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Tony Lloyd MP
Tony Lloyd MP
British government officials and members of the International Red Cross have been interviewing captured Al Qaeda suspects at the US base of Guantanamo Bay in Cuba this weekend as we heard in the news. More than 100 prisoners are being held there including, it's said, several Britons. Concern has been growing about the prisoners' treatment as we were hearing during the newspaper review and Andrew Neil was saying very strongly let's hold, hold our judgements until we hear from the Red Cross and not assume that America is automatically in the wrong. But anyway America's refusal to call them prisoners of war is certainly controversial, the Labour MP and former Foreign Minister Tony Lloyd is in our Manchester studio, good morning Tony.

Morning David.

How do you react to today's papers first of all and the reports of what may be going on in Guantanamo Bay?

One of the most shocking reports was the one in the, the Sunday Mail, in that paper they, they should photographs which I think are official US government photographs and the, the treatment does seem to be way below the standards that we'd expect.

But, but as Andrew Neil was saying however, that, that picture was taken just after they arrived and before they'd even probably been catalogued?

Whenever it's taken the simple reality is that's, that was an official picture of what's, what has taken place. Now the real issue obviously, let's look forward, not look back, that's always right, the Americans are saying that they probably intend to hold more, more of the prisoners in Guantanamo Bay. There are issues, there are issues around the status of these prisoners, there are issues about the way in which they will be tried, there are issues about the differential seemingly between American nationals being taken back to the States for trial under US justice and the rest of the world including possibly Britons being tried under military tribunals and these things have got to raise concerns. Now frankly we can't wait for the Red Cross to get in to demand answers from the American system.

So what most of all do you want to know from the American system?

I think we do want first of all there is proper access both to UK officials and of course to, to the Red Cross so that we can know what really is happening, as you say not a few days ago but now. But what, I think, we want to know as well is how will the prisoners continue to be treated into the future, are those standards there acceptable and there are a lot of reports that they're not, let's make that quite clear, are those prisoners going to be held up to the standards of the Geneva Convention because that standard was set during periods which have seen us take in World Wars where people were guilty of the most horrendous crimes but we insisted that in combat the Geneva Convention is the minimum standard and we should stick to that. And of course we do need to know under what legal mechanism people will be tried because military tribunals, frankly, are such a strange thing to introduce, it does potentially threaten a standard of justice whereby, yes of course the guilty may be found guilty but maybe as well we're eroding the standards of justice and that actually isn't acceptable even for those of us who supported a successful military exercise in Afghanistan.

And what about the nomenclature and so on, I mean the, and the Geneva Convention and the, calling them detained and so on rather than prisoners of war and so on and so forth, would you like to see that dialogue changed?

Well it doesn't mean anything frankly to most people, a prisoner of war is a prisoner of war. Most of this think we went to a form of war, you can glorify it by giving it other tags, other names I suppose and the international lawyers may want to do that, but in the end the Geneva Convention was there to provide a floor below which civilised nations shouldn't fall and frankly Britain is a civilised nation, we, we must insist ourselves that we abide by the Geneva Convention and we've got to insist that our allies, and we were America's closest ally, our allies in this military enterprise stick by that minimum standard.

And do you think in fact in terms of, in terms of the way that this is being approached, do you think that the Foreign Office has been strong enough in defence of the alleged British detainees?

Well let me point out the obvious thing, that of course I wouldn't expect either Tony Blair or Jack Straw to come out on, even on your own programme David, and say that this is exactly what I told George Bush, what I think most of us do want to feel though is that that message is being given not simply privately but very, very firmly, it's important that the British government is seen to be doing that. There are reports in today's Sunday papers that Tony Blair has given exactly that message to George Bush, that he's concerned about the impact on public opinion and I think the Americans themselves have got to recognise that public opinion is what built the world coalition, public opinion is what gave them the opportunity to, to prosecute this war in Afghanistan, they shouldn't lose that now, they will need world coalitions again and they will need people who remember that they were good in victory.

Tony thank you very much, Tony Lloyd for joining us there.

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