The Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, has launched a scathing attack on Guantanamo Bay, condemning the US prison camp as an “extraordinary legal anomaly”.
Speaking during an eight-day visit to Sudan, Dr Williams said yesterday that detaining people indefinitely when they had not been convicted, and denying them proper legal rights, set a dangerous precedent.
He said that the camp in Cuba had created a “new category of custody”, in which detainees were prevented from gaining “the sort of legal access that we would probably assume to be important”.
The archbishop said: “Any message given, that any state can just over-ride some of the basic habeas corpus-type provisions, is going to be very welcome to tyrants elsewhere in the world, now and in the future.
“What, in 10 years’ time, are people going to be able to say about a system that tolerates this?”
His criticism in an interview with Sir David Frost for the BBC follows that of other Anglican leaders, including Archbishop Desmond Tutu, the former archbishop of Cape Town, and the Archbishop of York, Dr John Sentamu.
In the interview, Dr Williams made clear that he was totally opposed to Muslim extremism, saying that he had devoted much energy in attempting to build bridges with moderates. But he said he did understand the roots of some Muslim anger.
“I have no time for terrorism. I hold no brief for Muslim extremism. I think it’s appalling, I think it’s an insult to God and man,” he said.
But he argued that the violence stemmed from their perception of themselves as “constantly being pushed to the edge of every discussion and every negotiation in the world”.
Dr Williams was speaking in Khartoum during a World Food Programme tour of Sudan, the first by an archbishop since last year’s peace agreement between the mainly Christian south of the country and the Islamic government.
He made no reference during the interview to the human rights abuses in Darfur, where the Sudan regime has been implicated in genocide against its own people, creating more than a million refugees.
He has appealed for tolerance between the faiths and has spoken about food shortages during his tour, which has included visits to a number of Church and humanitarian projects.
His predecessor Lord Carey’s first trip to the Sudan in 1994 led to the expulsion of the British ambassador when the then archbishop refused to visit the north of the country on the government’s terms, instead flying into the south from Uganda.