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article imageOp-Ed: Shaker Aamer - 10 years in the American Gulag

By Alexander Baron     Nov 25, 2011 in Politics
When Clive Stafford Smith isn't singing the praises of a convicted murderess or whining about the immorality of the death penalty, his organisation does lobby for some worthy causes, like that of Shaker Aamer.
With the usual caveat emptor concerning anything churned out by Clive Stafford Smith's Reprieve organisation, some information about this illegal detained and victim of torture can be found here.
Shaker Aamer may indeed be a terrorist, he may be an enemy of humanity, he may simply be an odious human being, or he may be none of these things; what he is, is unconvicted of, indeed uncharged with, any offence, and he has now been denied his freedom for ten years. It may be that the chronology put together by Reprieve is not entirely accurate, that is beside the point. He has been if not behind bars then a prisoner for the best part of ten years, the vast majority of that time at Guantánamo Bay.
The following is an extract from the 6th Amendment to the Constitution of the United States: Right to Speedy Trial, Confrontation of Witnesses. Ratified 12/15/1791
In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the State and district wherein the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the Assistance of Counsel for his defence.
When the Founding Fathers draughted that magnificent document, they were alluding to a specific group of people: white men, American citizens, on American soil.
Shaker Aamer is not a white man; he is not an American citizen, and although he is now technically detained on American soil, at the time the Constitution was draughted, Cuba was ruled by Spain. The question that must be asked though is what would Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, James Madison and the others who contributed to the Constitution say? What would the Founding Fathers say? What would the draughters of that other magnificent legal document, the Magna Carta, say?
It is nothing less than scandalous that a man can be detained for a decade untried, unconvicted, uncharged with any offence, not in some obscure banana republic but in the United States, the world's policeman.
If Shaker Aamer had been so detained in Iran or China, the same people who turn a blind eye to the ongoing detention not only of him but of all the other Gitmo detainees, would be railing at human rights abuses.
In Britain, the average time served for murder is around 14 years. What crime can Shaker Aamer have committed to have been detained for so long without trial? The biggest dilemma is that for at least the past four years, there have been negotiations for his release.
Worse than that, Shaker Aamer is far from the only such detainee still held at Guantánamo Bay; there are a hundred and seventy others.
George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, and other great American statesmen of a bygone age must be turning in their graves.
One of the pledges made by the candidate of change on his way to the Whitehouse was that he would close down Guantánamo Bay. Some pledges are easier to make than to keep, but at least unlike his current rivals, Barack Obama does not endorse torture. It should though be within his power to rectify this stain on American justice. All the detainees, all of them, should now be charged and tried for whatever offences there is credible evidence they have committed. Failing which, they should all be released, each should be given a first class one way ticket for any country of their choice that will take them, and paid compensation for the time they have spent in American military custody. They should be given all those things, and not least, an apology.
And look, there's a pig flying off into the sunset.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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