Shaker Aamer and the need to readdress Guantanamo.

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The ominous Guantanamo Bay has painted a picture of the constraints the supposed free world has imposed upon its fellow men, for over a decade. A US military operated base, containing three separate camps, it was set up in the year 2002 by the Bush administration to detain those supposed to have links to terrorism networks; mainly in Afghanistan and Iraq. Although situated in Cuba, the US military have time and again denied that it may well be out of their legal jurisdiction to operate the base. Guantanamo has advertised itself to be a place for contemplation, soul-searching and in time confession which will benefit both the US government and those under their capture wondering what will become of them.

Guantanamo has proven to be rife with abuse, as told by its inmates and separate human rights organisations that have visited the base during the years. Sleep deprivation, temperature extremities and solitary confinement are experienced on a daily basis and during interrogation the notorious technique of water-boarding used to simulate drowning, is a common occurrence. As such both the legal and physical basis under which Guantanamo is operated has been continually questioned without satisfactory results.

Shaker Aamer is one of 166 men currently being held at Guantanamo. A Saudi Arabia born British citizen, with four children, the last of whom he has never seen, due to his confinement in Guantanamo for the last ten years. He has been charged under helping Afghani terrorists in exchange for a sum paid by Osama Bin Laden himself. This capture was initiated in Afghanistan whilst Shaker was working for a Saudi-Arabian charity, following which he was handed over by the authorities to US forces.

Shaker has spoken out about his conditions and treatment, with rife allegations of torturous behaviour on behalf of the forces towards him and other prisoners spoken out against and has co-ordinated and organised a hunger strike on camp premises which gained media attention, leading him to be portrayed since as a spokesman for the inmates of Guantanamo. His lawyer also says he saw him on countless occasions when it appeared he had been repeatedly beaten.

Countless calls have been made for his release by protestors and family members for a number of years, to no avail. The British public have been active in campaigning for Shaker, but comment from the government has been limited. Most recently, it was back in 2011 that the then foreign minister, assured that negotiations for Shaker’s release were underway. Shaker has just seen through his tenth year in Guantanamo.

The deterioration of Shaker and his fellow inmates has been forgotten about for a while, but Amnesty International has relaunched a campaign for his release, following the start of his 11th year of imprisonment, having already spoken against the capture of Shaker and the premise of Guantanamo as a whole. More than a decade after his arrest and still with no sign of imminent release, Amnesty’s efforts have produced a people-fuelled petition, hoping to reach 20,000 signatures thus making a sizeable dent in the fight for justice.

With this particular case being brought forward to the public eye, notably for the unfairness which has been meted out to Shaker, the need to readdress Guantanamo Bay becomes a priority. Although past efforts have been made, results sadly have not been achieved. Many continue to be unfairly detained for years without one of the most basic of rights; that of a trial, an injustice that should not be happening in this day and age by the leading forces of the world. This is primarily a campaign to release an innocent man, but behind it lays the hope that Guantanamo as a whole will see a definitive closure very soon and that those whose spirit is fading can be refuelled by the support we show them. A government and a people that cannot recognise suffering, as a result of being blinded by what is conceived by them to be their mission for justice, and that every man inside Guantanamo is a terrorist working for evil is a misconception with serious consequences. The wrong demise of any one man is the result of the failures and inactivity of many. The mere existence of Guantanamo is a threat to basic rights and decency. Now the campaign is renewed, with the hope that enough voices will see sense and rise together, asking for change where it has not been achieved in these many years.

Nerthika Paramsothy

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