Obama’s Broken Promise: Guantanamo Bay

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The well-publicised release of numerous Guantanamo Bay detainees during President Obama’s first term has gone a long way in neutralising the political opposition to Guantanamo – but it remains a conveniently forgotten truth. The hypocrisy of Western nations in deploring the acts of brutal dictators smacks of irony when we are denying our own residents the rights granted to them by law. There has been much legal debate when considering whom exactly the European Convention rights protect and just how far the jurisdiction goes. This does not however, remove our moral imperative to uphold these rights the world over and particularly in reference to our citizens and those with residency status.

The story of Shaker Aamer is one of complete refusal to recognise these rights. There exists a catalogue of human right breaches by the US troops stationed in Guantanamo Bay that roll off somewhat like a list. Firstly, Mr Aamer is a UK resident, which is why he should be granted protection under ECHR. He is also a Saudi citizen, who was detained in Afghanistan in connection with the so-called ‘War on Terror’ as an ‘enemy combatant’ – the fanciful term whose meaning has been hijacked by the Americans so as to avoid the Geneva Convention. He has been investigated and detained so the American Government can determine whether he was involved in any terrorist activities himself or whether he knew of any past or present. This may seem reasonable at first glance but when we consider that on the 14th February 2014 he will have been incarcerated in Guantanamo Bay without charge for twelve years it is not quite so reasonable.

Separated from his wife and children Mr Aamer has been through what may be described as a fairly vigorous interrogation but as of yet there has been no admissible evidence against him and no charges. You would be forgiven at this point for asking yourself why he is still interned at Guantanamo Bay. There have been two separate occasions where he has been cleared for release: in 2007 under President George W. Bush and again in 2009 under President Obama. President Bush even admitted that after five years of interrogation they had no evidence against Mr Aamer.

As the last UK resident remaining it is of paramount importance that we secure Mr Aamer’s release for his family and for our own credibility as proponents of human rights. The UK Government has only limited power in persuading the Americans for his release but certainly it warrants more than the efforts we have seen from previous Government Ministers who have done no more than simply request his repatriation to the UK in an attempt to meet their positive obligation to uphold these rights.

Article 3 – Prohibition of torture
Shaker Aamer has alleged that he has been subjected to torture. He also states that he has witnessed the torture of others. The ECHR states: “No one shall be subjected to torture or to inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment” and this is an inalienable right without limitation and without derogation. It is clear that provided Mr Aamer’s allegations are true, which evidence regarding the treatment of Guantanamo detainees suggests it likely be the case, then this breach is clear. Suggestions of inmates being force fed to prevent the success of widespread hunger strikes in the base is likely a breach of this Article as the methods used can be painful.

By Joe Layzell

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