24 April 2023

‘By forming the APPG, MPs and peers are sending a strong message to the US administration’ – Sara Birch

The new All-Party Parliamentary Group for the Closing of the Guantánamo Detention Facility met for the first time this evening, hearing from a former detainee, his former guard and experts on the notorious prison complex. MPs and peers, many known for their stand on human rights issues, discussed what Britain can do to finally close the prison and find homes or fair trials for the men held there.

The group is co-chaired by Layla Moran MP (Lib Dem) and Chris Law MP (SNP), and spoke with former detainee Mohamedou Ould Slahi, author of Guantanamo Diary and whose experience at the prison inspired the film The Mauritanian, directed by Kevin McDonald and starring Jodie Foster, Tahar Rahim and Benedict Cumberbatch. Sitting next to him was his former guard, and now friend Steve Wood.

The group also heard from Andy Worthington, journalist and author of The Guantanamo Files. He was able to update members on the current situation at Guantánamo, which still holds 30 remaining detainees, 16 of them cleared for release but still detained. He was questioned closely by peer Helena Kennedy, who was active in past successful efforts to free the camp’s British nationals.

The new APPG is comprised of the following members from both Houses of Parliament:

House of Commons

Layla Moran MP (Lib Dem)

Chris Law MP (SNP)

Sir Peter Bottomey MP (Con)                        

John McDonnell MP (Lab)                   

Caroline Lucas MP (Green)                           

Richard Burgon MP (Lab)

Rachael Maskell MP (Lab)

Andy Slaughter MP (Lab)

House of Lords

Helena Kennedy (Lab)

Shami Chakrabarti (Lab)

Sayeeda Warsi (Con)

John Hendy (Labour)

The group is scheduled to meet again in June, and look further into the individual cases of the remaining detainees. As support for closing the prison continues to grow, the important question is what will become of the men – how they will get fair trials or new homes and the means to restart their lives.

Sara Birch, Convenor of the UK Guantanamo Network, said:

“It’s heartening that parliamentarians are taking a stand to call for the closure of the Guantánamo Detention Facility.

“By forming the APPG, MPs and peers are sending a strong message to the US administration that, after more than 20 years of detention without trial, it’s high time to end this affront to the rule of law.”

Amnesty International UK press release