ARCHBISHOP OF CANTERBURY DENOUNCES GUANTANAMO
March 6, 2006
The Archbishop of Canterbury, spiritual leader of the world's 77 million Anglicans, has called the US detention camp at Guantanamo Bay an "extraordinary legal anomaly" that sets a dangerous precedent.
"I think what we've got in Guantanamo is an extraordinary legal anomaly (...) creating a new category of custody imprisonment," Archbishop Rowan Williams said today in an interview with BBC television.
"These are not people who've been found guilty," Williams said during a tour of Sudan.
Since the September 11 attacks in the United States in 2001, about 750 people have been held at Guantanamo Bay, a US Navy base in Cuba, but only 10 have been formally charged as terrorists. Most were captured after the US-led war that toppled the Taliban regime in Afghanistan.
"Now, precedents matter in law, nationally and internationally," Williams said.
"Any message given, that any state can just override some of the basic habeas corpus-type provisions, is going to be very welcome to tyrants elsewhere in the world, now and in the future," he said.
Habeas corpus, a law passed in 1679 by the English parliament, provides guarantees of individual liberties.
"What, in 10 years' time, are people going to be able to say about a system that tolerates this?" the Anglican leader asked.
British Prime Minister Tony Blair said on Wednesday he hoped "the judicial process can be put in place which means that Guantanamo Bay can close" after earlier calling Guantanamo an "anomaly" that needed to be resolved.
Williams said since his elections as Archbishop of Canterbury in July 2002, he had spent a lot of energy "trying to build bridges to moderate Muslim opinion, strengthening precisely their own resistance to terror and violence".
He added: "I have no time for terrorism... I think it's appalling, I think it's an insult to God and man."
Williams also said there had been a "hysterical overreaction" by Muslims in some parts of the world to caricatures of the prophet Mohammed published in European newspapers.
However, he said the violence stemmed from their perception of themselves as "constantly being pushed to the edge of every discussion and every negotiation in the world".