The families and supporters of the nine British terror suspects held in Guantanamo Bay launched a new effort today to pressurise the government into resolving the fate of the detainees.
Joined by the actress Vanessa Redgrave and her actor brother Corin, as well as families from France, the British relatives and friends launched a new group entitled the Guantanamo Human Rights Commission.
It plans to send a delegation to Washington in the spring, supported by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), to put pressure on the US president, George Bush, and try to force him to return the Britons to the UK.
The nine British men are among 660 people who have been held by the US for more than two years without charge or access to legal assistance. They are being held at Camp Delta in Cuba where they have been interrogated over possible links to al-Qaida.
Rumours that the detainees might have been released before Christmas proved unfounded, dashing the hopes of relatives.
Azmat Begg, whose son Moazzam is being held, described the “disappointment” he felt after a recent meeting with the Foreign Office.
“I am very sorry to say that we have been to the Foreign Office but the response we got was very unacceptable,” he said. “I came out very disappointed, full of loss. My son has no human rights – nothing.”
Mr Begg, a retired bank manager from Birmingham, said he had not heard from his son for six months. “We call ourselves the mother of civilisation, we call ourselves champions of democracy, but what we are doing, we can see it ourselves,” he said.
Nadine Strossen, president of the ACLU, said her group would work with the commission to seek redress for the detainees.
She noted that Americans marked Martin Luther King day yesterday and recalled the civil rights leaders’ demand that his country “be true to what you said on paper”.
Arguing the detainment was in violation of the US constitution, Ms Strossen said: “With the help of the Guantanamo Human Rights Commission, my country will be true to what it said on paper.”
The US supreme court is preparing to hear a claim by 16 of the foreign detainees – two Britons, two Australians and 12 Kuwaitis – that they have a right to challenge their detention in the US civil courts. The hearing is expected to take place in March or April.