MANAMA: A US lawyer representing three Bahraini Guantanamo Bay detainees has hit out against his own government, which he accused of trampling on the rights of prisoners. Clive Stafford Smith apologised for what he called “the misguided actions” of the US administration and pledged to secure a lawyer for each detainee free of charge.
His promise came just two days after the US Supreme Court granted detainees the right to appeal against their detention through the American legal system.
That verdict marked a huge victory for human rights campaigners and lawyers, who argued that prisoners were being denied basic rights, including the right to a fair trial.
“As an American national, I am deeply ashamed of what my government has done,” Mr Stafford Smith said in a letter to the GDN.
“It is profoundly hypocritical for us to pretend that we are fighting a war to spread the rule of law to Afghanistan and Iraq and – as our first action – deprive people of the very rights we say we are fighting for.
“Hypocrisy is the yeast that leavens hatred and it is hardly surprising that so many people express their disdain for us.”
Mr Stafford Smith has spent 20 years working in the US as a Death Row lawyer – mostly for black prisoners sentenced to die by the American judicial system.
The British-born lawyer, who has been awarded the OBE, also represents an organisation called Justice in Exile.
“I apologise to the prisoners’ families, and to the Muslim world in general, for what my country has done,” said Mr Stafford Smith.
In around three weeks, Mr Stafford Smith is planning a visit to the Gulf – including Bahrain – where he hopes to meet families of all the Guantanamo Bay detainees.
The GDN has already reported how Mr Stafford Smith is mounting a case on behalf of around 60 prisoners, including three Bahrainis.
However, he is hoping that number will increase after the visit.
“We need their consent, and their written testimonies, to represent the prisoners and prove that they are not the wicked, evil people that the US military pretends them to be,” said Mr Stafford Smith.
Justice in Exile has vowed to represent detainees for free and is planning to file a case on their behalf in the US Federal Court.
The three Bahraini detainees already represented by Mr Stafford Smith are Essa Al Murbati, Salah Abdul Rasool Al Blooshi and Adel Kamel Hajee.
He is hoping the remaining three Bahrainis – Shaikh Salman bin Ebrahim Al Khalifa, Abdulla Majid Al Naimi and Juma Mohammed Al Dossary – also get on board.
Two Britons represented by Mr Stafford Smith, Shafiq Rasul and Asif Iqbal, were released from Guantanamo Bay earlier this year.
US officials may move the detainees to facilities in the US after Monday’s ruling, the Los Angeles Times newspaper reported yesterday.
Pentagon and Justice Department officials said they were considering moving all the detainees from Guantanamo Bay to a single judicial district within the US.
Foreign Ministry Under-Secretary Yousif Mahmood yesterday announced that the government has delegated a lawyer to defend Bahraini detainees being held in Cuba.
He said there was no need for any other lawyers to talk on their behalf.
By ROBERT SMITH – Copyright © 2004, Gulf Daily News