The Archbishop of York, Dr John Sentamu has launched an impassioned attack on the American administration for their refusal to close their detainee camp at Guantanamo bay, which he said reflected “a society heading towards George Orwell’s Animal Farm”.
In a recent interview with The Independent, Dr Sentamu claimed that President Bush is “breaking international law” in failing to offer prisoners a fair trial, and urged the UN Human Rights Commission to bring legal action against the US administration through the International Court of Justice should it fail to respond to a recent UN report advising that Camp Delta at Guantanamo Bay should be closed immediately because prisoners are being tortured.
The Archbishop of York, who is the Church of England’s second in command, called for the trial or release of all 500 detainees at Guantanamo, who include eight British residents, saying “The main building block of a democratic society is that everyone is equal before the law, innocent until proved otherwise, and has the right of legal representation.
“Transparency and accountability are the other side of the coin of freedom and responsibility. We are all responsible for our actions in spite of circumstances. The events of 9/11 cannot erase the rule of law and international obligations”.
Dr Sentamu’s comments are added to the increasing bank of international pressure to close the camp, which includes appeals from Archbishop Desmond Tutu, the UN Secretary General Kofi Annan and the Northern Ireland Secretary Peter Hain.
In response to Mr Annan’s calls, Donald Rumsfield, the US Defence Secretary, said “He’s just flat wrong. We shouldn’t close Guantanamo. We have several hundred terrorists, bad people, people who if they went back out on the field would try to kill Americans”.
Speaking to The Independent, Dr Sentamu said “If the guilt of the prisoners in Guantanamo Bay is beyond doubt, why are the Americans so afraid to bring them to trial?
This is not the first time Archbishop Sentamu has made vocal defence of human rights: in 1974, before his ordination, his criticism of the Amin regime for its human rights violations led to his arrest and departure from Uganda for Britain.