Simon Williamson

Close Guantanamo Bay

2014-06-11 06:30

Simon Williamson

In many ways, the US president is actually the leader of what is referred to as "the free world". But something always jars me slightly when that term for the presidency is used, because of the heinous entity that sits on the island of Cuba in flagrant violation of any decent set of laws: Guantanamo Bay prison.
 
Guantanamo Bay is not your average prison that processes prisoners. It is a place people are left to rot because the US doesn't know what to do with them. Seventy-eight of the 149 prisoners in Guantanamo Bay have been cleared for release, but are being held. They will never be charged with anything; they should be free to leave because there is no evidence of them having done anything wrong. They are being held against their will.
 
Fifty-eight of those are Yemeni men, who the US will not let go because of security fears back in Yemen. Aside from the fact that there are more than 200 other countries in the world into which they could be released (the five recently released in a prisoner exchange went to Qatar, from where they will not be allowed to travel for a year), that is also an untenable reason to keep someone captive. Shaker Aamer, a Saudi prisoner but with rights to live in the United Kingdom, was cleared in 2007, and has been waiting seven years, and counting, to be able to go back to his British wife and four children. Incidentally, he has the blessing - nay, the encouragement - of the British government to do so.
 
Forty-six men in Guantanamo Bay whose presence there went under review are not being released because they have been declared too dangerous, but will not be charged or tried because there is insufficient evidence to prove so. This ideology, imprisoning people and leaving them in limbo forever, has been endorsed by President Obama.
 
President Jose Mujica of Uruguay has even offered to repatriate six Guantanamo prisoners, but the US hasn't bitten, largely because Mujica has been clear that his offer means that the prisoners will join Uruguay as refugees, and would be able to live freely and will not be monitored. He added Uruguay would not become an offshore corrections facility for the American government, going as far as saying, "to put an end to that embarrassment (Guantanamo Bay), the least we can do is try and help".

I can't believe the US would silently allow an ally to imprison people, who had been declared innocent, for an indeterminate amount of time. It really is time that it stopped tolerating its own such practices.

- Simon Williamson is a freelance writer. Follow @simonwillo on Twitter.

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Read more on:    jose mujica  |  saudi arabia  |  cuba  |  us  |  uruguay  |  yemen  |  human rights
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