by Duncan Campbell and Richard Norton-Taylor
Monday June 2 2008
America may have held terror suspects in British territory, despite UK denials
The controversy over prison ships was first highlighted in June 2005 when the UN’s special rapporteur on terrorism spoke of “very, very serious” allegations that the US was secretly detaining terrorism suspects in various locations around the world, notably on vessels in the Indian Ocean.
The US authorities have not denied that ships have been used to incarcerate detainees. Questioned four years earlier about the purpose of holding prisoners on ships, specifically the USS Peleliu, Rear Admiral John Stufflebeem, spokesman for the US joint chiefs of staff, replied: “I don’t know the specifics. Central command determines for either medical considerations, for the protection of those individuals, for the isolation in the sense of not having forces that would try to come get somebody out of a detention centre, for a security aspect, and obviously an interest to continue interrogation.”
The US has admitted that the Bataan and Peleliu were used as prison ships between December 2001 and January 2002. After the post-September 11 bombing of Afghanistan, General Tommy Franks, the commander of US forces, referring to the “American Taliban”, John Walker Lindh, said: “We will continue to control him on the Peleliu until the determination is made regarding whether we handle him within the military or whether he is handled on the civilian side.”
Lindh is now serving a 20-year sentence in jail in California.
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