Foreign & Commonwealth Office. (Human Rights,Democracy and Governance Group), London.
5 January 2006
Thank you for your letter regarding detainees in Guantanamo Bay. I have been asked to reply. I am sorry you have not received an ealier reply. You and other correspondents have expressed concern on a number of issues. I hope the following information is of help.
There are currently no British citizens in Guantanamo Bay. A number of correspondents have expressed concern about those detainees who were resident in the UK, including Omar Deghayes. While it is long-standing policy that the British Government cannot provide consular assistance for individual who are not British nationals, we agreed exceptionally in March and April 2005 to met the families of those detainees whom we knew were resident in the UK, but who are not British nationals. We passed on the concerns expressed to us by the families to the US authorities.
Since then we have continued to raise Guantanamo Bay with the US authorities both bilaterally and with our European Union partners. We have raised the issue of the hunger strike by a number of detainees with the US authorities and been assured that they are concerned to ensure the welfare of the detainees. We will continue to raise our concerns at official and ministerial level and to work with the US authorities to resolve these.
The british Government has always made it clear that it regards the circumstances under which detainees are continuing to be held in Guantanamo Bay as unacceptable. The US Government knows our views. We have also expressed reservations about the US MIlitary Commissions process.
Some correspondents have expressed concerns about allegations of torture. I should stress that the British Government unreservedly condemns the use of torture as a matter of fundamental principle and works hard with its international partners to eradicate this abhorrent practice. The UK abides by its commitments under international law, including the UN Convention against Torture and the European Convention on Human Rights, and it expects a;l other countries to comply with their international obligations. WE are active in pressing them to deliver on their human rights commitments.
Some corresponents have been concerned that the British residents might be returned to their countries of origin. We understand from the US authorities that they require asurances from the government of the country concerned that a detainee's human rights would be respected before considering them for return. A decision on whether British residents would be able to return to the UK on release would be for the Home Office.
Finally, I would draw your attention to the fact that international action against torture has been a priority for the UK government since the launch of the UK Anti-Torture Initiative in 1998. You may wish to look at the human rights section of our website, www.fco.gov.uk/humanrights. This will provide more information about the work that the Foreign & Commonwealth Office is doing to promote human rights, including an electronic version of the 2005 Annual Report on Human Rights.
Yours sincerely. Judith Mann.