The illegal detention centre at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba was opened by the USA in 2002 and currently holds approximately 460 prisoners, none of whom have recieved a proper trial (most have yet to be charged), though they have been held for over four years.

A report by the UN Committee Against Torture has concluded that interogation techniques employed at the camp are prohibited by international conventions.

However, a request from the British Medical Association (BMA) in June, demanding “direct and unfettered access” for independent doctors to examine the health of detainees was ignored by the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office.

In an open letter published in the Times today 120 doctors and other UK medical professionals accuse the British Government of collusion in “a war crime” and calls for an independent investigation to determine the medical needs of the detainees.

Under our political system the government is elected by the British people; we are, therefore, as a nation, a partner in this collusion. 

Sir, The recent US Supreme Court decision that the Guantanamo tribunals were illegal did not address the pressing medical concerns of the detainees (Foreign Editor’s Briefing, Sept 14).

Recently the BMA proposed that an independent group of British doctors visit Guantanamo to assess their medical treatment. Several UK residents remain incarcerated there. The Foreign Office has refused to act on this request. Further it has come to our attention that, in more than four years, neither the pro bono medical nor legal panels have ever discussed Guantanamo. These two Foreign Office committees were set up specifically to assist the Government when there is serious concern for the medical or legal status of British prisoners overseas. Margaret Beckett, the Foreign Secretary, has told us that “where consular officials are aware of a serious legal problem, they seek to solve this at local level before the use of either panel is considered”.

Our Government’s excuse is that it does not wish to set a precedent to act for British residents, rather than British citizens. We find this morally repugnant. The Foreign Office can and does act differently when circumstances suit, for example seeking to overturn a death sentence on an Afghan Christian convert, Abdul Rahman. Yet it feels unable to take any action for UK residents held illegally in Guantanamo.

Finally, given that the US military has awarded medals for doctors involved in the care of Guantanamo detainees (for medical treatment that would warrant a criminal investigation if carried out in Britain), we have no confidence in the proposed investigation of the recent suicides.

It is clear that an independent scrutiny is urgently required by physicians outside the US military. The silence of the Foreign Office is shameful and reflects the collusion of this country in a war crime (Click here for the list of signatories).

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