This is the second part of the transcript of a Parliamentary debate that took place last Wednesday, April 24, 2013, eleven years, two months and ten days after Shaker Aamer, a British resident, arrived at Guantánamo, six years after he was told that the Bush administration no longer wanted to hold him, nearly six years after his return to the UK was first requested by the British government (under Gordon Brown), and over three years since he was officially cleared for release by the inter-agency task force that President Obama established after he took office in January 2009.
That he is still held — as are 85 other men cleared for release by the task force — is so monstrously unjust that is is unsurprising that many of the men, including Shaker, are part of a prison-wide hunger strike, which has been ongoing for nearly three months, to draw attention to their plight.
The men have been failed by all three branches of the US government — by President Obama, who promised to close the prison within a year when he took office; by Congress, where cynical lawmakers have imposed almost insurmountable obstacles to their release; and by the courts, where a handful of judges (in the DC Circuit Court) have gutted habeas corpus of all meaning for the men held in Guantánamo, and have been allowed to do so by the Supreme Court. Read the rest of this entry »
On April 24, 2013, eleven years, two months and ten days after Shaker Aamer, a British resident, arrived at Guantánamo, his case was finally the subject of a Parliamentary debate. The trigger for this was an e-petition to the British government, calling on ministers to “undertake urgent new initiatives to achieve the immediate transfer of Shaker Aamer to the UK from continuing indefinite detention in Guantánamo Bay,” which secured over 100,000 signatures, through the tireless work of numerous campaigners, making it eligible for a discussion in Parliament.
Jane Ellison, the Conservative MP for Battersea, Shaker’s constituency, requested the debate, which took place in Westminster Hall, and it will, hopefully, be followed sometime next month by a full debate in the House of Commons.
Below I’m cross-posting the transcript of the debate, in which, as I explained yesterday when I posted photos from a demonstration in Parliament Square that followed the debate, the MPs who spoke made “an unassailable case for Shaker’s immediate release.”
Primarily, these MPs were Jane Ellison, the Green MP Caroline Lucas, and the Labour MPs John McDonnell, Jeremy Corbyn and Yasmin Qureshi. Also present, and making short statements or asking questions were the Labour MPs Kerry McCarthy, Jim Cunningham, Stephen Timms, John Woodcock, Russell Brown, Gavin Shukur, Andy Slaughter and Anas Sarwar, the Conservative MP Mike Freer, Mark Durkan of the SDLP and the Independent MP Eric Joyce. Read the rest of this entry »
Yesterday, in the Houses of Parliament, a passionate and packed-out meeting took place in one of the House of Commons committee rooms, attended by well over a hundred campaigners for the NHS, at which MPs, doctors and activists spoke, and there were also intelligent contributions from the audience, as, collectively, we tried to work out how, in the short term, to resist the government’s latest plans to privatise the NHS, and, in the longer term, how to save the NHS and build a successful movement to oppose the whole of the wretched age of austerity imposed on us by the Tory-led coalition government for malignant ideological purposes; in short, in an effort to destroy the state provision of almost all services — with one exception, of course, being their salaries and expenses.
The spur for the meeting, and the rally outside that preceded it, is the government’s plan to push through privatisation of the NHS — despite explicit promises not to do so — through secondary legislation relating to Section 75 of the wretched Health and Social Care Act that was passed last year, in which almost all NHS services will have to be put out to tender by the Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs), the groups of GPs who will be responsible for 80 percent of the NHS budget from April 1.
Although 350,000 people recently signed a 38 Degrees petition opposing the plans (which I wrote about here), and Lib Dem minister Norman Lamb promised that the key regulations on competition in the NHS would be rewritten, the rewritten regulations have barely changed, and they still oblige the NHS to put almost all NHS services out to tender, allowing private companies to begin to devour the whole of the NHS or face legal challenges that they will probably lose, because enforced competition will have been made into a key component of the provision of NHS services. Read the rest of this entry »
Today, February 14, 2013, is the 11th anniversary of the day that Shaker Aamer, the last British resident in Guantánamo, who has a British wife and four British children, arrived at the Bush administration’s experimental “war on terror” prison from Afghanistan, where he had travelled with his family to engage in humanitarian aid. After the 9/11 attacks, however, having managed to get his family to safety, he was captured and sold to US forces by bounty hunters. Ironically, Shaker’s arrival at Guantánamo on February 14, 2002 was also the day that his youngest son was born.
To mark this dreadful anniversary, six years — six whole years! — since Shaker was first told that he would be going home to his family, the Save Shaker Aamer Campaign organised a protest outside Parliament yesterday, attended by activists and campaigners — myself included — and also by MPs: Caroline Lucas (Green, Brighton Pavilion), Sadiq Khan (Labour, Tooting), John O’Donnell (Labour, Hayes and Harlington) and Shaker’s constituency MP, Jane Ellison (Conservative, Battersea).
We were all there to ask why it is that Shaker is still held, when he was not only cleared for release in 2007, under the Bush administration, but was also cleared for release again in 2009, under the Obama administration, a fact that was only made public in September, when the Justice Department publicly released a list containing the names of 55 cleared prisoners, of which he was one. Read the rest of this entry »
On Sunday October 21, 2012, almost three years since it first premiered in London, “Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo,” the documentary film I co-directed with Polly Nash, is being screened by Lewes Amnesty International Group, in a high-profile event that involves a panel discussion after the screening with myself, former Guantánamo prisoner Omar Deghayes, Caroline Lucas, the Green MP for Brighton Pavilion, and Norman Baker, the Liberal Democrat MP for Lewes. The event is at All Saints Community Centre, on Friars Walk in Lewes, and begins at 7 pm. Entry is free.
Although this was planned many months ago, the timing is particularly apt, because it was recently confirmed publicly, for the first time ever, that Shaker Aamer, the last British resident in Guantánamo, whose story features in the film, was cleared for release from the prison three years ago by President Obama’s interagency Guantánamo Review Task Force, which consisted of officials and lawyers from the relevant government departments and the intelligence agencies.
Anecdotally, it has been known since 2007 that Shaker was cleared for release — at the time under President Bush — and also that he was cleared under Obama, but such is the secrecy imposed on Guantánamo, and on lawyers for the prisoners, that his legal team were not allowed to speak about it until a month ago, when, unexpectedly, the US Justice Department, for the first time, released the names of 55 prisoners cleared for release, as part of a court case — a list that featured Shaker. Read the rest of this entry »
As the cracks in the Tory-led coalition government grow more and more obvious, the biggest question may be whether it is incompetence or corruption that will depose the clowns who have been pretending to run the country for the last two years. In terms of the Olympics, which, two months ago, I described as a militarised, corporate, jingoistic disgrace, the incompetence particularly involves security and travel, and in terms of corruption, it involves the tax haven created for the duration of the Games, as reported last week.
On the security front, it was revealed that G4S, the biggest employer listed on the London Stock Exchange, with more than 650,000 staff worldwide, had spectacularly failed to fulfil its £284 million Olympics contract, in which it was supposed to provide 13,700 personnel for the Games. Just two months ago, it was reported that G4S had had 100,000 applications for 10,000 job vacancies, the inference being that all was proceeding smoothly.
That, however, was spectacularly untrue, as became apparent on Thursday, with just two weeks to go before the Games begin, when it was revealed that the government was arranging for 3,500 military personnel to be provided to make up for G4S’s inability to meet its commitment.
As the Guardian noted, “The news was met with disbelief. Diana Johnson, the shadow home office minister, tweeted: ‘This is the same G4S who aspire to win policing services through privatisation. Not reassuring.’” Read the rest of this entry »
In Truthout today, four British MPs — Jeremy Corbyn, John Leech, Caroline Lucas and Michael Meacher — wrote an open letter to Congress seeking the return to the UK of Shaker Aamer, the last British resident in the prison. Mr. Aamer’s story is familiar to those of us who have long campaigned for the closure of Guantánamo, and I have been covering his story since I began writing articles about Guantánamo on a regular basis in 2007.
His story features prominently in the documentary film, “Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo,” that I co-directed with Polly Nash. In August, I publicised a report that he was on a hunger strike, and just last week I cross-posted, with my own commentary, an article by his lawyer, Ciive Stafford Smith, who had just paid his first visit to Guantánamo for a number of years, and a letter Stafford Smith had written to the British foreign secretary William Hague, revealing how ill Shaker Aamer is after ten years in US custody.
In their open letter, the MPs eloquently called for the return of Shaker Aamer to his wife and children in the UK, and mentioned, for the first time ever in public, that he was “cleared for transfer out of Guantánamo” as a result of the review of all the remaining prisoners’ cases that was conducted throughout 2009 by the Guantánamo Review Task Force, established by President Obama when he came into office. The document that contained that information also informed him, “The US government intends to transfer you as soon as possible.” Read the rest of this entry »
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