Free Shaker Aamer

Issue section: 

Shaker Aamer, the last British detainee in the world’s most notorious prison camp, Guantanamo Bay, has seen his release delayed once again as Socialist Review went to press.

President Obama gave the statutory 30-day notice to Congress of Shaker’s release on 25 September, so he should have returned around 25 October — his 5,000th day in captivity.

Of the 16 detainees previously released to the UK several others also had their returns delayed. Serious questions must now be asked.

No US official has ever been prosecuted over Guantanamo. The minimum expectation in Britain must be for public accountability over government failure in detainee cases.

Shaker was first cleared for release in 2007, but then prime minister Gordon Brown, and later David Cameron, appeared powerless against the US state machine.

Evidence from Guantanamo prisoners suggests that MI5 and MI6 permitted, observed and condoned torture in the rendition process from Afghanistan. They then misled the British parliament through their security officials.

The 2010 Gibson Inquiry into British complicity in “improper treatment of detainees” was conveniently suspended by the coalition government because a Metropolitan Police Inquiry into possible criminality was under way. Both have since drained away into the sand.

Campaign groups and MPs are calling for a new inquiry.

Cameron talks of “robust security arrangements” on Shaker’s return. Now the chains and the hood have been removed, the temptation for our government is to suppress him in a different way.

But any compensation deal should not involve a gagging order. Shaker is a significant witness to the torture and deaths of other prisoners.

Shaker’s return, when it happens, does not end the campaign. There are still 112 inmates, all held beyond the law for over a decade with no right to release or redress.

Now there is a congressional move to block further transfers out of Guantanamo, so it could remain open indefinitely.

The challenge is to redirect campaigning energies beyond Shaker’s case into consistent political pressure for the total closure of Guantanamo, Western civilisation’s best known extra-judicial torture centre.