The plight of Shaker Aamer: The blight of human rights

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By guest contributor: B. Amin

On the weekend, notable members of the Bradford community, congregated to challenge the direction Britain is taking towards the erosion of one of it’s traditional values where the accused is innocent until proven guilty.

The event held on Saturday (Caged Fighters at the Grange Interlink Centre) focused on the imprisonment of Shaker Aamer who, 11 years since his arrest, still languishes in the cells of Guantanamo Bay without charge or trial, and despite being cleared for release twice- by both the Bush and Obama administrations.

Conditions in Guantanamo are dire. Human beings are made to wear dog collars and are subjected to inhumane, cruel and degrading treatment. It’s a place of secret torture (in breach of UN conventions) and an environment that reflects every bit the atrocities of the Nazi concentration camps.

For most prisoners, the road to Guantanamo is mired with a complete lack of fair play. The democratic principles of ‘innocent until proven guilty’ are entirely eroded, and the ‘war on terror’ smacks of double standards and mischief making. The poor and powerless have become obvious victims in an orchestrated wilful disregard for human civil liberties within a new paradigm of ‘you’re guilty without ever being able to prove your innocence.’

Raw data shows that of the 1500 or so arrests, there have been less than 50 solid convictions; that’s very marginally over 3%.  This is a shambolic success rate which those in charge should feel ashamed by.  It’s high time Obama closed down Guantanamo – he promised to do so in 2008.  His inability to do so thus far epitomises his weakness and abject hypocrisy.

But to talk about Aamer, is to talk about you and I; our freedoms, and our civil liberties.

While it is noticeable, and statistically evident, that the Muslim community are one of the hardest hit when it comes to unfair imprisonments, this should not detract from the fact that every citizen is now vulnerable to practices such as indefinite detention without charge (tantamount to state sponsored abduction)!

Naturally then, the debate on Saturday focused on Who’s Next?  Great quotes were shared around the room, but the standout quote by far was one by Pastor Niemoller who says: ‘first they came for the communists, then the socialists, then the trade unionists, then the Jews, then the Christians and finally me.’
And as such, at what point do you and I begin to protest against this annihilation of basic human rights?  At what point do we remonstrate against the dehumanisation of innocent human beings?  At what point do we collectively say no to state terrorism?

Aamer is not alone and nor is he and others forgotten.  Their struggle for freedom is supported by campaigners – Muslim and non-Muslim.  But for this struggle to be effective, we must break away from uncritical consumption of mass media, which for the longest time has distorted reality – acting in effect as the crack cocaine of the people by burying the truth in mounds and mounds of information and misinformation; and portraying Muslims as the “Freddy Kruegers” of the modern world.

Aamer’s prolonged ordeal has left his family devastated, as is the case with all prisoners’ families. Aamer has four children, the youngest of whom he has never seen.  Frankie Boyle, the well-known British comedian, recently redirected his damages award of £50,000 to enable Aamer to sue MI6 for defamation.

In order to do your bit, please sign the online petition now.  We need to get to 100,000 signatures by 20th April 2013.  For more information please go to: http://saveshaker.org/
I leave you with two quotes to ponder:

“Doublethink means the power of holding two contradictory beliefs in one’s mind simultaneously, and accepting both of them.”

“Until they became conscious they will never rebel, and until after they have rebelled they cannot become conscious.”

George Orwell, 1984.