Members of the newly formed APPG on the closure of Guantanamo meet as first UN Report is published
This week on 28th June 2023, the members of the newly formed ‘All-Party Parliamentary Group for the Closing of the Guantánamo Detention Facility’ met in the palace of Westminster and saw the group officially registered. The meeting followed an earlier inaugural launch on 24th April 2023. Members and special speakers gathered this week to coincide with the release of the UN’s first report on conditions inside the notorious facility. The report condemned human rights abuses in the facility and demanded its immediate closure.
The stated purpose of the APPG has been defined as follows:
‘To urge the US Administration to close the Guantanamo Bay detention facility, to ensure the safe resettlement of those approved for release, and to ensure that due process is expedited for all the remaining prisoners.’
A full list of registered members of the group include: Chair: Chris Law MSP, SNP; Co-Chair: Layla Moran MP, Lib Dems; Vice Chair: Richard Burgon MP, Labour; Apsana Begum MP, Labour; Peter Bottomley MP, Conservative; Baroness Kennedy, Labour; Rachael Maskell MP, Labour and John McDonnell MP, Labour.
Two decades-long campaign against the most infamous prison in the world
At the meeting this week, former Guantanamo detainee, Moazzam Begg spoke about the ‘two decades-long campaign against the most infamous prison in the world’.
He explained about the significance of the event which saw ‘British MPs sitting alongside former prisoners who'd spent years facing torture and cruelty imprisoned - without charge or trial - by Britain's closest ally.’
Other attendees included Yusuf, a Russian Tatar resident in the UK for the past decade, whose father was held in Guantanamo for 17 years before being transferred to UAE where he's been arbitrarily imprisoned since 2017. He had last seen his father when he was 3 months old.
Moazzam Begg further expanded on the resettlement issues faced by former detainees after they had been released. He said:
‘The public narrative of terrorism and security threat have fundamentally undermined the capacity of former detainees to live a normal life, even as they have been released and in the near-majority of cases, never charged with a crime or any wrongdoing…The closure of Guantanamo is inevitable. However, what the USA and its partners do to bring about that end will make all the difference’
'The ordeal of Guantanamo doesn't end with transfer...or even release'
Speaking about the UN Report Moazzam commented:
'The UN Report identified that the ordeal of Guantanamo doesn't end with transfer - mentioning the UAE specifically - or even release'
According to a press release, the formation of the new Parliamentary body has been supported over the past 12 months by a coalition of human rights, legal and campaigning groups working together with the UK Guantanamo Network, which consists of members of various Amnesty groups in the UK, the Close Guantánamo campaign, the Guantánamo Justice Campaign, the London Guantánamo Campaign, and Freedom from Torture.
Andy Worthington, award winning journalist and author of ‘The Guantanamo Files’ commented on the timing and the importance of the launch of the APPG. He said:
‘Now is the perfect time for a new APPG to add its voice to growing international calls for the Biden administration to finally rid the world — and America’s conscience — of the stain that is Guantánamo, and I am enormously grateful to all the MPs and peers who have agreed to join the APPG, and, in particular, to Layla Moran and Chris Law, who have agreed to chair it’