Previous SectionIndexHome Page

Mr. Elfyn Llwyd (Meirionnydd Nant Conwy): I note what the Minister said about the three Britons having no

21 Jan 2002 : Column 630

complaints about their treatment. Is he in a position to tell us whether their treatment differs from that of the other detainees?

Mr. Bradshaw: We have absolutely no reason to believe that that is the case, but our officials, quite rightly, were involved in detailed discussions only with the British detainees.

Mr. Ronnie Campbell (Blyth Valley): We have got to remember that not so long ago these al-Qaeda people were shooting our soldiers in Afghanistan. Anyone who goes abroad to fight for another country is nothing more than a mercenary, and we know what mercenaries were like in Africa. When we talk about these people's human rights, we should remember the people on the planes in America. They were not accorded any human rights.

Mr. Bradshaw: I completely agree. Some of the first tranche of Royal Marines returned to my constituency of Exeter last night, having been away from their families and loved ones over Christmas, bearing the brunt of these people's aggression.

Dr. Julian Lewis (New Forest, East): I congratulate the Minister on his statement and on the answers that he has given. Does he accept that al-Qaeda is still out there, plotting further outrages? If so, does he accept that information gleaned from the interrogation of al-Qaeda prisoners will be essential for the prevention of such outrages? If so, does he further accept that it would be absolute madness to accord the protection of the Geneva convention to people who are not regular forces, allowing them to answer only name, rank and number? Finally, does he accept that when these people are brought to trial, we must avoid what happened after the 1993 attack on the World Trade Centre, when important secrets were revealed in a civilian court that led bin Laden to know that his telephones were being listened to and may well have contributed to the success of the attacks on 11 September?

Mr. Bradshaw: The hon. Gentleman is right to make the point that if too much information is revealed, there is always a danger that other people's lives and security will be put at risk. He is also right to say that many of the people currently detained may have a great deal of useful information that could prevent horrific events such as those of 11 September from being perpetrated again. As the hon. Gentleman rightly says, through the information that we have gathered in Afghanistan, we already know much more about the nature of al-Qaeda and its intentions than we did two or three months ago. We have every reason to believe that we have already foiled a number of potentially fatal operations, including one in Singapore recently, as a result of that information.

Mr. Malcolm Savidge (Aberdeen, North): We shall soon be commemorating the holocaust, whose horrors surpassed in scale and cruelty even those of 11 September. After the second world war, our US allies played an honourable role in persuading the international community that we should demonstrate civilised values in our treatment of prisoners, and in submitting them to proper judicial process. Would the Government commend that example to our US allies now?

Mr. Bradshaw: Yes I would, and I reiterate to my hon. Friend that we are satisfied that the Americans are

21 Jan 2002 : Column 631

working in accordance with those international norms—which, as several right hon. and hon. Members have pointed out, was never the case with the Taliban, who did not recognise a single international law.

Mr. David Cameron (Witney): I welcome the Minister's statement and the replies that he has given. May I tempt him to go further? The Government are content to allow suspects to be taken to Guantanamo Bay, where they may be subject to US military tribunal process, possibly including the death penalty. Is it not odd, therefore, that they do nothing about article 3 of the European convention on human rights, the interpretation of which now stops us deporting anyone who may threaten this countr—Abu Qatada, Abu Hamza or anyone else—to a jurisdiction where they may be wanted?

Mr. Bradshaw: That is an irrelevant point. The Government would consider every request from the United States for the extradition of any such person on its merits and according to the individual case.

Mr. Graham Allen (Nottingham, North): Does my hon. Friend accept that we have fought a long, difficult and risky war against terrorism and have emerged victorious, but that one staggeringly incompetent misjudgment by the American authorities may throw that gain and that victory away and give incredible propaganda value to the enemies of the free world? Will he make every effort to inform our American friends that the treatment of even the most vile human being must meet the standards for which we fought?

Mr. Bradshaw: No, I would not agree with that. I am afraid that my hon. Friend has come here with a pre-written question based on rushing to judgment. He does not seem to have listened to a thing that I have said, or to what I have reported from the interviews conducted by the British officials in Guantanamo Bay. I would also caution him about his claim that we have already been victorious against terrorism: the campaign against terrorism will be very long, and will continue well after peace and security have returned to Afghanistan. I would be extremely cautious about jumping to premature victory.

Glenda Jackson (Hampstead and Highgate): From which Department of State did British officials go to speak to the British prisoners in Guantanamo Bay? When the representatives of the International Committee of the Red Cross meet British citizens there, will their findings be made public, as I understand that the ICRC does not publish its findings? Are there representatives of the Red Crescent within the group representing the Red Cross? May I remind my hon. Friends that the photographs of what has been dubbed torture were taken, and released, by the American authorities? What was happening may not have constituted torture, but it certainly constituted a gross infringement of human rights. If we are indeed committed to tackling international terrorism and

21 Jan 2002 : Column 632

defeating it, examples of western powers not taking Muslim religion, or Muslim lives and human rights, as seriously as others will work against success.

Mr. Bradshaw: The officials came from my Department. My hon. Friend is absolutely right to say that Red Cross reports are always confidential. That is the whole point of them; they are not publicised, and they are not used for grandstanding, but are taken extremely seriously by those Governments to whom they report. It is not up to us to publish them. If the Red Cross wishes to do so, it may. The American Administration are under the same constraints as we are in that respect. I have no doubt that, as usually happens, details of such reports will come into the public domain in some way.

My hon. Friend asked about Red Crescent representatives, and I must confess that I do not know the answer. I shall write to her on that as soon as I can.

Mr. Tam Dalyell (Linlithgow): Would it not be wise to be a little cautious about the assertion in the statement that no complaints were made by any of the British prisoners? If the Under-Secretary had been a prisoner, given human nature—particularly American Marine human nature—would he have thought it prudent to complain? Did the prisoners assert in private that there were no complaints?

Mr. Bradshaw: As I said in my statement, for which I chose my words extremely carefully, none complained of any ill treatment. There is an important difference there. Points were made about exercise facilities, and I made it clear later in my statement that those facilities would not be adequate if the number of detainees in Guantanamo Bay increased dramatically.

I am not prepared to give my hon. Friend details of exactly who was present, but our officials spoke to detainees for a long time and were quite satisfied that the detainees spoke without inhibition.

Mr. Harry Barnes (North-East Derbyshire): Should we not openly recognise that we are dealing with two important and conflicting sets of principles? First, security is imperative, and that may lead to people being treated toughly. Secondly, there are humanitarian considerations, and we are supposed to have standards that differ from those of the people we have been in conflict with. We must try to reconcile those two different sets of principles.

Should we not say that the people who are being detained are prisoners of war? President Bush himself began the argument about war by declaring a war on terrorism. The prisoners are the consequence of the action taken to defeat terrorism, and that is one ground on which we could be clear about humanitarian considerations.

Mr. Bradshaw: I think that I have already answered that question in several of my earlier replies. The definition of "prisoner of war" is complex. What matters most is that detainees should be treated humanely and in accordance with international norms, and that if they are brought to trial, the trials should be fair.

21 Jan 2002 : Column 631

21 Jan 2002 : Column 633

Next Section

IndexHome Page