Shaker Aamer, the last British resident held in Guantanamo Bay detention camp, has finally been released after being held there for 13 years without trial.
Aamer was captured by bounty hunters in Afghanistan in 2001 and sold on to US forces. He was then taken to Guantanamo Bay, the US military prison in Cuba. He was held there from 2002 until now, but no charges were ever brought against him and he never faced trial. Aamer alleges that he was repeatedly beaten and tortured during his time in captivity. He says that when he was tortured in a US prison in Bagram, Afghanistan, British intelligence personnel were present. His lawyers are expected to push for a full judicial inquiry into the role that the UK played in his treatment.
The US military claimed that Aamer was a “recruiter, financier and facilitator” for Al-Qa’eda in Afghanistan and that he had lead a unit of fighters in the Battle of Tora Bora. Aamer claims he was in Afghanistan working for an Islamic charity doing humanitarian work. Irrespective of which side is telling the truth, his treatment has been abominable. If the US had any evidence against Aamer, they should have brought it forward in a fair trial, with due rights and guarantees. Instead, they failed to produce with anything to back up their claims of wrong-doing and kept him locked up in a state of legal limbo for over a decade. Without evidence and a trial, the vague suspicion that someone might have been involved in Al-Qa’eda is no basis to imprison someone indefinitely. The case of Shaker Aamer, though particularly shocking, is just one small part of the broader scandal of Guantanamo Bay. Leased from Cuba by the US, the military base has been criticised by human rights groups ever since it was set up. Even if all the numerous reports of beatings and physical abuse turned out to be untrue, the camp’s admitted practices of water-boarding, forced positions and temperature extremes amount to torture. Almost eight years ago, a newly elected Barack Obama pledged to close Guantanamo Bay down. It is high time this promise was fulfilled.