To coincide with the tenth anniversary of the opening of the illegal detention facility at Guantánamo Bay, activists from the London Guantánamo Campaign  will deliver a petition  to the US Embassy in London demanding that President Obama fulfil his earlier promises to close Guantánamo Bay and release former British residents, Shaker Aamer  and Ahmed Belbacha  to the UK. The petition has been signed by around 400 people and will be delivered to the embassy in Grosvenor Square, Mayfair, this afternoon.
Aisha Maniar, from the London Guantánamo Campaign, said: “President Obama has chosen to mark the tenth anniversary of Guantánamo, which he once considered a “misguided experiment”  by perpetuating the lawless regime of detention there, without charge or trial, through provisions in the National Defense Authorization Act 2012 . Once considered part of the disastrous legacy of his predecessor, George Bush, President Obama has made this “experiment” state policy. Similarly, President Clinton before him made extraordinary rendition state policy in the 1990s.
“As the United States gears up for presidential elections later this year, it is hard to forget the dashed hopes of the world in the aftermath of Barack Obama’s complete backtracking on his pledge to close Guantánamo Bay by 2010 and end military tribunals. Instead, hardly any prisoners have been released, a minor has been tried for war crimes and the closure of Guantánamo and other similar facilities is ever more distant.
“Through their collusion, other states, including the United Kingdom, have some responsibility to bear in aiding its closure. In the case of the British government, it must do more to secure the immediate release of Shaker Aamer and Ahmed Belbacha, formerly resident in the UK.”
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NOTES TO EDITORS
1. The London Guantánamo Campaign campaigns for justice for all prisoners at Guantánamo Bay, for the closure of this and other secret prisons, and an end to the practice of extraordinary rendition. http://londonguantanamocampaign.blogspot.com
2. The text of the petition, launched in late September 2011, can be read at: http://www.ipetitions.com/petition/release_aamer_and_belbacha/
3. Shaker Aamer was cleared for release by the US military in 2007. He claims to have been tortured repeatedly during his time in US custody, on one occasion in the presence of a British intelligence agent. He has a British wife and four children living in Battersea, south London. He has never met his youngest son, who is almost 10 years old. Former Prime Minister Gordon Brown sought his release in August 2007, along with four other residents held at Guantánamo Bay, the last of whom was released in February 2009. His lawyer, Clive Stafford-Smith, has recently expressed grave concerns for his physical and mental health due to prolonged arbitrary detention. http://www.reprieve.org.uk/cases/shakeraamer/
4. Ahmed Belbacha, an Algerian national who lived in Bournemouth from 1999 to 2001, was cleared for release by the US military in 2007. Never charged or tried, he was free to leave but has remained at Guantánamo Bay for want of a safe third country to return to. A court injunction in the USA has prevented his forced return to Algeria. http://www.reprieve.org.uk/cases/ahmedbelbacha/