Indefinite Internment Without Trial – John Bowden – March 2012

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Indefinite Internment Without Trial’If they come for me tonight they will come for you in the morning’– Angela Davis

In Britain today there are a group of men held in prison without trial or any form of due legal process, and they are being detained indefinitely. These men have committed no crimes in Britain and are being held at the behest of a foreign state, the U.S., whilst their extradition to that country has been ruled unlawful by the British court. Their continued imprisonment, in breach of the most elemental civil and human rights, has clear implications for every citizen in the U.K. because if the rule of law is suspended in the case of any unpopular minority then dangerous precedents are set that will eventually be used against anyone or any group viewed as worthy of ‘special measures’.

There are currently seven men, all of Middle Eastern and Asian extraction, being held in a small isolation unit at Long Lartin maximum-security prison in Worcestershire, some of whom have been there for almost ten years. Originally designed and used as a prison punishment unit, the Detainee unit is very much a prison and it’s inhabitants are kept strictly separated and isolated from other prisoners in the jail. Methods of small-group isolation and control are applied which over a prolonged period of time are known to have a seriously damaging effect on the mind and personality. In June of 2011 the Chief Inspector of prisons, Nick Hardwick, was extremely critical of the situation of the prisoners confined to the Detainee unit and in a report on the unit wrote, “The Detainee unit at HMP Long Lartin is a prison within a high-security prison. It holds a small number of individuals suspected but not convicted of involvement in international terrorism and held under immigration or extradition law. Some have been held for many years as they fight removal from the UK and all are held in the highest security conditions. We have previously raised concerns about holding a small number of detainees, who already inhabit a kind of legal limbo, in a severely restricted environment for a potentially indefinite period. The risks to the mental and physical health of detainees of such lengthy, ill-defined and isolated confinement are significant.”

The existence of this group of prisoners is proof that none of our legal traditions and rights are safe from serious compromise and surrender, and their continued detention in conditions of virtual solitary confinement makes a complete mockery of the belief that anyone is truly safe from arbitrary arrest and imprisonment, especially when the state decides to widen the focus of it’s ‘War on Terror’.

The attorney general, Dominic Grieve, claimed in response to the release of Abu Qatada that ‘indefinite internment without trial’ does not exist in the U.K. This is a lie. He is fully aware that in the Detainee unit at Long Lartin a group of men are currently being held in exactly that unlawful situation as a gesture of acquiescence to American power.

John Bowden
March 2012
HMP Shotts