British Official Calls for Guantanamo to Be Closed

LONDON, May 10 — In the most explicit British condemnation of Guantánamo Bay, Lord Peter Goldsmith, the attorney general, said today that the camp’s existence was “unacceptable” and ran counter to the United States’ tradition as a “beacon of freedom, liberty and of justice.” He called for its closure.

The remarks by Lord Goldsmith, the government’s most senior advisor, went far beyond the set response offered by Prime Minister Tony Blair who, when asked for his views on Guantánamo Bay, calls it an “anomaly” that must at some stage close down.

Mr. Blair, Americás closest ally in the military campaigns in Iraq and Afghanistan, offered no direct comment on his aide’s views.

But his official spokesman, who is not publicly identified under standing civil service rules, said Guantánamo presented a dilemma because American officials saw many of its detainees as dangerous persons who could not be released.

The camp’s existence is a contentious issue in Britain and a prominent factor among Mr. Blair’s critics in their widespread opposition to his close relationship with President Bush.

“The existence of Guantánamo remains unacceptable,” Lord Goldsmith said in a speech this evening. “It is time, in my view, that it should close. Not only would it, in my personal opinion, be right to close Guantánamo as a matter of principle, I believe it would also help to remove what has become a symbol to many — right or wrong — of injustice.”

“The historic tradition of the United States as a beacon of freedom, liberty and of justice deserves the removal of this symbol,” he added.

Nine British citizens among the detainees there were released in 2004 and 2005, and set free on their return to Britain. Some 490 detainees are still held.

The United States State Department spokesman, Sean McCormack, said in Washington that “at some point in the future, we’d like nothing better than to close down Guantánamo.

“But the fact of the matter is, that the people there are dangerous people,” he said. “One thing we don’t want to do is release people now who might at some point in the future end up on the battlefield facing our troops or somebody else’s troops, or committing acts of terrorism against innocent civilians.”

“Nobody wants to be a jailer for the world,” Mr. McCormack added.

Lord Goldsmith, who discussed the release of the nine Britons with American officials, said Britain could not accept the Bush administration’s concept of military tribunals for the detainees at Guantánamo Bay.

“There are certain principles on which there can be no compromise,” he said. “Fair trial is one of those, which is the reason we in the United Kingdom were unable to accept that the United States military tribunals proposed for those detained at Guantánamo Bay offered sufficient guarantees of fair trial in accordance with international standards.”

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New York Times, USA
May 10, 2006
Alan Cowell

Religion News Blog posted this on Thursday May 11, 2006.
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