeed Ahmed Siddique said that his family felt let down by the government because it had taken so long to seek his release. “The government should have done more because all his family members, his wife and four children are British nationals and it is not fair to separate a husband from his family,” Mr Siddique noted. “His youngest child has never seen his father. It’s not justice,” he added.
Progressive legal firm Reprieve, which has represented all five men in their challenges to their illegal detention, hailed “a significant change in British policy.” It noted that, until now, the British government had refused to intervene and had been standing in the way of cleared British residents – such as Mr el-Banna, who is the father of five British children – being allowed to return home to their families.
Reprieve legal director Clive Stafford Smith applauded the Brown government “on a huge step in the right direction. At last we are seeing an ethical foreign policy – action rather than words,” Mr Stafford Smith said. He added that, when the British government enforces human rights, “we have some chance of healing the rift with the Islamic world.”
Morning Star, 8 August 2007