» Friday, June 25, 2004

Guantanamo Bay

Asked if the Defence Secretary had been expressing the Government’s view in an interview on the Today Programme this morning in which he had suggested that he didn’t hold out much hope of persuading the US authorities to change their mind about the use of military tribunals to try those being detained at Guantanamo Bay, the PMS said that the we were continuing to work to resolve the situation with regard to the four remaining British detainees at Guantanamo Bay. Discussions were continuing. Asked if the Attorney General’s position, as set out in his speech today, was the position of the Government, the PMS said that the Attorney General’s remarks were no surprise to us because we had always said that the British detainees should either be tried fairly in accordance with international standards, or they should be returned to the UK. Five of the original British detainees had now returned home. Two of the four remaining detainees had been facing military tribunals, although these were now suspended. Discussions were continuing with the US about their future.

Questioned as to why the US should suddenly take note of the UK’s views after all this time, the PMS said that we were continuing our discussions with the American authorities about this matter, as you would expect. Asked if the Defence Secretary was wrong to be ‘depressed’ about the prospects of making progress on this issue, the PMS said that the media’s inaccurate interpretation of Mr Hoon’s interview was not helpful. He had not said that he was ‘depressed’. Put to her that he had said he didn’t hold out much hope of being able to get things changed, the PMS repeated that discussions were continuing. Put to her that the Attorney General, himself, had recognised that matters were unlikely to change – hence his use of ‘megaphone diplomacy’ today, the PMS said that Lord Goldsmith’s remarks were merely a reflection of the Government’s oft-repeated view. Asked for details about the discussions that were taking place between the UK and US, the PMS said that we had no intention of providing a running a commentary on them.

Asked what action the Government would take were the US authorities to ignore our advice and decide to go ahead with the tribunals anyway, the PMS said that it wasn’t our policy to comment on hypothetical scenarios. On a more general point, however, it was important for people to note that the US had decided to suspend the tribunals for two of the detainees, Moazzam Begg and Feroz Abbasi, following discussions with the UK. Asked if the British Government would apply pressure on the Americans if the latter decided to resume the tribunals, the PMS repeated that discussions were continuing. She was not going to pre-empt their outcome.

Briefing took place at 11:00 | Search for related news


  1. Why are they only pressing for justice for the few British prisoners? If the PM truly has any principles then he should be pushing for a fair trial for all of the prisoners.

    Comment by Uncarved Block — 25 Jun 2004 on 4:50 pm | Link
  2. Perhaps an equivalent to the US Invasion Act is in order?


    Comment by Gregory Block — 25 Jun 2004 on 5:54 pm | Link
  3. Only the "British" detainees will be able to vote for Tony. He needs to start the process now to ensure that they are home before the next election.

    Comment by Roger Huffadine — 26 Jun 2004 on 7:37 am | Link

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