Dr Charles Tannock

Member of the European Parliament for London

Guantanamo Bay - Tories question EU resolution.

Birmingham Post - 11 March 2004

By Geoff Meade

Conservative Euro-MPs last night called for more condemnation of al Qaida and less of the United States after a European Parliament resolution criticised the treatment of Guantanamo Bay detainees.

MEPs backed a resolution demanding the release or fair trial of the suspects still being held by the Americans in Cuba. It accused Washington of breaking the Geneva Convention and warned that EU-US relations will face 'dire consequences' over the handling of the detainees.

But Charles Tannock, the Tory's European Parliament spokesman on foreign affairs, said: 'This report is a thinly veiled attack on the United States of America and its fight against terrorism.

'It should condemn al Qaida, who have killed and maimed thousands of innocent people and concern itself with the rights of people in Europe to go about their lives in safety without fear of another terrorist attack.

'This Parliament should be looking at ways to combat international terrorism, not using people in Guantanamo Bay as a way to attack the United States.' Fellow Tory MEP Geoffrey Van Orden MEP, Conservative spokesman on human rights, added: 'Of course all prisoners should be held in humane conditions and their status clarified as soon as possible. Beyond that, normal rules often have to be suspended when dealing with terrorism, particularly in the context of the dangerous situation revealed by the September 11 attacks.'

But Green MEPs, including the UK's Jean Lambert, said the EU should stand up to the US and defend international humanitarian law.

'The release of the UK detainees is a welcome start, but who is defending the interests of the remaining detainees?' said Ms Lambert.

'The United States has deliberately created a legal limbo at Guantanamo Bay, which, in effect, gives a green light for other regimes to detain and conduct 'torture-like' activities. This is a profoundly serious step backwards for the world. We must agree to respect the rule of law even when it is inconvenient for us.'

Finnish Green MEP Matti Wuori said the Guantanamo situation represented 'a despotic return to absolute sovereignty underpinned by a logic of permanent martial law'.

He went on: 'The US must stop violating the detainees' right to access to justice and either charge or release them instantly.

'The situation in Guantanamo does nothing to secure US interests. On the contrary, it only makes the legitimate fight against terrorism more difficult. Rejecting and ignoring legal obligations is the same as surrendering to terrorism.'

Irish Green Patricia McKenna urged the Irish government, as current holders of the EU presidency, to intervene, and added: 'The EU likes to pride itself on its respect for human rights but in continuing to sit back and ignore the plight of those at Guantanamo Bay, and in continuing to allow the US to plunder human rights, we undermine ourselves and one of the core principles we claim to stand for.'.