The position of the last British detainee at Guantanamo, Shaker Aamer, is in the UK news today. He’s never been charged with anything and was “cleared for release” under the Bush administration. He is in failing health. For protesting about his own treatment and that of others, he is confined to the punishment block. It seems the reason the Aamer can’t be released today is that the US Congress has imposed absurd certification requirements on the US Secretary of Defense, such that Panetta would be personally reponsible for any future criminal actions by the released inmate. One of the reasons why the US Congress has put these obstacles up is because of claims made by the US military about “recidivism”, claims that also get some scrutiny in the report. It would seem that subsequent protests about conditions in the camp, writing a book about it or making a film, are counted as instances of “recidivism”. Astonishing. You can listen to a BBC radio report here (start at 7’ 40”) (I’d been thinking about Guantanamo anyway, because of the superb and moving article by Lakhdar Boumediene in the New York Times, which you should also read.)
Whilst it is good to see this issue getting more coverage in the mainstream media in the UK and the US, it is depressing how little uptake there has been among politicians and, indeed, the online community. The long-term detention, mistreatment and probable torture of people who have never been convicted of anything, ought to be a matter uniting people across the political spectrum who care about human rights. Unfortunately, outside of a small coterie of activists, the best you get is indifference or even active hostility. Indeed, those who campaign on behalf of the inmates have themselves been villified (by conservatives or the “decent left”) for such “crimes” as comparing the Guantanamo regime to past totalitarian governments (as if such comparison is more offensive than the acual treatment of the detainees). Depressing.