[Pnews] Why is Shaker Aamer still at Gitmo?
ppnews at freedomarchives.org
Tue Nov 25 14:55:09 EST 2014
Why is Shaker Aamer still at Gitmo?
Cleared for release for more than seven years, Aamer should be freed
November 25, 2014 2:00AM ET
by Andy Worthington
Imagine being imprisoned, year after year, despite having been told that
your captors had undertaken a high-level review process and no longer
wanted to hold you?
At the United States' detention camp at Guantánamo Bay, Shaker Aamer,
the last British resident in the prison, is facing just that situation.
More than seven years ago, the George W. Bush administration approved
Aamer for release from the detention facility. Five years ago, the
high-level interagency Guantanamo Review Task Force, appointed by
President Barack Obama when he took office, also approved him
and told him he would be freed, along with 125 others
once the necessary arrangements were made. Thirty others, all Yemenis,
were told they were being held in "conditional" detention, to be freed
if concerns about the security situation in Yemen were met.
Since then, 85 of these men have been released --- either to their home
countries, or elsewhere if their home countries are regarded as unsafe.
Yet Shaker Aamer and 39 others approved by the task force, plus the 30
Yemenis in "conditional" detention, are still being held. Three others
were slated for discharge this year by a new review process, the
Periodic Review Boards
The endless detention at Guantánamo Bay without charge or trial has
attracted international outrage. After all, most prisoners there haven't
been charged with a crime, nor are they considered soldiers in wartime
--- a status that would grant them special protections under the Geneva
Conventions. The George W. Bush administration, in its "war on terror,"
argued that none of these protections applied, but the Supreme Court
countered that Geneva's ban against cruel and inhumane treatment applied
to all prisoners.
At Guantánamo men held for nearly 13 years --- for the most part without
charge or trial --- do not know when, if ever, they will be released. No
official mechanism exists --- neither a sentence delivered by a judge
nor the conclusion of a war --- to mark the end of their imprisonment.
Of the 779 prisoners held at Guantánamo since the prison opened on
January 11, 2002, 626 have been freed, 532 of them under President Bush.
Those men were released because of diplomatic pressure, or because of
military review processes established as a cynical affront to a Supreme
Court ruling, in June 2004, which affirmed that the prisoners had habeas
corpus rights --- the right to ask an impartial judge on what basis they
were being held.
The United States has approved Shaker Aamer's release and the United
Kingdom has been calling for his return since August 2007.
That ruling was overturned by Congress, but it was reinstated by the
Supreme Court in June 2008, and over the next two years several dozen
prisoners had their releases ordered by federal court judges
--- until fearful appeals court judges rewrote the rules, gutting habeas
corpus of all meaning for the Guantánamo inmates.
Through the habeas decisions and the task force's deliberations, 66 men
were released by President Obama from his inauguration in January 2009
until September 2010. After that, Congress imposed restrictions on the
release of prisoners, requiring the administration to notify Congress
prior to any planned release, and to certify that it was safe to release
For the next two and half years, just five men were released, and it
took a prison-wide hunger strike last year, and widespread criticism of
the administration's inaction, to prompt President Obama to promise,
last May, to resume releasing prisoners
Since then, 24 men have been released, including, in the last few days
three Yemenis to Georgia, a Yemeni and a Tunisian to Slovakia, and a
Saudi to his home country
In addition, a government official told the New York Times that Defense
Secretary Chuck Hagel has notified Congress that he has approved 11
other men for release, including six to be resettled in Uruguay
Why, then, is Shaker Aamer still waiting? The United States has approved
his release and the United Kingdom has been calling for his return since
August 2007, under both Labour and Tory governments.
We know that Aamer has been an eloquent defender of prisoners' rights
from the moment he was handed over to the U.S. by bounty hunters in
Afghanistan, where he had traveled with his family to provide
humanitarian aid. We know that he has been a leader in the prison
because of his outspoken criticism of conditions at Guantánamo, and has
tales of torture and abuse to share with the world.
Perhaps this fear of embarrassment is the only thing preventing the
United States from ending Aamer's 13-year imprisonment and allowing him
to rejoin his wife and children in Britain. Governments must be forced
to respect higher standards of justice and transparency than that. They
must be forced to release Shaker Aamer and the thousands of prisoners
just like him.
Andy Worthington <http://www.andyworthington.co.uk> has been researching
and writing about Guantánamo since 2006, and has worked with the United
Nations, WikiLeaks and Reprieve. He is the director of a new campaign,
"We Stand with Shaker <http://standwithshakeraamer.tumblr.com/>," author
of the book "The Guantánamo Files," and co-director of the documentary
film, "Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo."
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