Guantanamo: 'toxic legacy' for human rights slammed - new report

*Former UK resident Shaker Aamer is one of 171 still at camp - new letter to Hillary Clinton demands fair trial or release

The failure of the US government to close the detention facility at Guantánamo Bay is leaving a toxic legacy for human rights, Amnesty International said on the tenth “anniversary” (11 January) of the first detainees being transferred to the notorious US detention centre.

In a 64-page report published ahead of the anniversary, Guantánamo: A Decade of Damage to Human Rights , Amnesty highlights the unlawful treatment of Guantánamo detainees and outlines reasons why the detention centre continues to represent an attack on human rights.  

Despite President Obama’s pledge to close Guantánamo by 22 January 2010, 171 men are still being held at the camp. Of these, at least 12 were in the original group first transferred to Guantánamo on 11 January 2002. One of them is serving a life sentence after being convicted by a military commission in 2008. None of the other 11 has been charged.

Amnesty is calling for an end to indefinite detention at Guantánamo with an online petition to Barack Obama at amnesty.org.uk/guantanamo o:p>

One of the 167 still held without a trial at Guantánamo is the former UK resident Shaker Aamer, a 43-year-old father-of-four whose family live in south London. Mr Aamer, who has been held at Guantánamo since February 2002, is originally from Saudi Arabia but is married to a British citizen and has four British Children's rights. Mr Aamer had permission to live in the UK when he was detained in Afghanistan by Afghan forces in the autumn of 2001 (among other places, he was held at the notorious US military prison at Bagram). He was subsequently transferred to US custody in Afghanistan and later taken to Guantánamo.

Shaker Aamer’s father-in-law Saeed Siddique, speaking on behalf of the family, recently explained to Amnesty the impact his ten years at Guantánamo has had on them:

"It is a great injustice for the family. The family has been torn apart for ten years. Shaker has been detained without being charged for ten years. What kind of justice is this?”

Amnesty International UK Director Kate Allen said:

“It’s an absolute disgrace that Shaker Aamer is still behind bars at Guantánamo - without a trial, without access to his family, almost without hope.

“Britain needs to put its foot down with the Americans. We know that the Foreign Secretary William Hague has already called for Shaker’s release. He should now insist on a specific timetable for this to happen - within days or weeks, not months or years.”

Amnesty supporters are writing to the US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton demanding that Mr Aamer is either fairly tried in a US federal court or immediately released back to his family in the UK (see www.amnesty.org.uk/shaker).

In ten years, only one of the 779 detainees held at the base has been transferred to the USA for prosecution in an ordinary federal court. Others have faced unfair trials by military commission. The administration is currently intending to seek the death penalty against six of the detainees at such trials.

Current Guantánamo detainees include those who were subjected to torture and enforced disappearance prior to being transferred to the camp. There has been little or no accountability for these crimes under international law committed in a programme of secret detention operated under US presidential authority. Instead, the US government has systematically blocked attempts by former detainees to seek redress for such violations.

The Obama administration has blamed its failure to close the Guantánamo detention facility on Congress, which has indeed failed to ensure US compliance with international human rights principles in this context.  

Amnesty International’s researcher on the USA Rob Freer said:

“The US government disregarded human rights from day one of the Guantánamo detentions. As we move into year 11 in the life of the detention facility, this failure continues.

“Guantánamo has come to symbolise ten years of a systematic failure by the USA to respect human rights in its response to the 9/11 attacks.

“Until the USA addresses these detentions as a human rights issue, the legacy of Guantánamo will live on whether or not the detention facility there is closed down.”

  • Download report:  Guantánamo: A Decade of Damage to Human Rights (PDF)
  • Find out more about our campaign to close Guantánamo span style='font-size: 10pt; font-family: "Arial","sans-serif";'>
  • Sign our petition to close Guantánamo /li>

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