Lawyers representing prisoners held at Guantanamo Bay are planning a lawsuit against the US government, claiming that fair trials for the detainees are not possible, it was reported today.
American lawyers said the rules governing the forthcoming military tribunals were so restrictive that they effectively prevented due process of law.
Some 660 Taliban and al Qaida suspects, including nine Britons, are being held at the US naval base in Cuba.
All prisoners there are listed as “unlawful combatants” and none has had a court hearing – a situation which civil rights groups say is illegal.
Vanity Fair magazine reported that military lawyers assigned to the inmates believe the tribunal rules violate their own professional and ethical codes.
The rules allow conversations between lawyers and clients to be monitored and prosecutors can prove a case using anything a “reasonable person” might find persuasive.
The lawyers are putting their complaints to their respective state bar associations, which are expected to give the go-ahead for a suit in the US Federal Court, the magazine said.
The suit would claim that the orders given to the military lawyers were unlawful.
If successful, the lawsuit could derail the controversial tribunal process.
Following months of political pressure, there is increasing speculation that some of the British detainees will be released soon.
But the lawyer representing Guantanamo detainee Moazzam Begg, from Birmingham, told the magazine that his client had been “unlawfully seized” by America.
“There seems to be a new world order, an acceptance of utter illegality,” Gareth Peirce said.
“You have all these wonderful treaties after World War Two – the Geneva Conventions, bans on torture – and all of them have been torn up.”
Vanity Fair reported there had been 32 suicide attempts by inmates at the base by September. In addition, in the last six months there have been 40 incidents of “self harm”.
An International Committee of the Red Cross spokesman suggested why many inmates were in poor mental health.
“They have no idea about their fate and they have no means of recourse at their disposal through any legal mechanism,” he said.
The magazine, out on December 5, also quoted sources saying the “rewards for information” process used by interrogators was leading to poor intelligence, as inmates simply made up stories.
And a senior defence intelligence official was quoted saying the detention centre was an “international public relations disaster”.
“Maybe the guy who goes into Gitmo does so as a farmer who got swept along and did very little.
“He’s going to come out a full-fledged jihadist. And for every detainee, I’d guess you create another 10 terrorists or supporters of terrorism.”