London Guantánamo Campaign | 01.04.2010 16:40 | Guantánamo
Questions to ask your candidates before the general election
Local candidates in national elections: they want your vote, they want your adoration, they want your X in the box on the ballot paper… but what are they going to do about Britain’s involvement in Guantánamo Bay and extraordinary rendition?
Since opening in early 2002, over 800 prisoners have passed through Guantánamo Bay. Around 180 remain. By 2005, the British government had managed to get all the British nationals held there released, but not without public pressure. The government has been dragging its feet about the British residents; prisoners with close ties to the UK, including some with British families.
Shaker Aamer, a 42 year old Saudi from south London has not been released. He has a British family, and has been held without charge or trial for over 8 years. He has a son who was born since his imprisonment, whom he has never met. The British government believes he has done nothing wrong and asked for his release in 2007, but has taken little action since.
Ask your candidates:
• Why is it that the British government hasn’t been able to secure Shaker Aamer’s release to his British family even though four other men whose release it sought at the same time have all long since returned?
• Other European countries have accepted prisoners who have no ties to their country, and have reintegrated them successfully into their communities. Why can’t Britain do likewise to help the Americans close Guantánamo? The British government says it has done enough already; what is enough?
• The US is our closest ally and concedes that closing Guantánamo is no simple task. What would you do to help the Americans close Guantánamo?
Over the past year, the government has been found, both in Parliament and the courts, to be complicit in torture abroad and in extraordinary rendition, the CIA’s practice of kidnapping a person in one country and having them tortured in another. Both practices are serious crimes under British and international law. Calls have been made at all levels from MPs, civil society and even the UN, for an investigation into what the government knows and has done. The government has blocked any such inquiry, insisting on secrecy under the cover of “national security”.
Ask your candidates:
• Do you believe there should be an independent inquiry into Britain’s involvement in torture and extraordinary rendition? If yes, how should this inquiry be carried out? If not, why not?
• Can the use of evidence obtained through torture ever be justified? If yes, in what circumstances?
• British territory and airports have been used for torture flights. What action would you take to ensure that this cannot happen again?
• President Obama has pledged to close Guantánamo Bay, whereas the prison at Bagram Airbase, closed to lawyers and independent medical experts, is growing in size. It is known that the MoD were aware that two men handed over to the Americans by the British army in Iraq ended up in Bagram. What would you do, and what should Britain be doing, about illegal jails like this?
• Criminal investigations involving torture are pending in three cases against MI5, including that of two Guantánamo prisoners. What measures do you believe should be taken against ministers and other government officials who knowingly colluded in torture and extraordinary rendition and/or hid their knowledge of it? Should there be prosecutions of ministers too?
• What measures do you believe could be implemented to ensure that the security services are accountable, and that the actions of the government are more transparent in this regard?
You can put all, or some, or similar questions to these to your candidates either by writing to them (e-mail/postal addresses usually provided in their leaflets), by asking them in person when they come knocking at your door, or at the various meetings they will take part in before the election. We would like to know what they have to say so please get in touch with the London Guantánamo Campaign (details below) if you do get a response.
Other actions you can take in the run up to the election:
• write to your current MP (find them at www.theyworkforyou.com) and express your concerns to them about Guantánamo Bay, the fact that there are still British residents there, and about extraordinary rendition
• write to the Foreign Office ( firstname.lastname@example.org) and express your concerns to them about their lack of transparency and honesty, and failure to take action for Shaker Aamer
• you can send as many letters/e-mails/faxes as you like to the above MPs.
• the Foreign Secretary David Miliband and other members of the government will be attending local public meetings before the election to convince you to vote for their party. If local to you, go along and ask them the above questions and see if you can convince them to tell the truth.
• write to your local paper – express your views to all the local candidates at once, in a more public way.
If you need more information about these issues/model letters, please get in touch with the London Guantánamo Campaign. We would also like to hear what your local candidates/MPs have to say.
London Guantánamo Campaign