Dr Charles Tannock

Member of the European Parliament for London

US held detainees in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba

Delivered in Plenary 7th February 2002

I fully support the USA in its handling of the detainees suspected of being members of the al-Qa'ida terrorists organisation held in Guantanamo Bay

It is fully in the interests of Europe's citizens that the American security forces be allowed to interrogate these suspects, which would not be permissible were they classified as prisoners of war under the 1949 Geneva Convention and a declaration of war or not is an irrelevancy as far as the application of the Convention is concerned, since PoWs are only obliged to divulged their name, rank and number, whereas illegal combatants (their correct classification in my view according to the provisions of Article 4 (2) of the Geneva Convention) can be interrogated.

The need to interrogate them is an essential part of the worldwide struggle against terrorism. The decision by the US to classify them in this way is, therefore, not vindictive but practical and necessary, and exposes the inadequacy of international law in this area.

Furthermore, it is my belief that many of these individuals are extremely dangerous and would not have hesitated to attack their guards. If they became aware that one of their fellow detainees was likely to crack under interrogation they would make efforts to kill him. The only alternative to the physical restraints placed upon them, both in transit where they may even have bitten their way through the avionics cables to down the plane, and on land, would be the use of intramuscular tranquillisers, which although effective would carry significant risks to the patient if given in large doses, and require escorting trained medical personnel.

There is no evidence that the Americans are treating them cruelly or inhumanely, and we should support them rather than engage in speculative and ill-informed criticism.

My concern is twofold what will America do with those it does not file charges against who if returned to their countries of origin may face torture and death for reasons of unrelated Islamic militancy, and also with regard to Paragraph 5 of the resolution which suggests a role for the as yet not functioning International Criminal Court.

Unfortunately as well intentioned as this may be, my understanding is that certainly domestic terrorists rightly or wrongly are excluded from the Rome Statute provisions but it may be that International terrorists would fall under its remit but this is unclear.

I have a number of additional concerns about the ICC ranging from command responsibility which blames military commanders even if they had no knowledge of the crime committed to making amnesties and peace and reconciliation processes more difficult between belligerents. Nevertheless this whole area of jurisprudence needs urgently addressing by the UN.