No 10 ‘plotted to send Brit to Guantanamo’

By Ian Dunt

Downing Street plotted to send British citizens to Guantanamo when Tony Blair was in power, according to newly-declassified documents.

The documents suggest that while the Foreign Office worked to secure the release of a British Muslim in Zambia, Tony Blair’s office intervened to make sure he was sent to Guantanamo, the controversial US prison camp in Cuba.

They emerged at the high court as lawyers for six rendition victims fought to prevent a government bid to suspend their claim while mediation takes place, ahead of an inquiry into British collusion in torture.

A January 10th 2002 document released by the Foreign Office lays out the government’s “preferred options”.

“Transfer of United Kingdom nationals held to a United States base in Guantanamo is the best way to meet our counter-terrorism objectives, to ensure they are securely held,” it reads.

The documents suggests that the Foreign Office also supported sending Britons to Guantanamo.

Tim Otty QC, counsel for five of the six men, has been fighting the suspension of proceedings because of the historic value of the documents which are starting to be unearthed.

Some human rights activists are convinced David Cameron only agreed to launch the inquiry because court cases were about the force the government’s hand and reveal guidelines to security services which were not within the letter of the law.

There are also suspicions about the government’s desire to mediate in the ongoing court cases before the inquiry begins, with some experts saying there is no problem with the civil cases continuing through while the inquiry is conducted.

The documents appear to substantiate the argument that the prime minister’s office frustrated the release of claimants despite several senior government figures expressing their opposition to Guantanamo.

One Foreign Office document apparently complains about “the schizophrenic way in which policy on this whole case was handled in London”, which put the British high commission in Lusaka “in an impossible position”.

Mr Otty insisted that at this point American ill-treatment of those incarcerated in Guantanamo was well-known.

“Despite that, someone at No 10 saw fit to counter what the Foreign Office wished to do,” he said.

The British man detained in Zambia, Martin Mubanga, was eventually held in Guantanamo for 33 months.