'The Americans are breaking international law... it is
a society heading towards Animal Farm' - Archbishop Sentamu on Guantanamo
By Ian Herbert and Ben Russell
Published: 18 February 2006
The Archbishop of York, Dr John Sentamu, has launched
a passionate attack on President George Bush, saying
his administration's refusal to close the notorious
Guantanamo Bay camp reflected "a society that is
heading towards George Orwell's Animal Farm".
Dr Sentamu, the Church of England's second in command,
urged the UN Human Rights Commission (UNHRC) to take
legal action against the US - through the US courts or
the International Court of Justice at The Hague -
should it fail to respond to a report, by five UN
inspectors, advising that Camp Delta at Guantanamo Bay
should be shut immediately because prisoners there are
The report was published on Thursday, as a senior High
Court judge, Mr Justice Collins, stated that American
actions over Guantanamo's Camp Delta do not "appear to
coincide with that of most civilised nations". As a
result of his ruling, three of eight British inmates
held in the camp are to appeal to the Foreign
Secretary Jack Straw to intervene with the Bush
administration on their behalf.
Archbishop Sentamu's comments will strengthen the
increasingly insistent international pressure for
Guantanamo to be closed. Archbishop Desmond Tutu
called for its closure, after similar appeals by Peter
Hain, the Northern Ireland Secretary, and the UN
secretary general Kofi Annan.
Dr Sentamu said the UNHRC should seek a writ of habeas
corpus, compelling the US to bring those being
detained at Guantanamo to court, to establish whether
they are imprisoned lawfully and if they should be
"The American Government is breaking international
law," he told The Independent. "The main building
block of a democratic society is that everyone is
equal before the law, innocent until proved otherwise,
and has the right to legal representation. If the
guilt of the prisoners in Guantanamo Bay is beyond
doubt, why are the Americans afraid to bring them to
trial? Transparency and accountability are the other
side of the coin of freedom and responsibility. We are
all accountable for our actions in spite of
circumstances. The events of 9/11 cannot erase the
rule of law and international obligations.
"The US should try all 500 detainees at Guantanamo,
who still include eight British residents, or free
them without further delay. To hold someone for up to
four years without charge clearly indicates a society
that is heading towards George Orwell's Animal Farm."
The Government has already managed to secure the
release, in March 2004, of the four British nationals
who were detained at Guantanamo Moazzam Begg, Feroz
Abbasi, Martin Mubanga and Richard Belmar although
only after guarantees they would be constantly
monitored and face an investigation to ascertain
whether they can be charged in this country.
Washington had claimed all four were "enemy
combatants" who trained at camps run by al-Qa'ida. But
they were released after UK police concluded there was
not enough evidence to charge them with any offence.
The men said they had been tortured at Guantanamo,
allegations the US denied.
So far the Prime Minister appears unmoved by the
growing sense of indignation brought on by the UNHRC
report. He reiterated a statement first made a year
ago that the base in Cuba was "an anomaly".
Sir Menzies Campbell, the acting Liberal Democrat
leader, said: "This is not an anomaly which needs to
be sorted sooner or later. This is an outrage that
needs to be sorted out now. Guantanamo Bay has damaged
the reputation of the US and its allies across the
globe, and particularly in the Middle East."
The Attorney General, Lord Goldsmith, told the BBC the
military tribunals proposed by Washington to try
detainees at the base did not amount to a fair trial
"by standards we would regard as acceptable". But last
night, Donald Rumsfeld, the US Defence Secretary,
rejected Mr Annan's calls.
"He's just flat wrong. We shouldn't close Guantanamo,"
he said. " We have several hundred terrorists, bad
people, people who if they went back out on the field
would try to kill Americans ... To close that place
and pretend that really there's no problem just isn't
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