By John Clossick
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Brown’s Guantanamo, Miliband’s disgrace

This article is over 11 years, 10 months old
New Labour is seriously concerned about its election prospects. One of the many fronts on which it is attempting damage limitation is the mounting evidence of involvement by MI5 and the Foreign Office in the Guantanamo torture of British residents.
Issue 345

The so-called “war on terror” is in reality a war of terror, and the Labour government has been intimately caught up in this. It tried to cover this up. It does not read well for a party that wants to present itself on voting day as enlightened, law abiding and anti-racist and as having, in Robin Cook’s words, “an ethical foreign policy”.

It was forced by the Court of Appeal to reveal the evidence of British government knowledge of Binyam Mohammed’s torture – shackled, hooded, threatened and deprived of sleep while under interrogation. It is now making stringent efforts to keep further evidence of MI5 knowledge and collusion out of the headlines, this time around the torture of London resident Shaker Aamer.

Shaker has been in Guantanamo for eight years, since February 2002. He was in Afghanistan with Moazzam Begg, another Guantanamo inmate who was released in 2005, working for a charity to build a girls’ school.

Shaker is one of the longest serving prisoners – yet has never been charged or tried. He was formally cleared for release by the US in 2007. The Foreign Office has “requested his return”, but in practice nothing has been done by either side to implement this. The US cites “security concerns”. Britain might conceivably cite “electoral concerns”.

The reason is to be found in the evidence, now published by Harper’s Magazine in the US, on what happened on the night of 9 June 2006. The official version is that three young Guantanamo prisoners, a Yemeni and two Saudis, “committed suicide” by “stuffing rags down their throats”. None of them had been charged with any crime.

On that same night Shaker was a victim of vicious brutality. An affidavit before the Washington Federal Court states that Shaker was strapped to a chair and beaten for over two hours. The military police pushed his pressure points, gouged his eyes, choked him, cut off his airways and then hooded him to stifle his screams.

Shaker was witness to the deaths and other tortures. He would provide evidence in criminal investigations. He represented other prisoners as their spokesperson. He knows too much. He has experienced too much. According to Moazzam Begg he is a powerful personality and on his return is likely to be shouting from the rooftops about MI5 collusion. Hence lack of action by both governments.

Shaker’s British wife and children live in south London from where a growing Save Shaker Aamer Campaign, supported by the Stop the War Coalition, has been mobilised to demand his return.

This is now Gordon Brown and David Miliband’s Guantanamo. Either the MI5 rottweilers are off the leash or Miliband is guilty of a continuing cover-up. Which is it? And Shaker remains incarcerated. On this, as on so much else, New Labour is in the dock.

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