Lawyers condemn Guantanamo detentions

LONDON, AUG.14. Twenty-eight leaders of the legal profession around the world have together condemned the U.S. for the continued detention of hundreds of prisoners at Guantanamo Bay.

In an open letter, the heads of bar and solicitors' organisations called on the Bush administration to scrap its "review panels" considering whether to release the detenus.

They urge it to instead allow prisoners to challenge their detention in U.S. courts, following the Supreme Court's ruling that civilian courts have jurisdiction over the U.S. military base in Cuba Lawyers for at least two of the four British men held have already filed petitions demanding that the U.S. Government justifies their continued detention.

Open letter

The open letter is signed by lawyers' leaders from Australia, Canada, Hong Kong, the Caribbean and several European states.

They include Stephen Irwin QC, Chairman of the Bar Council of England and Wales, and Edward Nally, President of the Law Society.

They state that the case for civilian hearings is stronger than ever "in view of the considerable time these detenus have been held, without access to lawyers of their choice or their families, and reportedly in conditions of physical and psychological duress".

They add: "The war on terrorism will not and cannot be won by denying those suspected of terrorism the fundamental right of a fair opportunity to test the evidence against them."

Many of the men have been held for almost two and a half years without charge.

Last week three British former detenus described making false confessions after experiencing sustained abuse — © Guardian Newspapers Limited 2004

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