November 24 marked the eleventh anniversary of Shaker Aamer’s capture in Pakistan and illegal detention without trial or charge. In 2001, he was captured and shortly thereafter sold to the US military for a bounty by his captors. He has been held ever since in Afghanistan and at Guantanamo Bay, since February 2002, without charge or trial and has been beaten and abused frequently. Supporters from the Save Shaker Aamer Campaign marked the anniversary with a vigil in Trafalgar Square.
Shortly before the election, Barack Obama reaffirmed on US TV his wish to close Guantánamo Bay in non-specific terms.
Since then, a report published on 27 November by the official Government Accountability Office (GOA), led by Senator Dianne Feinstein, stated that the 166 remaining prisoners could be safely reabsorbed into the US penitentiary system and identified almost 100 facilities in the US mainland where they could be held: http://jurist.org/paperchase/2012/11/government-report-guantanamo-detainees-could-be-safely-absorbed-by-us-prisons.php Such a move would require legislation and the Department of Justice would not be able to authorise such movement itself.
Since then, however, the Senate has voted to prevent the transfer of any Guantánamo prisoners to the US mainland in the coming year in an amendment proposed to the National Defense Authorization Bill 2013; this bill must be passed every year and the act which resulted in early 2012 saw the introduction of indefinite detention for American citizens. http://www.nydailynews.com/news/politics/senate-votes-bar-transfer-guantanamo-bay-detainees-u-s-year-article-1.1210713 Human rights groups had written to President Obama before the vote asking him to use his presidential powers to veto the vote if measures were passed to prevent him closing Guantánamo, but senators have voted against it in any case: http://www.politico.com/blogs/under-the-radar/2012/11/groups-call-on-obama-to-veto-ndaa-over-potential-guantanamo-150415.html The final decision, as with the introduction of indefinite detention for US citizens last year, lies with the president himself.
While disputes and wrangling continue over who is to blame for the almost 11-year history of Guantánamo and who is preventing its closure – Congress or the Senate – the actual issue of the on-going detention and abuse of prisoners outside of the known confines of the law is brushed aside. In spite of the “hope” raised by the GOA report, the fact remains that the vast majority of prisoners are not “bad men” and do not need further incarceration but to be repatriated to their countries of origin and their families. Such is the case of both British residents, Shaker Aamer and Ahmed Belbacha, who were cleared for released almost 6 years ago, and over 30 Yemeni prisoners, who are prevented from leaving due to a ban on their return to Yemen. The responsibility for that, however, lies with the countries they have come from as well, such as the UK, who should be making greater efforts to repatriate their nationals and residents.
The LGC invites you get involved in our action to mark the 11th anniversary of Guantánamo Bay on Friday 11 January 2013. We will be holding a planning meeting in the Café in the Crypt, St Martin’s in the Field Church, off Trafalgar Square (opposite National Gallery) at 2-4pm on Sunday 2 December. For more details on what we are planning and how you can get involved: http://londonguantanamocampaign.blogspot.co.uk/#!/2012/11/your-invitation-to-join-us-to-mark-11.html Please join us if you can. You can also follow our progress and get involved via Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/AllRoadsLeadToGuantanamo and Twitter: @allroadsleadG11