Home > Detentions ’not right’ - Rimington

Detentions ’not right’ - Rimington

by Open-Publishing - Thursday 19 August 2004

International Prison UK Tania Branigan

by Tania Branigan

A former head of MI5 has condemned the detention of prisoners at Guantánamo Bay, where British security service officials are said to have repeatedly interrogated suspects under harsh conditions.

Dame Stella Rimington’s comments came just two weeks after Britons formerly held at the camp described how MI5 officers questioned them at length.

Their lawyers accuse the UK of "complicity" in the detention and mistreatment of prisoners by the US at its Cuban base.

"It cannot be right to keep people in complete isolation, denied human contact and denied any access to the courts for an interminable length of time," she said yesterday at the Edinburgh Book Festival, where she was promoting her novel.

"I find that very difficult to come to terms with really."

More than 600 men have been held at the camp for up to 30 months without charge or trial.

Human rights groups are concerned about the conditions and ex-detainees say they were regularly beaten, shack led in painful positions, denied medication, and kept in cages infested with rats, snakes and scorpions.

A report compiled from interviews with three men from Tipton who were released from the base in March this year, concluded: "It was very clear to all three that MI5 was content to benefit from the effect of the isolation, sleep deprivation and other forms of acutely painful and degrading treatment, including short shackling."

The men expressed considerable anger that "there was never any suggestion on the part of the British interrogators that this treatment was wrong".

Sadiq Khan, whose law firm represents some of the four Britons and three or more British residents still detained at the base, welcomed her comments, saying: "It’s clear that security service officials have gone over and questioned people.

"If the person who previously headed MI5 expresses such concern, one can only hope her successors will listen and heed what she is saying."

The Home Office said: "As a former head, she is quite entitled to have her opinions."