Dr Charles Tannock

Member of the European Parliament for London

Al-Qa'ida Detention Camp

Letter to the Independent - January 30th 2002

Sir

I fully agree with Bruce Anderson's defence of the USA in its handling of the detainees suspected of being members of the al-Qa'ida terrorists organisation (Comment, 21 January).

It is fully in the interests of the British public that the American security forces be allowed to interrogate these suspects, which would not be permissible were they classified as prisoners of war under the 1949 Geneva Convention since PoWs are only obliged to divulged their name, rank and number, whereas illegal combatants (their correct classification in my view according to the provisions of Article 4 (2) of the Geneva Convention) can be interrogated.

The need to interrogate them is an essential part of the worldwide struggle against terrorism. The decision by the US to classify them in this way is, therefore, not vindictive but practical and necessary.

Furthermore, it is my belief that many of these individuals are extremely dangerous and would not have hesitated to attack their guards. If they became aware that one of their fellow detainees was likely to crack under interrogation they would make efforts to kill him. The only alternative to the restraints placed upon them, both in transit and in captivity, would be the use of intramuscular tranquillisers, which although effective would carry significant risks to the patient if given in large doses, something of which I have personal experience as a retired consultant psychiatrists dealing with highly dangerous individuals.

There is no evidence that the Americans are treating them cruelly or inhumanely, and we should support them rather than engage in speculative and ill-informed criticism.

Dr. Charles Tannock MEP (Con)
Brussels