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Contribution to a meeting held on Wednesday 23 July at The Library Theatre, Birmingham by Corin Redgrave

Why won’t the British government demand the release of Moazzim Begg, Feroz Abbasi and all the other British Citizens - and British residents - in Guantanamo? Because they could not be tried in a British court, or for that matter in any internationally approved jurisdiction. No evidence brought against them would be admissible. No act alleged against them would constitute a crime in British law, unless - which can hardly be the case - they were accused of genocide or crimes against humanity.

For London to say so, loudly and clearly, would certainly embarrass Washington, and so it should. America is holding 700 foreign nationals in a concentration camp where noone, not even the Red Cross, is allowed contact with them, except what is permitted and supervised by the military authorities. When the Red Cross recently attempted to photograph a prisoner who was calling to them, their cameras were confiscated and they were ordered to leave Camp delta immediately

Since our government values the special relationship so highly and all that goes with it, it might usefully reflect on what America considers its responsibility to be towards its citizens when they are held captive in a foreign land. America not only refuses to recognise the International Criminal Court. It is bound by a congressional resolution, the Hounds resolution, to take any action necessary, up to and including, military action, to release any US citizen who is being held for investigation in The Hague. In fact so determined was America to show it care and concern for its own that it even fabricated a totally unnecessary, military operation, for the benefit of its news cameras, to save Private Jessica Lynch from the Iraqi hospital where in fact she was being very properly and humanely treated.

Of course one doesn’t expect the British government to send the SAS to Guantanamo to release Moazzim Begg and the others. It would make good TV, and might improve the government’s ratings, but it isn’t necessary. They only need use all the diplomatic, legal and commercial weapons that are available. To ensure that America releases these men.

Instead, the weapon they have chosen is Lord Goldsmith and, to paraphrase the Iron Duke, I don’t know what he does to the Americans but he certainly doesn’t frighten them.

And so, since our government has fallen so far short of what it ought to do, we must ask why, and we must also ask what we can do to make it act, as it should. As to why, I don’t believe in the ‘Blair is Bush’s poodle’ theory. I’m afraid its because Britain has its own Guantanamo and its called Her Majesty’s Prison Belmarsh, where 13 men are locked indefinitely in single cells with severely restricted access to lawyers and families, under the Anti-Terrorism Crime and Security Act 2001.

What can we do? We must build the campaign, publicly and on the internet, to save these men and restore them to their families and friends. We must raise money for their defence, and to bring their captors to trial under international Law. We must have protest meetings and pickets outside the American consulates and its embassy. We will have a great deal of good will for this campaign because public opinion right across the political spectrum is outraged at the injustice of it all.

Corin Redgrave , 23 July 2003

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