Guantanamo bay, 2014. Shaker Aamer, Britain’s last remaining resident is still waiting to be sent home having been cleared for release by both the Bush Administration in 2006 and Obama in 2009. Instead, Aamer writes in a piece relayed through his lawyer Clive Stafford Smith in February on the anniversary of his imprisonment “I feel lonely and lost. Not knowing my future is the worst torture. I am living just to die. I am confused about everything and everyone.” In the months that followed his health further declined when on the 14th April he asked a federal judge to release him because he was chronically ill, both mentally and physically. According to the motion submitted to the Columbia district court, it is unlikely Aamer will ever fully recover. However it is no surprise that after a decade of torture and unimaginable abuse and suffering, his future looks bleak at best. The US have been stalling and pushing for him to be sent to Saudi Arabia where he will more than likely be silenced. The difficulty with Aamer is due to how the War on Terror was conducted, more specifically how suspected terrorists were rounded up. Aamer was captured in Afghanistan in 2001 whilst working for a charity having previously worked for the US as a translator. Instead, the Northern Alliance, the US’s proxy army, was paid for any ‘Arab looking guy.” Aamer speaks fluent English which gives him and the rest of the camp a voice of protest much to the dismay of the US.
Aamer’s case is not only tragic as it highlights the failures of Obama’s foreign policy as at least under Bush, over 500 detainees were released, it calls into question the very nature of the war we are meant to be fighting. The supposed terrorists held at Guantanamo bay is a myth when estimates suggest only 5% of those are guilty. However this is not a denial that guilty people are held there, this is a refusal to accept that the US is doing all it can to get innocent men out of the nightmare they were forced into. The issue stems in part from finding countries that will repatriate them however the UK has repatriated other detainees therefore Aamer should be no exception. It shouldn’t have to fall to the US to make an exception on grounds of ill health, when Aamer has never seen one of his children who was born on February 14th 2001, the day he was sent to Guantanamo Bay, it should be common practise to release proven innocent prisoners. This therefore is not a war that has been won, false imprisonment, torture and abuse not exclusive to Guantanamo Bay but also Bagram and other facilities used. Instead, this is a war that even Afghanistan has realized is unjust with Karzai releasing, much to the US’s anger, prisoners from Bagram on account of their innocence. What we see now is a failed attempt to rebuild Afghanistan from the outside, we intervened in their civil war and it failed – now is the time to withdraw and let the Afghan population regain their identity. Elections are beginning to take place and glimmers of hope are emerging for the procurement of women’s rights.
The future therefore for Aamer and all of the other detainees held is uncertain; hunger striking is the last bastion of protest these men have to gain the rights they are legally entitled to. It is a protest that should be reported more in the media as justice requires people to be aware and understand. The more the US attempts to cover the daily abuse’s up, the more these men get forgotten and the longer justice goes un-served.