Transfer of British detainee triggers U.K. Prime Minister’s call for Gitmo’s closure
By Alice Debarre
Today, British Prime Minister David Cameron welcomed the upcoming return of British resident, Shaker Aamer, emphasizing that he was “pleased this has happened, above all because we want to see Guantanamo Bay closed.” Last week, the Obama administration announced that it would send him home after imprisoning him for 14 years without charge or trial and clearing him for release in 2007.
Cameron’s statement highlights the stance of U.S. allies on the necessity of closing the prison. The delay in Aamer’s transfer, despite repeated calls for his release by the British government, had sparked a reaction in the U.K. last July in the form of an open letter to President Obama, describing the continued detention of men at Guantanamo as undermining “America’s notion of itself and its international standing.” President Obama’s 2013 statement—that the Guantanamo Bay detention center “has become a symbol around the world for an America that flouts the rule of law”—remains true to this day.
This taint on the United States’ reputation has hurt U.S. relations with its allies and undermined U.S. counterterrorism cooperation with other countries. American diplomats have reportedly received considerable pushback from our European allies in particular, some having refused to share intelligence or provide access to terrorist suspects if doing so could be seen as aiding military detention or trial at Guantanamo. Such reactions make it clear that the detention center’s continued existence has “undercut the U.S. case around the world that we represent a world view and a set of values that all can admire.”
The news of Aamer’s overdue return to the U.K. is encouraging, but the Obama Administration should do much more to transfer the remaining 53 detainees cleared for release but still stuck in the prison.
The transfer of detainees cleared for release is one of several crucial steps Human Rights First details in our latest Blueprint: How to Close Guantanamo. The long-awaited transfer of Shaker Aamer should be followed by many more.