Friday, February 24, 2006

Weaseling on Guantanamo

Yesterday, Green MP Keith Locke tried to put the government on the spot over Guantanamo, by asking in Question Time

Will [the Minister of Foreign Affairs] be calling for the closure of the Guantanamo Bay detention centre following the recent United Nations Commission on Human Rights’ report, issued 15 February 2006, which highlights the systematic practice of torture and the indefinite detention without trial of detainees; if not, why not?

The Minister's answer?

The Government’s position is that all persons detained at Guantanamo Bay or elsewhere should be treated in accordance with international humanitarian law and human rights law.

Which is a lovely piece of bland sophistry. There's no recognition, for example, that detainees at Guantanamo are not treated according to those laws. Instead its just straight-out weaseling. And it is simply shameful. Where is our credibility on human rights, when we condemn abuses in other nations, but steadfastly refuse to do so when the US is the abuser?

Fortunately, there's something they can't weasel on. According to the Order Paper, Keith has put up a motion

That, in light of the UN Commission on Human Rights report on Guantanamo Bay dated 16 February 2006, this House endorse the position adopted by the European Parliament on 16 February 2006, which: 1. calls on the United States Administration to close the Guantanamo Bay detention facility and insists that every prisoner should be treated in accordance with international humanitarian law and tried without delay in a fair and public hearing by a competent, independent, impartial tribunal; 2. condemns all forms of torture and ill-treatment and reiterates the need to comply with international law; 3. stresses that contemporary terrorism, particularly global terrorism directed against democracies and their populations, poses a threat to the basic and fundamental rights our societies enjoy; 4. reiterates that the fight against terrorism, which is one of the priorities of the [European] Union and a key aspect of its external action, can only be successfully pursued if human rights and civil liberties are fully respected.

If Labour wants to be chickenshit about Guantanamo, let them put their votes where their mouth is, rather than weaseling on it any further. Then at least we will know exactly where they stand: on the side of international law, or on the side of the torturers.