Guantanamo Brits to return home?

From Prime Minister’s Questions 22nd October 2003 House of Commons

“Mr. Beith: I welcome the Prime Minister’s rapid return to robust health—[Hon. Members: “Hear, hear.”] Indeed, I should like to see all three party leaders remain in robust health and leaders of their parties. May I turn the Prime Minister’s attention, however, to an unacceptable aspect of the war against terrorism—namely, the continued existence of a legal no-man’s-land at Guantanamo Bay, where UK citizens and others do not face trial under UK law or US law or according to international law? The Prime Minister has said that there must be a point in time when the issue is brought to a head. Is that point in time not before or during President Bush’s forthcoming visit to London?
The Prime Minister: First, I thank the right hon. Gentleman for his good wishes. Secondly, yes, the issue must be resolved soon. I cannot say exactly when, but there are two alternatives: either sufficient undertakings will be given about the form of trial that the detainees will have under a military commission, or they will be returned to the United Kingdom. The British Attorney-General has been in touch with his American counterpart in order to try to make sure that sufficient undertakings are given. It may not be possible to bring the US rules into conformity with ours, in which case the detainees will be returned to the UK.”

So Tony Blair has stated that the Brit detainees will be tried in Guantanamo in conformity with British laws or that they will be returned to Britain; and he has done this in Parliament where, if he misleads the House, he must resign. This is a hostage to fortune unless he is totally certain that the above is true.

Note, British law does not admit any evidence from the accused that is taken without caution (like Miranda) and recorded. So no ‘confession’ evidence already obtained would be usable. European Human Rights Treaties and Legislation would guarantee access to counsel of choice and a fair trial to European standards. So this will drive a coach and horses through the proposed military tribunals (kangaroo courts).

So, if the Brits come home without a trial, what does this say about the detainees of other nationalities who will still face those kangaroo courts?

My WAG: Bush will hold his show trials under whatever rules he likes, and Blair will claim that “sufficient undertakings” were given, and the US rules were in “conformity” with British law, under some novel interpretation of British law invented for the occasion by the Attorney General.

Am I cynical and pessimistic? Yes. And I think this is the proper attitude to take towards our Glorious Leaders, both in the UK and the US, right now.

Yes, but he has now given this undertaking to parliament rather than just stating it as a policy goal. If he has to renege on this then he will be in real trouble- it would place him in the position of having to show that he had not misled parliament.

His clear statement that

“may not be possible to bring the US rules into conformity with ours, in which case the detainees will be returned to the UK.”

leaves very little wiggle room.

If the trial process is missing fair representation, rules of evidence acceptable to the British courts and suitable avenues of judicial appeal, etc. then only one of these many items needs to be breached to show that the “US rules… (are not in) …conformity with ours”, placing Blair in an unsustainable position. If Beith keeps on at him, he will have to justify any failure to meet his guarantees to parliament.

Actually, given no Constitutional guarantee of civil rights in the UK, aren’t “novel interpretations of British law invented for the occasion” the Done Thing?

Since the European Convention on Human Rights was integrated into British Law, the rights guaranteed somewhat exceed those given by that quaint eighteenth century document culled from English Law of the seventeenth century and some radical English thinkers that goes under the name of the Constitution of the United States of America. For instance, the modern British State is prohibited from killing its citizens in the name of public anger. Additionally, rights to housing and medical care and social care are created that are neither mentioned nor guaranteed by the US constitution.

That aside, it would take quite a ‘novel interpretation’ to sidestep habeus corpus, rules of evidence and rules of courts of law, all of which are covered by parliamentary legislation and not within the fiat of Blair, our pseudo-monarch. To change these would require primary legislation, and that would include passing the House of Lords who would certainly block this.

No, our Tone seems to have backed himself into a corner here- wait for further developments.

The only thing I can think of is that Our Glorious Leader really has been given an assurance of UK-compatible fair trail or release to British custody.

That would only be so (IMO) if those at Guantanamo had concluded that these particular guys were unimportant, innocent, or likely to pose no further threat - since any such assurance is pretty likely to see them walk free. My WAG is that it would be impossible to square the circle of UK justice at Guantanamo, since it’s not even compatible with US standards (hence them not being held on American soil) and any attempt to try them in Britain would be shot down as an unfair trial by any decent legal team.

Given the arbitrary way in which the Guantanamo captives were originally selected it’s not that unlikely that the Americans are willing to let these ones walk, just to save embarrassment for Blair.

Blair never held himself to a time frame in his reply (other than “soon”, which means nothing); thus he never has to face the issue. The quo will remain status and the detainees will continue to rot in their cages, as long as the situation is in Bush’s hands.

As is the American one.

What about food? Of course, most of the rights look plagarized from that “quaint” document you mention, with a bunch of exceptions added just in case those civil liberties get a bit tiresome. And there are plenty of rights not mentioned, too.

I am not a big critic of the war in Iraq but, I am inclined to think the British citizens held in Guantanamo (sp) should be offered trial in the UK. In fact all those accused should be offered a fair trial, it is after all one of the main indicators of being a democracy…

This asside, surely the UK deserves to have a say… we were after all one of the only countries to sacrifice our men in the war on terrorism…

Loyalty is two way.

Before anyone accuses me of being Anti-USA i’m not.