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Khaleej Times
May 14, 2006

BRITISH Attorney-General Lord Goldsmith's appeal to the US asking it to close the GuantanamoBay prison is the most impassioned plea of this kind so far. It is the first such call by the British government, a close ally of the US and a leading member of its 'coalition of the willing'.

While many leading politicians from the US - most notably former presidents Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton - and Europe have in the past called for the closure of the infamous prison, this is the first time that a prominent member of the British government, a close US ally, has backed the call.

Lord Goldsmith spoke for a growing majority around the world when he argued that the Bay prison discredited the American tradition as a 'beacon of freedom and justice' and should be closed down.

This is what this newspaper has repeatedly argued in its comments on the issue. And this is what prominent rights groups Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch and the UN have emphasised in their appeals to the Bush administration. The very idea of a prison beyond the reach of US courts and the rule of law in Cuba militates against the spirit of US democracy. Over 550 faceless individuals have been languishing in what is being termed an American gulag without trial for the past five years.

Most of them, as many US newspapers have reported, are innocent men who happened to be at a wrong place at a wrong time. Holding them indefinitely without access to lawyers or courts undermines the fundamentals of US democracy such as justice, fair trial and rule of law. These unfortunate men have suffered enough. It's time to send them home, or wherever they came from.

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