"Dear Mr Tony Blair… Please can you give me an answer to my question? Why is my dad in prison? Why is he far away in that Guantánamo Bay?". Anas al-Banna, son of Jamil al-Banna, when he wrote to the UK Prime Minister.
UK residents Jamil al-Banna, a Jordanian national, and Bisher al-Rawi, an Iraqi national, were arrested in Gambia in 2002, transferred to a US base in Afghanistan and then sent to Guantánamo. The UK authorities were implicated in their unlawful transfer to US custody.
The UK government has refused to date to make representations on behalf of these two men and another UK resident, Libyan national Omar Deghayes. A full judicial review of this refusal is pending.
The UK government has also refused to make representation on behalf of at least five other UK residents who remain in Guantánamo.
Despite Tony Blair’s statement that Guantánamo Bay is "an anomaly that at some point has to be brought to an end", the UK government has failed to follow up these words with strong action.
Moreover, the UK government is trying to undermine the absolute prohibition of torture by seeking to deport people it has labelled "suspected international terrorists" and a "national security threat" to places where they face a real risk of torture or other ill-treatment.
It is doing so by negotiating "diplomatic assurances" – in bi-lateral agreements known as Memorandums of Understanding (MoU) – with governments in countries where torture and other ill-treatment are a persistent problem.
The UK government has signed MoUs with Jordan, Libya and Lebanon and is negotiating agreements with Algeria and Egypt.
The UK’s policies and actions are effectively sending a “green light” to other governments to abuse human rights. The report United Kingdom – Human rights: a broken promise examines the damaging effect of the UK’s antiterrorism policies at home and abroad.
Since the attacks of 11 September 2001 the UK authorities have passed a series of new laws that contain provisions that contravene human rights law, and their implementation has led to serious abuses of human rights and has threatened the independence of the judiciary. These include a new Terrorism Bill, currently before Parliament, that if enacted would undermine the rights to freedom of expression, association, liberty and fair trial.