The incarceration of terror suspects at Guantanamo Bay was highly contentious from the beginning. Holding prisoners during war is not unusual.
But Guantanamo was never a standard POW camp for keeping enemy combatants off the battlefield. It was, and remains, something much more sinister: an extra-judicial facility in which individuals have been held without charge, without due care, and without, in some cases, prospect of release.
Many inmates have been dangerous terrorists. But the prison has, according to the recent report of the Senate Intelligence Committee, done little to sway the “war on terror”. It has certainly done America’s vaunted democracy and rule of law no credit.
Since Guantanamo was opened in 2002, more than 700 men have passed through its doors. There have been numerous high-profile cases over the years. And among the prisoners who remain in custody – still numbering more than 100 – is one British resident: Shaker Aamer, who was detained 13 years ago in Afghanistan.
Mr Aamer has a British wife and British children living in London. He has not been charged with any offence. He says he has been beaten many times. He has been on hunger strike. He has been held in solitary confinement. The Americans will not release him to the UK, arguing that, as a Saudi citizen, he can only be transferred to Saudi Arabia.
The situation is intolerable. That it has been ongoing for such a long time ought to be a matter of shame both for the American administration and for Britain’s Government, which has made positive noises but taken little real action to secure Mr Aamer’s return here.
As a member of the Guildford Four, the late Gerry Conlon, whose plea to President Barack Obama for Mr Aamer’s release we make public today, knew what it was to be wrongly imprisoned. He also knew what it was to be freed. Shaker Aamer must be released now.Reuse content