UK's top law adviser: US should close Guantanamo detention facility
Detainees at the U.S. Naval base at Guantanamo, Cuba. (Photo from American Friends Service Committee website.)
Wednesday 10 May 2006
UK Attorney General:
LONDON (Reuters) -- The British government's top legal adviser called on Wednesday for the closure of the U.S. detention center at Guantanamo Bay, which he said had become a symbol of injustice.
"The existence of Guantanamo Bay remains unacceptable. It is time, in my view, that it should close," Attorney General Peter Goldsmith [Lord Goldsmith, QC] said of the naval base in Cuba where up to 500 foreign terrorism suspects have been held.
In the most outspoken criticism of Guantanamo yet by a senior British official, he said it would be right as a matter of principle to close the center and added: "I believe it would also help to remove what has become a symbol to many -- right or wrong -- of injustice.
"The historic tradition of the United States as a beacon of freedom, liberty and of justice deserves the removal of this symbol," he said in a speech in London.
Human rights groups around the world have condemned Washington's use of indefinite detentions without charge and want Guantanamo to close.
British Prime Minister Tony Blair, President George W. Bush's closest ally in the war in Iraq, has called Guantanamo "an anomaly" that should be dealt with.
© Reuters 2006. All Rights Reserved.
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Peter Goldsmith, Baron Goldsmith
The Right Honourable Peter Henry Goldsmith, Baron Goldsmith, PC, QC (born 5 January 1950), is the current Attorney General of England and Wales.
Goldsmith was born in Liverpool and educated in law at Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge and University College London. He was called to the Bar at Gray's Inn in 1972, practising from Fountain Court Chambers in London. He became a Queen's Counsel in 1987 and a Deputy High Court Judge in 1994 and he was elected the youngest ever Chairman of the Bar of England and Wales in 1995. He was created a life peer in 1999, as Baron Goldsmith, of Allerton in the county of Lancashire. He was appointed Her Majesty's Attorney General in June 2001. One of his first acts was to discuss breaches of the injunction against publishing the whereabouts of the offenders in the James Bulger murder case. He became a Privy Counsellor in 2002.
Lord Goldsmith has also held a number of posts in international legal organisations, including Council Member of the International Bar Association (IBA) and of the Union Internationale des Avocats. From 1998 until his appointment as Attorney General he was co-Chairman of the IBA’s Human Rights Institute. Between 1997 and 2000 he was Chairman of the Financial Reporting Review Panel, an independent public body responsible for enforcing financial reporting standards. In 1997 he was elected to membership of the American Law Institute and made a member of the Paris Bar.
In 1996 he founded the Bar Pro Bono Unit of which he was Chairman until 2000 and remains President.
He was the Prime Minister’s Personal Representative to the Convention for the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union.
In 2006, Goldsmith gave a speech at the Royal United Services Institute, calling for the closure of the US-ran detention camp at Guantanamo Bay. Goldsmith called it a "symbol of injustice", and arguing that it did not respect the rights of liberty or freedom. 
Controversy over legal advice on the Second Gulf War
The nature of Lord Goldsmith's legal advice to the Government over the legality of the 2003 invasion of Iraq was a significant political issue in 2003 and early 2004.
The Government had turned down repeated calls to break with tradition and have the advice made public. Lord Goldsmith's original memo, written on March 7th 2003, was eventually leaked to the press, which led to its official publication on 28 April 2005. In the memo, Lord Goldsmith discusses whether the use of force in Iraq could be legally justified by Iraq's 'material breach', as established in UN Security Council Resolution 1441, of its ceasefire obligations as imposed by Security Council Resolution 687 at the end of the First Gulf War. Lord Goldsmith concludes that 'a reasonable case can be made that resolution 1441 is capable in principle of reviving the authorisation [of the use of force] in [Resolution] 678 without a further resolution.' However, Lord Goldsmith did concede that 'a court might well conclude that [operative paragraphs] 4 and 12 do require a further Council decision in order to revive the authorisation.'
In his final advice to the Government, written on March 17th 2003, Lord Goldsmith stated that the use of force in Iraq was lawful. This advice stated Lord Goldsmith's preferred view in more unequivocal terms than his earlier memo, without reference to the doubts expressed therein. This has led to allegations that Lord Goldsmith succumbed to political pressure to find legal justification for the use of force against Iraq. Shortly after the leak Lord Goldsmith released a statement in response to such allegations, saying that the two documents were consistent, pointing to the difference in the nature of the two documents and the firm assurances he had received between 7th and 17th March that Iraq was indeed in breach of its obligations under Security Council resolutions.
The controversy was furthered by the resignation of Elizabeth Wilmshurst, deputy legal adviser to the Foreign Office, on 20 March 2003. A full version of her letter of resignation became public in March 2005. In this she stated that the reason for her resignation was that she did not agree with the official opinion that the use of force in Iraq was legal. She also accused Lord Goldsmith of changing his view on the matter.