[an error occurred while processing this directive]
BBC News
watch One-Minute World News
Last Updated: Sunday, 22 June, 2003, 14:44 GMT 15:44 UK
Cuba prisoner puts BBC on spot
Prisoners at Guantanamo Bay
The US tries to keep prisoners out of view
A BBC tour of the Guantanamo Bay detention centre was terminated after inmates tried to speak to them.

US military authorities invited the team on a tour of Camp Delta but ended the visit abruptly, accusing the reporters of breaching security.

Camp commanders also ordered the journalists to erase their recording of the shouted conversation between them and an inmate.

But John Manel, reporting for Radio 4's Broadcasting House programme, managed to make a copy of the dramatic exchange.

Little has been heard publicly from the 680 detainees held at the US military base in Cuba.

Classed as "enemy combatants", the suspected fighters from the Afghanistan war have no right to trial or legal representation. None have been charged.

I've been a long time waiting for you here, it's amazing for us

Manel's exclusive report on Sunday's programme described the journalists' surprise when they saw a number of prisoners sitting around a table as they prepared to enter the medium-security part of the camp.

Elsewhere on the tour, the reporters had been kept away from areas where detainees were held.

He said one prisoner called out to him and two colleagues from the Panorama programme when they saw them carrying microphones.

His secret recording captured the conversation:

Detainee: "Are you journalists?... Can we talk to you?"

BBC: "We are from BBC Television. We are from BBC TV."

Detainee: "Thank you very much. I've been a long time waiting for you here."

BBC: "Sorry?"

Detainee: "I've been a long time waiting for you here. It's amazing for us."

Officer: "John, you need to leave... We're going to end the tour right now. Either you keep moving or we're going to end it."

Contact banned

The BBC team were then escorted away from the area and planned visits to the medium-security cells and the camp hospital were cancelled.

I cannot allow any breaches of security here
Colonel Adolph McQueen

Our correspondent protested that it was the detainees themselves not the BBC who had initiated the contact.

Camp commander Colonel Adolph McQueen replied: "I cannot allow any breaches of security here. We were trying to show you the facility but if you cannot follow instructions then I have to end the tour.

"No media people have ever done this before."


The BBC was assured that the detainee who tried to talk to the journalists would not be in any trouble.

We are detaining the enemy combatants here in Guantanamo in a humane manner
Major-General Geoffrey Miller
Earlier the officer in overall charge of the camp, Major-General Geoffrey Miller, countered complaints by the International Committee of the Red Cross that the US was not adhering to all the protections which would be afforded to detainees if they were classified as prisoners-of-war under the Geneva Conventions.

He told the BBC: "We are detaining the enemy combatants here in Guantanamo in a humane manner in accordance with the Geneva Conventions with the exception of the requirements of military necessity."

He said he welcomed the continued input of the ICRC.

The BBC's John Manel
"On this trip to Camp Delta there's a guaranteed ticket out again"

Camp Delta death chamber plan
10 Jun 03  |  Americas
US moves to try Cuba prisoners
23 May 03  |  Americas
Pakistani relives Guantanamo ordeal
22 May 03  |  South Asia
More prisoners sent to Cuba base
09 May 03  |  Americas


The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites


News Front Page | Africa | Americas | Asia-Pacific | Europe | Middle East | South Asia
UK | Business | Entertainment | Science/Nature | Technology | Health
Have Your Say | In Pictures | Week at a Glance | Country Profiles | In Depth | Programmes
Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific