Guantanamo Bay Detainees


An amazing co-incidence occurred as I left the Bishop Riah meeting at the House of Commons.  As I came down the stairs I saw Edward Davey, MP for Kingston and Surbiton. I asked him about his Adjournment Debate on the Guantanamo Bay Detainees (one of them, Bisher al-Rawi, is in his constituency), which I had thought was to be on the following day. He said "Oh no, it's today, starting in about 40 minutes, do you want to come in?"  So of course I said yes, and he quickly got me a pass for the Strangers Gallery.


At the end of the preceding (very boring) debate about recording of statistics, almost all the MPs left the Chamber, which was rather a shame! There remained no Conservatives, about 4 Labour MPs I didn't recognise, and a few other Lib Dems, including Simon Hughes, and Sarah Teather, in whose constituency Jamal el Bannah lives. No-one was on the Labour front bench. Edward Davey gave a very detailed and precise description of all the circumstances of Bisher al-Rawi's arrest in the Gambia, and subsequent history of his detention in Guantanamo Bay. He directly accused the Government of complicity in his arrest, and subsequent torture. He spoke of the promise given by Jack Straw last March that the Government would ask for him to be returned, and asked "Why has there been no progress, what is the timetable, and what exactly is happening at present?" He spoke for about 15 minutes, paying tribute to Bisher's family and people helping on the campaign for his release, and asking about the other detainees. He attacked the government very strongly for their complicity in torture. During this time, Ian McCartney came in and sat on the Labour front bench, appearing to be engrossed in reading his papers. When Edward had finished speaking, Ian McCartney got up to reply, at first waffling and fudging around issues of the problem of terrorism and how awful September 11th had been. But after persistent questioning and interventions from Sarah Teather, Simon Hughes, one Labour MP, and Edward himself, in the end he did say that he believes Guantanamo should be closed, that the Government is not being inactive, and that the Government was not complicit in the arrest and rendition, first to Afghanistan and then to Guantanamo, of Bisher and Jamal. At this Edward Davey came back on the attack and said that telegrams proving this are in the public demain, so this is untrue. Thereupon Ian McCartney began to waver, and said the Government is working with the Americans for their return, eventually repeating this about 3 times! Simon Hughes asked whether he would report the concerns to the US Government and report back, to which he agreed.


I aim to keep in touch with Edward Davey to monitor future progress, and we can certainly all be thankful he has put such a lot of time and effort into this initiative.

Rosemary Addington