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Guantanamo Bay

Volume 409: debated on Friday 18 July 2003

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To ask the Solicitor-General what information the Attorney-General has (a) requested and (b) received from (i) the United States Secretary for Defense and (ii) the US Attorney General in respect of the legal rights and legal representation to be afforded to detainees held at camp X-ray in Guantanamo Bay in Cuba by the United States Administration. [126318]

(a) The Attorney-General has raised the position of the UK nationals detained in Guantanamo Bay with the United States Department of Defense, which has responsibility for this matter, to express the Government's profound concern that if the UK detainees are to be tried they should have a fair trial with all proper safeguards, including legal representation, and to make plain the Government's opposition to the imposition of the death penalty.During a meeting with the then US Assistant Attorney General in September 2002, the Attorney-General raised the Government's concern about the position of the UK nationals detained in Guantanamo Bay. The Attorney-General has had no discussions about the Guantanamo Bay detainees with the US Attorney General.

(b) The Department of Defense has responded to the Attorney-General that detainees in Guantanamo Bay are held as enemy combatants under the laws of armed conflict and as such are not entitled to legal representation. They explained that their view is that the procedures of the military commissions established to try individuals designated under the US President's Military Order of 13 November 2001 provide for detainees to have access to defence counsel if the individual has been charged with an offence. They have also stated that they believe that the military commissions constitute an impartial and regularly constituted court respecting generally recognised principles of regular judicial procedure.

However, the Attorney-General continues to have serious concerns about these issues, and is in Washington on 21 and 22 July to discuss the matter further with senior members of the US Administration.