01 August 2004
Allegations that US soldiers assaulted and abused British detainees at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba are being investigated by Foreign Office ministers, The Independent on Sunday can reveal.
The Foreign Office has written to the Pentagon after the five Britons who were released from Camp Delta in March after more than two years in detention alleged they were kicked, punched and stood on by guards, interrogated at gunpoint, and taunted by naked female soldiers.
Tarek Dergoul, an ex-detainee from east London whose left forearm and a toe were amputated by US forces in Afghanistan, told The Independent on Sunday that his head was forcibly shaved and that he was "beaten up and sprayed with Mace, and lacked medication".
Ministers have asked the US authorities to locate videos which the ex-detainees say were filmed when they were being assaulted by the so-called Immediate Reaction Force - a feared unit of riot control guards allegedly used as a "punishment squad".
In early July, British diplomats made further formal complaints about the ill-treatment of two Britons, Feroz Abbasi and Moazzam Begg, who are in solitary confinement in a special secure unit at the base and thought to be suffering from mental illnesses.
These moves will add to the growing strain between London and Washington over the controversial detention camp after it emerged that Tony Blair has "unequivocally" demanded that Mr Begg, Mr Abbasi and two other Britons, Richard Belmar and Martin Mubanga, are released.
The Prime Minister and the Attorney General, Lord Goldsmith, say they believe that US plans to try Mr Begg and Mr Abbasi before military tribunals are illegal and breach basic rights to a fair trial.
In late June, the US Supreme Court ruled that all 600 or so inmates at Camp Delta could challenge their detention without trial in US district courts. The Pentagon yesterday began holding hearings to determine whether any of the detainees can be released. The first military trials of alleged terrorists will begin on 23 August.
The Government's new inquiries were highlighted in a letter to the lawyer for two of the former detainees, Louise Christian, last week from the Foreign Office minister Baroness Symons. She echoed earlier remarks by another minister, Chris Mullin, that the Government took the allegations about abuse seriously.