February 6, 2006

Guantanamo play to be staged in British parliament

By Paul Majendie

LONDON (Reuters) - A play reliving the detention of
Guantanamo Bay prisoners is to be staged in the British
parliament by human rights activists bidding to push their
plight up the political agenda.

"This is the court of public opinion -- the idea is to
educate the folks in the House of Commons on what is
happening," lawyer Clive Stafford Smith said on Monday.

The reading of the play "Guantanamo - Honor Bound to Defend
Freedom" is being staged on Thursday in one of the 150-seat
committee rooms in the lower chamber before an invited audience
of parliamentarians, lawyers and human rights organizations.

Stafford Smith has worked as legal representative for
detainees at the naval base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and is
also known for his work defending death row inmates in the
United States.

"This does remind us about the rule of law," he told
Reuters. "This is not on the radar of some politicians. We are
talking human rights here and that applies to all human

Nine British citizens were held at Guantanamo, set up by
the United States in early 2002 to hold suspects captured in
Afghanistan and others suspected of association with al Qaeda.

Five were released in 2004 and the remaining four were
freed in January 2005.

But Stafford Smith considers it essential to maintain
political pressure.

"I am representing eight of the nine British residents who
are still being detained in Guantanamo," he said. "They either
had refugee status or leave to remain in Britain."

"Why is it that people who have lived for decades in this
country, who have British children, can't get any support from
the British government?"

The United States classifies the prisoners as enemy
combatants and not prisoners of war, thus denying them rights
accorded to PoWs under the Geneva Conventions.

The Pentagon has said the detainees are treated humanely
and not tortured.

The play by British journalist Victoria Britain and South
African-born novelist Gillian Slovo is based on personal
testimonies from families of the prisoners as well as
statements from lawyers, government spokesmen and medical

It was staged at London's Tricycle Theater in a series of
"verbatim theater" productions on such subjects as the racist
murder of black teenager Stephen Lawrence and the Hutton
inquiry into the suicide of British weapons scientist David

Stafford Smith is set to make a surreal debut on Thursday
-- for the first time he will be playing himself in the play.

"That is a truly terrifying experience -- but at least I
will get to be badly dressed in my own right," he said.

(ARTS-GUANTANAMO, editing by Steve Addison; Reuters
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