Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Settling over Guantanamo

During the war on terror, the Americans have held nine UK citizens and another nine UK residents in their Caribbean gulag at Guantanamo Bay. All but one of them have since been released without charge. Following their release, many have begun legal proceedings against the British government, alleging that it condoned their rendition, torture, and abuse. Now, the government is set to pay them millions of pounds in a confidential settlement.

Obviously, this is a victory for the detainees, who have gained a de facto admission of guilt from the government. At the same time, its a defeat for the public. Think about it for a minute: what does it say about the British government that they're willing to pay millions of pounds to avoid public scrutiny of their actions? What does it say about their case that they're willing to shell out to avoid a trial?

While the government is saying that this will allow a full public inquiry to be held, that is likely to be the usual cosy whitewash aimed at protecting the establishment. Meanwhile, evidence of British collaboration in torture and rendition will be swept under the carpet. Those responsible will avoid criminal charges. And then, when they do it again, we'll wonder why nothing has changed.

Given what they've gone though, I can't begrudge Binyam Mohamed, Bisher al-Rawi, and the rest their settlements. At the same time, though, I want to see justice and accountability for what was done to these men. And that's just not going to happen with a government whitewash.