Memorandum from the Foreign and Commonwealth
HUMAN RIGHTS-GUANTANAMO BASE
Q1. What is HMG's view of the conditions in which
detainees are held at the Guantanamo base?
A team of British officials visited the Guantanamo
Base between 17 and 20 January. It reported that the three British
detainees were in good physical health. None complained of ill
treatment. None said they had any medical condition requiring
treatment. Medical facilities are available in the compound. The
detainees are provided with showers, soap and toilet articles.
They are free to conduct religious observances. They have prayer
mats, and calls to prayer are broadcast over the Camp X-Ray public
address system. They are given as much drinking water as they
want, three meals a day and food that complies with their religious
practice if they require it. During lengthy discussions the three
British detainees spoke without inhibition. All the indicators
are that they are being treated humanely, in line with international
The International Committee of the Red Cross
now has a permanent presence at Guantanamo Bay and ICRC officials
have access to the detainees at any time.
Q2. What is HMG's view of the obligations of the
US Government towards such detainees under the Geneva and UN conventions.
The status of each detainee under international
humanitarian law has to be considered in the light of the facts
of the individual case.
Whatever their status, the detainees are entitled
to humane treatment and, if prosecuted, to a fair trial. On 22
January, the US Secretary of State for Defence made a public statement
that they are being treated humanely, consistently with the principles
of the Geneva Convention.
Q3. What information does HMG have on the circumstances
in which detainees at the Guantanamo base have been heavily restrained,
as shown in photographs reproduced in the British media?
The US authorities have made clear that certain
security and protective measures were taken during the transfer
of the detainees to Guantanamo Bay. They were blindfolded and
shackled for security reasons. They were provided with earmuffs
as protection against the high level of noise inside the military
aircraft in which they were travelling. They were also made to
wear face masks for reasons of hygiene. Prisoners are not shackled
or in any other way restrained when in their cells. They are however
shackled when outside their cells, for example, when being taken
to the lavatories or showers.
Q4. What is the HMG's view of the treatment of
British nationals detained by the US authorities?
See response to Question 1.
Q5. What is the HMG's view of the appropriateness
of military courts as a method of proceeding against alleged "unlawful
It is for the United States to decide what options
are available to them under their own legal system for trying
terrorists. We have asked for full information on the way military
tribunals might work.
HMG welcome the US commitment to making individual
determination of the legal status of each of the detainees. This
process has not been completed. It is too early to speculate about
trials of the prisoners, or the appropriateness of military courts
which may be established.
What is clear is that British nationals and
others should, if prosecuted, have a fair trail with proper legal
safeguards in line with international human rights norms.
Q6. Paragraph 2 of Clerk to the FAC's letter to
PRDD of 22 January. Request by the Committee for the "full
report" referred to by Ben Bradshaw in his statement to the
House on 21 January at column 623.
We regret that it is not possible to comply
with the request to provide the Committee with a full copy of
the report prepared by officials following their visit to the
British nationals detained in Guantanamo Bay.
The report contains detailed personal information
about the detainees and their next of kin. FCO obligations of
consular confidentiality prevent us from releasing such information
into the public domain. The content of the generic sections of
the report was communicated in the statement to the House on 21
January by the Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Foreign
and Commonwealth Affairs.
Foreign and Commonwealth Office