Guest blog by Ben Westwood
Some months ago my mother gave me a rather difficult job to do. She wanted me to see what I could do to secure the release from Guantanamo detention center of the Saudi citizen & British legal permanent resident Shaker Aamer.
The reason for this is that his case is an ideal illustration for the title of this piece ‘To Fight for Justice is to fight the Law’.
Shaker Aamer (known as prisoner 239) is trapped in a hellish legal 13 yearlong limbo. Not charged or convicted of anything but yet unable to legally challenge his situation… because of the legal situation.
Getting Shaker out of a US overseas military base is rather a tall order for me, so I want to call on YOU!! I would really like to involve more people in this & try to get some ideas about what next to do…
I shall publish below the results of my research. There is a lot of stuff & a lot of references to official sounding, obscure acronyms like the AUMF, the NDAA & SOFA. Even the USA Patriot Act actually stands for ‘Uniting & Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept & Obstruct Terrorism Act of 2001.
All the time the government is making & passing new laws. These laws are designed exclusively to protect the worldwide business strategy of the big multinational corporations & the Military Industrial Complex with their economic model of exploitation of both people’s labour & the limited natural resources of the planet.
Military-Industrial Complex Speech, Dwight D. Eisenhower, 1961
More often than not members of the government are in business collusion or else are actually running the multinationals.
US Vice President Dick Cheney & also chief executive of the company Halliburton has done very nicely out of the Iraq war for instance. Read here: http://www.rense.com/general29/dbus.htm
& here: http://www.heatherwokusch.com/index.php?name=News&file=article&sid=86
So, regarding Shaker Aamer, I trawled the internet for information about him & his situation & I wrote a piece based on this research which was posted on the Climate Revolution website. In it I explain the probable motive for his continuing detention. Read it here:
(It looks as though the reason is that Shaker has been a victim of & a witness to the torture of other prisoners. He has seen too much. Can’t have him ‘spilling the beans’)
To go over Shaker’s background again read below:
Shaker (47 years old) has been in Guantanamo now for very nearly 13 years (even prisoners during WW2 were only detained for 7 years). He is married to a British woman & has four children, the youngest of whom, Faris, he has never met as he was born after his arrest. http://saveshaker.org/
Shaker had left Britain with his family & travelled to Afghanistan 4 months before the 9/11 attack on the World Trade Center in order to work for a charity which was digging wells & building a school.
When the war broke out, the Americans used a policy of offering a reward for ‘terrorists’ to be handed over to them. On the 24th November 2001, Shaker was ‘arrested’ by the Northern Alliance & handed over to the Americans for $5000. First interrogated at Bagram Theatre Internment Facility in Afghanistan, Shaker was transferred to Guantanamo on 14th February 2002 (Valentine’s Day & also the birthdate of his son). He has been there since (his only visitor in that time has been his lawyer).
Click on the link below to see how the US gets its supply of ‘terrorists’:
(As long as you fit the bill. It could have been you. Anyone will do)
You can read about the torture perpetrated on POW’s by the Americans in the account of another detainee Murat Kurnaz who was released from Guantanamo in 2006…
(Mr Kurnaz writes very eloquently & his account is both engrossing & immediate. Apart from the information about his & the other detainees absolutely terrible treatment, I found the line very shocking, where the American soldier at Guantanamo says to him “Do you know what the Germans did to the Jews? That’s exactly what we’re going to do with you.”)
Shaker has been cleared for release (= no reason to keep him) twice, once in 2007 & second in 2009, but for some ‘officially’ undisclosed reason only to Saudi Arabia…
(Again…Click here: http://climaterevolution.co.uk/wp/2014/05/08/why-cant-the-british-government-get-him-back/ )
His family is British & have no wish to live in this country, neither does Shaker. The man has been granted British residency & it is his legal right to return to this country.
Clive Stafford Smith (Shaker’s lawyer) says:
“Shaker is cleared for release and has been by two US administrations, Bush in 2007 and Obama in 2009. This means that all the six top US security agencies had to agree that he poses no threat to the US or its allies. The natural place to send him is the UK – which has a 100 percent record of safe reintegration of its citizens and residents back into society and where Shaker’s family lives. Compare this to Saudi Arabia, the country with the worst recidivism record of all, and where he would be without his close family. Moreover, it is the British government’s repeated public position that they want Shaker returned – as a matter of urgency – to the UK where he is a resident, and where his British wife and children live. Saudi Arabia is known for having one of the most brutal regimes in the world and were Shaker to go there he would be imprisoned and most likely never seen again. Shaker is absolutely adamant that he will not go back to Saudi because all he wants is to return to his family and his home in the UK”.
Participating in a prison wide hunger strike throughout most of 2013 in order to protest against their indefinite confinement, Shaker is kept in a section of the prison used for ‘non-compliant’ prisoners. Kept in solitary confinement 22-23 hours a day in a small cell in which the lights are never turned off, Shaker is prevented from dying by a force feeding program in which a plastic hose is pushed through his nose into his stomach…
The American Rapper Mosdef made a video of himself undergoing the force feeding routine used at Guantanamo.
See it here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z6ACE-BBPRs
So now I looked into the legal situation…
The US administration says they don’t have to pay attention to American law in Guantanamo because Guantanamo is not on American soil (It’s in Cuba).
However there are American military bases all around the world & they all internally operate under American law. The US says it wishes to spread democracy in the rest of the world & one place that they have a very good chance to do this is in their own bases.
During June I went to see the staff at the charitable organisation Reprieve whose purpose is to give legal representation to prisoners the world around who are in desperate situations (for instance those sentenced to death) & who have no alternative legal representation to turn to. These prisoners include the ones in Guantanamo http://www.reprieve.org.uk/ . I wanted to ask them what Shaker’s present legal situation was.
They told me that at the present time they were waiting to hear the ruling of a US district judge called Gladys Kessler over whether the video footage of Guantanamo prisoner Abu Wa’el Dhiab being force fed can be released to be shown to his defence council on the grounds that this force feeding constitutes torture.
A week later the judge did rule that Abu’s defence could see the video but they were forbidden to reveal or describe what they had seen to the public.
Clive Stafford Smith who represents Shaker & Abu said that the only way he could try to describe it was to say that you would not be able to sleep if you saw it.
They hope that this footage can one day be released to the public domain as they are sure that it will bolster their case to have Guantanamo closed & the prisoners charged or released.
(We need to see these videos! Public opinion is very important)
(The situation seems to be changing now)Read here: http://www.andyworthington.co.uk/2014/10/04/in-ground-breaking-ruling-us-judge-gladys-kessler-orders-guantanamo-force-feeding-videos-to-be-made-public/
& here: http://news.yahoo.com/judge-orders-release-guantanamo-videotapes-182612564.html
Reprieve also sent me an e-mail with the information below:
“18th November 2013: Last night, CBS 60 Minutes broadcast the first ever profile and live recording of a detainee in Guantanamo Bay – our client, British resident Shaker Aamer. While not pictured on camera, Mr Aamer can be heard saying: “Tell the world the truth…Please, we are tired. Either you leave us to die in peace — or either tell the world the truth. Let the world hear what’s happening.” He goes on to say, “You cannot walk even half a metre without being chained. Is that a human being? That’s the treatment of an animal”.
“60 Minutes were allowed very rare access to the prison, and this unique recording probably survived censorship review only because the military authorities were concerned that the consequences of censoring America’s most powerful news program would outweigh the embarrassment of allowing a prisoner to tell the world what is happening there. Lesley Stahl also interviews Clive, asking him how it is possible for Mr Aamer to be cleared for release by both the Bush and Obama administrations, yet remain detained without charge in Guantanamo Bay.
Click here: http://www.cbsnews.com/videos/life-at-gitmo/ to see the full 60 Minutes show…
while in this clip http://www.cbsnews.com/videos/why-should-we-care-about-gitmo-detainees/ Clive explains to Lesley Stahl the importance of due process and the injustice of indefinitely detaining those without charge or trial”.
Shaker’s case has been brought up in the British House of Commons & the then Foreign Secretary William Hague has actually asked the Americans to release Shaker back to the UK but he is still there.
(The British government cannot want Shaker back that much, otherwise they would insist more strongly. They could make it a big public issue & introduce sanctions against America, etc. There is too much ‘pretending’ going on.)
“A debate was held at Westminster Hall on April 24th 2013. It was sponsored by Jane Ellison MP for Battersea, South London, where Shaker’s British wife and four British children live.
During the session Foreign Office Minister Alistair Burt responded to MP’s questions about why Shaker Aamer continues to be held at the US prison by saying, “I have a supposition [of why the US is continuing to hold Shaker Aamer] but it’s not a detail I can go in to.”
The biggest obstacle to Shaker’s & the other Guantanamo inmates release is that all the facts pertaining to their cases are classified under rule of war.
Just 3 days after the 9/11 attacks of 2001 American Congress voted a joint resolution in the House of Representatives known as the AUMF, ‘Authorisation for Use of Military Force’ with 420 voting for it & 1 against.
“This resolution gives the President the authorization ‘to use all necessary and appropriate force against those nations, organizations, or persons he determines planned, authorized, committed, or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001, or harboured such organizations or persons, in order to prevent any future acts of international terrorism against the United States by such nations, organizations or persons”.
Shaker & the other Guantanamo inmates are deemed to be Prisoners of War, legally detained until ‘the end of hostilities’. One would think that with the withdrawal of American troops from Iraq & Afghanistan this year that the ‘hostilities’ are now over & that they should be released. “However The AUMF has also been cited by a wide variety of US officials as justification for continuing US military actions all over the world. Often the phrases “Al-Qaeda and associated forces” or “affiliated forces” have been used by these officials. However, that phrase does not appear in the AUMF”.
What this means though is that the ‘hostilities’ can last indefinitely & that therefore the ‘enemy combatants’ can also be detained indefinitely.
As it goes the Guantanamo inmates are classified as ‘unlawful enemy combatants’. This definition is because they are not members of the army of a nation state. Therefore the Geneva Convention of 1949 which covers the humane rules of treatment between warring nations does not apply to them & they can be legally treated quite differently. They are supposed to be treated under domestic law.
Several new legal ‘Acts’ have also been written into law since the 9/11 attacks.
The first was the USA Patriot Act of 26th October 2001.
This Act allows the US courts to:
“Authorize court-approved roving wiretaps that permit surveillance on multiple phones.
Allow court-approved seizure of records and property in anti-terrorism operations.
Permit surveillance against a so-called lone wolf, a non-U.S. citizen engaged in terrorism who may not be part of a recognized terrorist group.
One of the most controversial aspects of this Act is that it gives the right to the FBI, CIA & DoD to demand that a particular entity or organization must turn over various records and data pertaining to individuals. They require no probable cause or judicial oversight and also contain a gag order, preventing the recipient of the letter from disclosing that the letter was ever issued”.
“Some industry watchers even believe the US could use the powers enshrined in the Patriot Act to gain information for purposes other than fighting terrorism.
“The Patriot Act is supposed to be linked with terrorism, but the truth of the matter is that we just don’t know how it is being used. US companies [could] gain a competitive advantage against those in Europe,” says Chevillotte. “We do not know that it is being used for these purposes, but we also cannot exclude the possibility.” http://www.computing.co.uk/ctg/analysis/2121905/woried-uk-guardians-patriot-act .”
Used to set the yearly spending budget & program for the DoD (Department of Defence), the NDAA or National Defence Authorisation Act of 2012 signed into US law (on New Year’s Eve 2011 by President Barrack Obama) the military’s authority to hold people in indefinite detention without charge on American soil.
Rather than trying to close Guantanamo prison, the ‘authorities’ are trying to make what happens in Guantanamo legal to do on the American mainland (then they won’t need Guantanamo).
“Congress agrees with the President’s claim that he can order the forcible seizure, transportation and endless military imprisonment of any American citizen without legal proof and without access to the courts. The President’s chosen Americans can be imprisoned in the US or any other country or corporation the President chooses.”
Senator Lindsey Graham is on camera in the Senate saying “When they say they want a lawyer. You say back to them. Shut up, you are not getting one. You are an illegal enemy combatant”
The news channel ‘Russia Today’ has also made a 60 minute program about Guantanamo. Watch it here:
& here: http://rt.com/shows/breaking-set-summary/184908-gitmo-closing-media-brainwashing/
& that is it for now. What do you think & have you any suggestions….??
It strikes me that the problem here is that governments have the power to declare & make war either without their peoples support or else with their support through propaganda.
Then under the law of war they can reduce their people’s freedoms & ability to know all the facts, making their propaganda & control all the more effective.
Governments should be legally banned from being able to take their countries to war.
In the meantime, how long does this ‘temporary situation’ last for??
Because of this blanket cover of ‘The War on Terror’, all the rights & freedoms we have fought for are still held in suspense. All Human Rights organisations protest this tyranny but the government ignores them & just do what suits them. They can suspend the due process of law forever.
The War on Terror is the most convenient war ever for the people in power……………..
For more on Shaker click here: http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/news/shaker-aamer/
& just to finish I am giving a link to the War Powers Clause from the US constitution.
In it the technique used to declare war on Mexico in 1846 gave rise to a very interesting comment by the then congress member Abraham Lincoln:
“Let me first state what I understand to be your position. It is, that if it shall become necessary, to repel invasion, the President may, without violation of the Constitution, cross the line and invade the territory of another country; and that whether such necessity exists in any given case, the President is to be the sole judge…But Allow the President to invade a neighbouring nation, whenever he shall deem it necessary to repel an invasion, and you allow him to do so, whenever he may choose to say he deems it necessary for such purpose – and allow him to make war at pleasure…. If, to-day, he should choose to say he thinks it necessary to invade Canada, to prevent the British from invading us, how could you stop him? You may say to him, ‘I see no probability of the British invading us’ but he will say to you ‘be silent; I see it, if you don’t.’
“The provision of the Constitution giving the war-making power to Congress, was dictated, as I understand it, by the following reasons. Kings had always been involving and impoverishing their people in wars, pretending generally, if not always, that the good of the people was the object. This our Convention understood to be the most oppressive of all Kingly oppressions; and they resolved to so frame the Constitution that no one man should hold the power of bringing this oppression upon us. But your view destroys the whole matter, and places our President where kings have always stood”