With just five weeks to go before Guantánamo will have been open for nine years, and with Shaker Aamer, the last British resident in the prison, still held, the time is ripe for MPs to sign up to an Early Day Motion submitted by Caroline Lucas, Parliament’s only Green MP and a formidable campaigner for social justice, to put pressure on the government to secure Shaker Aamer’s return, and to help President Obama close the prison by accepting other cleared prisoners who cannot be safely repatriated. These men include Ahmed Belbacha, an Algerian, cleared since 2007, who lived and worked in the UK before he took an ill-timed holiday to Pakistan in 2001, and who is terrified of returning to his home country, which he fled because he had been threatened by Islamists while working for a state-owned oil company.
Accepting other cleared prisoners — and, in particular, Ahmed Belbacha — is something I have been advocating for a long time, as, despite being the Bush administration’s closest ally in the “War on Terror,” the UK has failed to join 16 other countries, throughout Europe and beyond, and including France, Germany, Ireland and Switzerland, who have given new homes to 37 cleared prisoners who could not be repatriated because they face the risk of torture in their home countries.
At the latest count, up to 33 of the 174 men remaining in Guantánamo fit into this category, and it would be a fine humanitarian gesture for the UK to take some of these men. It is also possible that some of the 58 cleared Yemenis who are currently prevented from returning home, because of a moratorium issued by President Obama in January this year, are also looking for a new home.
However, the most urgent thrust of Caroline Lucas’ EDM concerns Shaker Aamer, also cleared for release in 2007. For many years, his lawyers have been obliged to conclude that he is still held because of the extent of his knowledge about the darkest truths of Guantánamo, and abuses elsewhere in US custody in the “War on Terror.” Shaker learned about these abuses as the foremost advocate of the prisoners’ rights in Guantánamo, and, as a result, he was singled out for brutal treatment.
Since last month, however, when he was included in a financial settlement that the British government reached with 15 other Guantánamo prisoners (all of whom have been released), to stem the flow of dangerously revealing information about the complicity in torture of Tony Blair and Jack Straw as part of a civil claim for damages filed by a number of former prisoners, his continued detention makes no sense.
A Metropolitan Police investigation, triggered by a court case a year ago in which his allegations were first aired that British agents were present in the room when he was tortured in US custody in Afghanistan, cannot conclude without his presence, and without a conclusion to the investigation, David Cameron cannot launch the judicial inquiry into British complicity in torture abroad that he wants to initiate to “draw a line” under the whole sordid affair.
Please contact your MP (via Write ToThem, or via the UK Parliament website) to ask them to support Caroline Lucas’ EDM, which, at present has been signed by just 12 MPs: Caroline Lucas, the Tory MP Peter Bottomley, the Labour MPs Jeremy Corbyn, Martin Caton, John McDonnell, Marsha Singh and Michael Connarty, the Liberal Democrat MP Mike Hancock, the Plaid Cymru MPs Elfyn Llwyd and Jonathan Edwards, and the Social Democrat and Labour MPs Mark Durkan and Alasdair McDonnell.
The text of Caroline Lucas’ EDM (EDM 1093 — Guantánamo Bay) is as follows:
That this House:
- notes with regret that President Obama’s pledge to close the US Military Detention Centre at Guantánamo Bay by January 2010 is almost one year overdue and little closer to realisation;
- welcomes gestures by other European States to accommodate and receive innocent prisoners who have been cleared for release to help close the facility;
- notes with dismay that on 11 January 2011 the detention facility will have been open for nine years and that British resident Shaker Aamer has now been held there without charge or trial for almost the same length of time;
- urges the Government to step up its action to secure his release without further delay;
- and further notes the case of Ahmed Belbacha, previously resident in the UK and facing the imminent threat of forced return to his native Algeria where there are fears he will face abuse of his human rights;
- applauds the lead taken by countries such as Ireland, France, Spain, Germany and Bulgaria, who have accepted prisoners cleared for release from Guantánamo Bay by the US authorities on humanitarian grounds but who cannot return to their country of origin;
- and urges the Government to take similar measures to accept a number of such cleared prisoners.
Andy Worthington is the author of The Guantánamo Files: The Stories of the 774 Detainees in America’s Illegal Prison (published by Pluto Press, distributed by Macmillan in the US, and available from Amazon — click on the following for the US and the UK) and of two other books: Stonehenge: Celebration and Subversion and The Battle of the Beanfield. To receive new articles in your inbox, please subscribe to my RSS feed (and I can also be found on Facebook and Twitter). Also see my definitive Guantánamo prisoner list, updated in July 2010, details about the new documentary film, “Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo” (co-directed by Polly Nash and Andy Worthington, currently on tour in the UK, and available on DVD here), and my definitive Guantánamo habeas list, and, if you appreciate my work, feel free to make a donation.
As published exclusively on Cageprisoners.
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On Digg, wanacare wrote:
It would be nice to have people on our city councils who cared about something else besides making money. I don’t know why the US citizens are so selfish & closed. As far as I am concerned the US should be called a terrorist organization, since it terrorizes innocent or honest people and not just one terrible time like you would think of as being accosted by a corrupt policeman, thief or a crazy lunatic that threatens or hurts you, but for year after year, experimenting with your mind by giving injecting hallucinates or other drugs in you, by hanging you from the ceiling with your arms behind you, chaining you to the floor in one position for a day with out any way to take care of your bathroom necessity (which isn’t even done to pets inside the US and they break bones & many of the 22 children & over 800 family men had sores purposely infected so that they had to lose their eye sight or have ambutations of one or more body parts like legs, hands and arms. Of course they try to make them go crazy by keeping them in absolute solitaire for months & for Shaker Aamer maybe years.
But the thing that absolutely brings me to tears when I think about it is Mr. Deghayes story of not ever seeing his son for years. Mr. Shaker Aamer has a son that was born right after he was kidnapped & they have never seen each other. He has 3 daughters that have written poems, called on legislators and cried a 1,000 tears to have their dad home.
Now when i think of these men in Guantanamo, I know that I can at least try to make a difference in their lives by writing or calling someone. I actually call all the politicians that are suppose to represent me at least 1/wk & write information to others about 3 times a week. If everyone would do this it might make a bigger difference. So make sure you tell those you call how to spell these men’s names, Shaker Aamer & Ahmed Belbacha.
Hi Andy Worthington and All,
Having found this information regarding the EDM I’ve now got a way to refresh my campaigning towards Guantanamo, Shaker Aamer and the others. I’ve done a lot of campaigning/lobbying regards this whole issue. The problem is campaigning becomes ineffective without fresh ideas and ways of approach. This gives me a new angle towards the same campaign.
Looking at the list of those who have signed the EDM; I think to a degree we see the same names supporting most ethical and important courses. This once again is to a degree regardless of which party they are members of or what particular job they hold. These people usually make the best politicians, generically.
Investigative journalist, author, filmmaker, photographer and Guantanamo expert
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