Urge Your MP to sign Caroline Lucas' Early Day Motion calling for the return of Shaker Aamer and the closure of GuantánamoWritten by Andy Worthington Tuesday, 07 December 2010
Please encourage your MP to sign up to this important Early Day Motion submitted by Green MP Caroline Lucas.
With just five weeks to go before Guantánamo will have been open for nine years, and with Shaker Aamer, the last British resident in the prison, still held, the time is ripe for MPs to sign up to an Early Day Motion submitted by Caroline Lucas, Parliament's only Green MP and a formidable campaigner for social justice, to put pressure on the government to secure Shaker Aamer's return, and to help President Obama close the prison by accepting other cleared prisoners who cannot be safely repatriated. These men include Ahmed Belbacha, an Algerian, cleared since 2007, who lived and worked in the UK before he took an ill-timed holiday to Pakistan in 2001, and who is terrified of returning to his home country, which he fled because he had been threatened by Islamists while working for a state-owned oil company.
Accepting other cleared prisoners -- and, in particular, Ahmed Belbacha -- is something I have been advocating for a long time, as, despite being the Bush administration's closest ally in the "War on Terror," the UK has failed to join 16 other countries, throughout Europe and beyond, and including France, Germany, Ireland and Switzerland, who have given new homes to 37 cleared prisoners who could not be repatriated because they face the risk of torture in their home countries.
At the latest count, up to 33 of the 174 men remaining in Guantánamo fit into this category, and it would be a fine humanitarian gesture for the UK to take some of these men. It is also possible that some of the 58 cleared Yemenis who are currently preventing from returning home, because of a moratorium issued by President Obama in January this year, are also looking for new homes.
However, the most urgent thrust of Caroline Lucas' EDM concerns Shaker Aamer, also cleared for release in 2007. For many years, his lawyers have been obliged to conclude that he is still held because of the extent of his knowledge about the darkest truths of Guantánamo, and abuses elsewhere in US custody in the "War on Terror." Shaker learned about these abuses as the foremost advocate of the prisoners' rights in Guantánamo, and, as a result, he was singled out for brutal treatment.
Since last month, however, when he was included in a financial settlement that the British government reached with 15 other Guantánamo prisoners (all of whom have been released), to stem the flow of dangerously revealing information about the complicity in torture of Tony Blair and Jack Straw as part of a civil claim for damages filed by a number of former prisoners, his continued detention makes no sense.
A Metropolitan Police investigation, triggered by a court case a year ago in which his allegations were first aired that British agents were present in the room when he was tortured in US custody in Afghanistan, cannot conclude without his presence, and without a conclusion to the investigation, David Cameron cannot launch the judicial inquiry into British complicity in torture abroad that he wants to initiate to "draw a line" under the whole sordid affair.
Please contact your MP (via Write ToThem, or via the UK Parliament website) to ask them to support Caroline Lucas' EDM, which, at present has been signed by just 12 MPs: Caroline Lucas, the Tory MP Peter Bottomley, the Labour MPs Jeremy Corbyn, Martin Caton, John McDonnell, Marsha Singh and Michael Connarty, the Liberal Democrat MP Mike Hancock, the Plaid Cymru MPs Elfyn Llwyd and Jonathan Edwards, and the Social Democrat and Labour MPs Mark Durkan and Alasdair McDonnell.
The text of Caroline Lucas' EDM (EDM 1093 -- Guantánamo Bay) is as follows:
That this House:
- notes with regret that President Obama's pledge to close the US Military Detention Centre at Guantánamo Bay by January 2010 is almost one year overdue and little closer to realisation;
- welcomes gestures by other European States to accommodate and receive innocent prisoners who have been cleared for release to help close the facility;
- notes with dismay that on 11 January 2011 the detention facility will have been open for nine years and that British resident Shaker Aamer has now been held there without charge or trial for almost the same length of time;
- urges the Government to step up its action to secure his release without further delay;
- and further notes the case of Ahmed Belbacha, previously resident in the UK and facing the imminent threat of forced return to his native Algeria where there are fears he will face abuse of his human rights;
- applauds the lead taken by countries such as Ireland, France, Spain, Germany and Bulgaria, who have accepted prisoners cleared for release from Guantánamo Bay by the US authorities on humanitarian grounds but who cannot return to their country of origin;
- and urges the Government to take similar measures to accept a number of such cleared prisoners.
Andy Worthington is a Senior Researcher for Cageprisoners. He is also the author of The Guantánamo Files: The Stories of the 774 Detainees in America's Illegal Prison (published by Pluto Press) and the co-director (with Polly Nash) of the new documentary, "Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo.” Visit his website here.
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