Benji Hyer asks: Without Guantanamo, where do these prisoners go?
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A central policy of Barack Obama’s 2008 Presidential campaign was the closure of Guantanamo, the American detention camp and military prison located in Cuba which was established by the then Secretary of Defence Donald Rumsfeld in 2002 to detain extraordinarily dangerous people, to interrogate detainees in an optimal setting, and to prosecute detainees for war crimes. However, 112 people are still being held at Guantanamo; 780 men have been held since 2002, the vast majority without charge or criminal trial. America – the so called kings of freedom and democracy – are undeniably running a centre which goes against the international community’s values of human rights.
Mr Aamer, who was first held by US authorities in Afghanistan in 2001 when crossing the border to Pakistan, maintains he was in the country doing charity work. Many campaigners and politicians see him as an innocent man unfairly held; Shadow chancellor John McDonnell said “Shaker was simply a man in the wrong place at the wrong time, a charity worker building wells in Afghanistan who was kidnapped, ransomed and falsely imprisoned.” Though Robin Simcox, a research fellow at the Henry Jackson Society – a think tank which supports liberal democracies and an interventionist approach to foreign affairs – claimed that “any joy and relief at his release must be tempered by the fact that this is someone who has had very serious questions posed of his past connections and conduct”. The truth is that we will never really know whether Shaker is indeed guilty or not, particularly since the UK government have no intention of detaining him in this country. But that’s hardly the point; even if he was guilty, he should have surely faced a fair trial.
Inmates in Guantanamo face torture and harsh interrogation techniques, which are frowned upon by much of the Western World. The US military maintains the belief that Guantanamo, and the tactics used there, are essential in finding out terrorist secrets, thereby keeping America safe, and they’re probably right in claiming that. On one hand, this reassures citizens of America, especially since 9/11, but equally there should be appalled by the continuation of this facility, for no country can justify holding people – however potentially dangerous or evil – without charge. The problem is: without Guantanamo, where do these prisoners go?