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UK will compensate Gitmo detainees, government says

By the CNN Wire Staff
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Gitmo detainees could get millions
  • NEW: Amnesty International and the ACLU demand more action and information
  • "It was the right thing to do," Justice Secretary Kenneth Clarke says
  • The amount of the settlement is confidential, he says
  • The payments are not an admission of liability, Clarke says

London, England (CNN) -- The British government will compensate a number of British residents who were interned at Guantanamo Bay, Justice Secretary Kenneth Clarke announced Tuesday, saying he could not reveal the amount of compensation.

"The settlement is not to be taken as any admission of liability," he said, portraying it as a way of resolving lawsuits against the British government so that an independent inquiry into torture allegations could get started.

"It was not in the interest of any party to get stuck in litigation," Clarke told the House of Commons.

"It could have taken years, it could have cost tens of millions of pounds," he said. "It was a difficult and unusual situation, but it was the right thing to do. I think we've saved public money."

The settlement will cover all British citizens and residents who were held at the U.S. military detention camp at Guantanamo Bay, as far as the British government is aware, Clarke said.

At least six men had filed suit against the British government, seeking damages over human rights violations they say they suffered during their rendition to and detention at various locations, including Guantanamo Bay.

The British government inquiry into the issue -- announced by Prime Minister David Cameron in July -- could not begin until the suits were settled, Clarke said.

Police investigations will also have to be finished before the so-called Gibson inquiry can begin, he said.

Amnesty International said that the British government isn't going far enough.

"Financial compensation can be an important part of the right to remedy and reparation for victims of grave human rights violations. However, it remains only one part," said Amnesty official Nicola Duckworth.

The human rights group said lawyers acting for the British government have repeatedly sought to prevent disclosure of relevant material, and had argued for closed procedures allowing courts to consider secret material presented by U.K. authorities in closed sessions.

And in the United States, the American Civil Liberties Union welcomed the British action while condeming Washington for not following suit.

"Here in the United States, the Obama administration continues to shield the architects of the torture program from civil liability," said Jameel Jaffer, deputy legal director of the ACLU.

"If other democracies can compensate survivors and hold officials accountable for their endorsement of torture, surely we can do the same," he said.