Legal black hole: Shaker Aamer’s detention is a blot on the West’s moral authority

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If, as the US authorities claim, Shaker Aamer really was a high-ranking al-Qaeda figure and a confidant of Osama bin Laden, then surely sufficient evidence of that status, and associated crimes, could have been gathered since he was captured in Afghanistan some 15 years ago. 

As things stand, little, if any, such evidence has been found, and Mr Aamer, a British resident, appears to have spent these many years incarcerated in Guantanamo Bay for no better reason than that the Americans don’t know what to do with him. Latest reports suggest that he is likely to remain there, or otherwise in American detention, for many years longer. 

Many of those convicted of real terror offences have served sentences shorter than the time Mr Aamer has spent in prison without trial. He also alleges abuse by his jailers, but locking a man up for the best years of his life, depriving him of liberty and family, is enough of a crime in any case. Perhaps the Americans are too embarrassed to let him out, such is the scale of their blunder and the ready hearing he will receive – and the massive compensation he may win. That, obviously, is no reason to keep him in Guantanamo. 

Mr Aamer, the last Briton left in this prison-beyond-the-law in Cuba, has quite a story to tell. If he had ever had a trial it would have been a monstrous miscarriage of justice; and states which claim to be fighting a war on terror see fit to deploy tactics – indefinite detention without trial – that we condemn the Taliban and Isis for using. 

Whatever response 9/11 demanded, Guantanamo has long been a shameful place for America and even acknowledged as such by Barack Obama. It has also shamed successive British governments that they have tolerated these abuses against our fellow Britons.