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GUANTANAMO SIX YEARS ON - THE DIEGO DILEMMA

08-01-2007

fence

Diego who?  Not Maradona, that's for sure.  Dr David Nicholl examines a curious British outpost which could hide Guantanamo-style secrets that ministers don't want uncovered.

Friday is the sixth anniversary of the opening of the notorious prison
camp in Guantanamo with protests taking place in London, Belfast,
Edinburgh and Birmingham (12.30-2pm outside the Council House on Friday
and outside Waterstones in the Bull Ring 1-3pm on Saturday).

Yet many will ask, with the return of all the British citizens and the
majority of the British residents from Guantanamo, why the fuss?

Although the current Brown administration is to be congratulated for
their change of heart, there are a number of unanswered awkward questions.

Firstly, why was Binyam Mohammed not returned with the other UK residents even though the Foreign Office announced that they would be asking the Americans for his return to the UK in August last year?
 
Why did the Spanish government suddenly want the extradition of returned British residents such as Omar Deghayes even though they had shown no interest in him in over 5 years?
 
Yet perhaps one of the most intriguing questions is the Diego Garcia issue. Diego what, you may ask?

Diego Garcia is a long way from Birmingham, yet maybe we have a hidden
connection . Diego Garcia is an island atoll 1000 miles South of India,
which is a British territory, yet in getting a cut-price deal for Polaris
missiles in the 1960s, the UK government leased the island to the US
government.
 
Not surprisingly the residents of Diego Garcia were a little cheesed off when they were kicked off their homeland to build the US airforce base. It was not until last year that they won their court case that ruled the UK government had acted illegally in removing them.
 
Yet after four decades and three unanimous court rulings in the islanders'
favour, the Government is still pursuing an appeal to block their return.

Why could this be and what on earth is the connection with another better
known US base, Guantanamo? Well, Guantanamo in many ways may have been a side show compared to the location of other secret prisons, and Diego Garcia is believed to be the location of one them.
 
Clive Stafford-Smith, the director of Reprieve, who has legally represented the returned British residents estimates that those held in Guantanamo
represent “at most 4% of those held in secret prisons”.
 
Reprieve alleges that so-called “extraordinary rendition flights” have flown into the British Territory of Diego Garcia with at least 3 ghost prisoners who have had no access to the Red Cross or any lawyer at all.
 
These ghost prisoners include high value detainees such as Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, who has been alleged to be responsible for a number of terrorist atrocities including 9/11. If Khalid Sheikh Mohammed is really the Al-Qaeda mastermind he is alleged to be, is not the best place for him to be a court-room so that we can all see justice done? We have managed this in the past after all.
 
In 1961, when the Israelis found that the Nazi war criminal, Adolf Eichmann was living in Argentina, Mossad performed an extraordinary rendition and captured him. Even the Israelis realised that his real value was to get Eichmann, a man responsible for thousands of deaths, to face trial and for people to see that he was one of the main architects of the Holocaust. In so doing, he was brought to account for his crimes.
 
 Shouldn’t those who are proven to be senior members of Al Qaeda also face a courtroom?

Could it be that the UK government is not keen on too many eyes being focussed on Diego Garcia because it has been complicit in the illegal transfer of prisoners in contravention on international law?
 
The UK is a co-signatory to the International Criminal Court unlike the USA,
so if any UK government minister was aware of the illegal renditions of
prisoners to a British territory, they could find themselves in court even
if someone like Khalid Sheikh Mohammed never does.
 
To date, the UK government denies it has had direct involvement with renditions but they do seem very keen to keep that US base in Diego Garcia free from prying eyes, I wonder why. So many questions and yet so few answers.

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