On 07 June 2013 JohinaAamer received a response to the letter she sent to PM David Cameron on 19 April 2013, asking for the reasons why her father remains at Guantanamo Bay.
We appreciate Mr Cameron responding to her letter, something the previous PM, Gordon Brown could not take the time to do. But whilst Mr Cameron’s acknowledgement is promising, the content of his letter is debatable.
Given the number of assurances Johina and her family receive that "the British Government remains committed to securing the release and return" of her father from Guantanamo Bay, one must question where these assurances stem from. In the last month both Mr Cameron and the Foreign Office Minister Alistair Burt have told Johina the government is doing all that they can for Shaker. Are we expected to relax with this assurance whilst her father has now been on hunger strike for more than 150 days? Shaker remains captive without charge and trial for 11 years – every day that he remains in these conditions is an injustice. We understand that the matter has been raised with Secretary Clinton, Secretary Kerry, Secretary Hagel and even directly with President Obama himself by Cameron, but the responses of these individuals is being withheld from us. Simply bringing the issue up with the relevant people is insufficient. We want answers – the responses from the senior officials – Johina and her family deserve more.
When discussing Shaker's ongoing hunger strike, Cameron mentions he has received assurances from US authorities that "he (Shaker) is being offered medical treatment." Shaker Aamer is currently one of over 100 prisoners being force fed at Guantanamo Bay. Force feeding is considered a “medical treatment” when it is administered to an individual who does not have the mental capacity to refuse food. CagePrisoners' position on the medical implications of force feeding are outlined here. Force feeding an individual who has the capacity to refuse food from his own choice is yet another form of torture against these men – when Johina and her family heard their father was being subjected to this abuse they did not feel the guarantee that Cameron expresses, but rather a heightening of their worries and concerns for their father. The brutality of force feeding in practice is exemplified by YasiinBey (MosDef) in this video here.
The US government are careful to label their list of prisoners who have been cleared as "Cleared for Transfer" rather than "Cleared for Release" – the latter is commonly used when campaigners refer to the 44 on this list. Cameron emphasises that there is an important distinction, but we challenge this assertion: When an individual has not been charged with a crime and has been held in captivity for 12 years –11 of which have been at Guantanamo Bay– there is no doubt that he ought to be charged and tried finally, or released. Cameron's apparent support for the suggestion that the 44 who have been cleared should be transferred to another prison rather than released is hardly surprising: the persecution of Shaikh Abu Qatada – 11 years without charge or trial, held in detention or a control order in the UK – is evidence that our own justice system does not respect due process and the rule of law in their persecution of those they fear may have been involved in the war on terror.
Cameron concludes by promising Johina that the Justice and Security Act (JSA) she suggested will be used against her father has no bearing on his release from Guantanamo Bay. He insists the JSA is about “more justice, not less.” The JSA will be introducing Closed Material Procedures (CMP) into civil proceedings: a procedure whereby a party can present a case to a judge in the absence of the other party and his lawyers. Fundamentally, CMP disregards the right to a fair trial, as outlined under Article 6 of the Human Rights Act 1998. A fair trial gives equal rights to both parties (prosecution and defendant) to hear the charges against the defendant and a fair opportunity to both to present their cases before a judge. It is claimed that holding secret trials in a CMP is in the interest of protecting national security, at the risk of bringing an end to open justice and the public’s right to know the actions of the state.
The origins of the secret trials date back to 2010, when the UK government paid compensation to former Guantanamo Bay detainees for the torture and rendition they had been subjected to. An open trial was not held to hear their cases as it was decided the cases would be a risk to national security as “sensitive” intelligence would be released. Under the JSA, if Shaker Aamer brings a similar case against the UK government, his case would be heard behind closed doors, therefore any claims he has against the government would be kept secret and any decision made or compensation given would remain private. The benefit to the UK government lies in the fact any claims Shaker makes against them would never have to be confirmed by them, the settlement could be significantly less and they do not have to suffer the embarrassment of admitting they have played a key role in his prolonged illegal detention. The idea that this scenario could equate to “more justice, not less” for Shaker and his family is unfathomable.
When the letter from David Cameron arrived for Johina, a part of her hoped that finally receiving a response after writing to two Prime Ministers would mean there would be good news. Unlike most 15 year old girls, Johina did not feel excited that the Prime Minister had taken the time to write to her but instead opened the letter with hope that he had finally listened to her pleas and would bring her father home. However, Cameron has given assurances aplenty in his letter but no conclusive answers to bring an end to the pain of the last decade. And despite the multitude of promises, her father remains in Guantanamo Bay today on hunger strike, exasperated by what our government and the US government have subjected him to for 12 years.
(NOTE: CAGE represents cases of individuals based on the remit of our work. Supporting a case does not mean we agree with the views or actions of the individual. Content published on CAGE may not reflect the official position of our organisation.)