Shaker Aamer was cleared for release by the Bush administration in 2007. (Photo by Leon Neal/AFP/Getty Images)
Shaker Aamer, a former UK resident of Saudi descent, has been held without charge at the US detention center at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, for nearly 10 years. He was cleared for release by the Bush administration in 2007 but is still inexplicably incarcerated more than four years later.
Shaker was detained by irregular Afghan forces in Jalalabad in December 2001, shortly after the beginning of Operation Enduring Freedom. By his own account he had been in Afghanistan working for a Saudi charity and no compelling evidence refuting this contention has been presented.
SEE THE REST OF THIS POST
(JTF Guantanamo photo by U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Gino Reyes)
It is not news to any taxpayer in the country that the United States is facing a debt crisis and that public spending is under scrutiny like never before, yet one decade-long drain on the public exchequer has so far escaped the financial meltdown completely unscathed: The Guantanamo Bay Detention Camp.
The main detention facility at Gitmo cost about $220 million to build and, according to the White House, estimated annual operating expenses come in at around $150 million.
To give you an idea of the kind of value for money this investment represents, the Bureau of Prisons noted last year that it cost $27,251 to incarcerate someone in the federal prison system for a year, as compared to an estimated cost of $650,000 per inmate at Guantanamo.
In additional to the hundreds of millions of dollars lavished on the detention facilities, still more money has been poured into the development of courtrooms for the Military Commissions which, since their establishment in 2006, have only heard six cases.
SEE THE REST OF THIS POST
By Alex Neve, Secretary General of Amnesty International Canada. Neve is currently at Guantánamo to observe the military commissions proceedings against detainee Omar Khadr. This is his third in a series of posts from the field.
The building behind the tree on the right houses the courtroom (cameras are not allowed inside).
The rumours did indeed prove to be true. Yesterday evening the government did finally approve and release a 280-page Manual for Military Commissions, laying out the rules that are to govern the conduct of Omar Khadr’s and all military commission proceedings. But his legal team did not receive a copy of the new rules – essential to mounting any legal strategy – until shortly before proceedings were set to get underway this morning. It came as no surprise, therefore, that they were given a few extra hours to digest the contents. So the hearing, before it even began, was adjourned to the afternoon.
The whole fiasco was yet one more illustration of how one-sided and unfair this system is. The judge works for the government, the prosecuting team works for the government, and as the prosecutors are in the final stages of preparing for the hearing the government is writing and finalizing the rules that will govern proceedings. Regardless of whether they end up being the best or worst of rules, it can’t help but further the impression of the military commission process being lop-sided in favour of the government.
Things certainly began to move quickly once the hearing was underway in the afternoon however. There was considerable legal jousting back and forth between defence and prosecuting lawyers over a number of outstanding issues.
Prosecutors are demanding that they be able to carry out their own psychiatric examination of Omar Khadr – but without either his lawyers or his own psychologist or psychiatrist present. They are also demanding access to all of the notes, studies, test results and other documents that his psychologist and psychiatrist have used in preparing their expert reports. They also argued that Omar Khadr’s affidavit detailing the many instances of torture and ill-treatment that he says he has suffered both in Afghanistan and at Guantánamo, should not be entered into evidence. Instead they demand that he should personally testify about everything that is in the affidavit. That was the one issue the judge did rule on – he decided that the affidavit can be entered into evidence for the purposes of this pre-trial hearing into the question of excluding Omar Khadr’s statements made to interrogators. He has not ruled on whether it can be used as evidence at the actual trial scheduled to take place this summer.
SEE THE REST OF THIS POST
Tonight (January 27) at 9pm ET PBS will premiere the new Frontline segment “Getting Out of Gitmo,” about the 17 Uighurs illegally detained at Guantanamo. Check out the trailer here.
Afterward, be sure to take Amnesty International’s Urgent Action on behalf of the Uighurs and our 100 Days Action, calling on President Obama to:
- Promptly charge Guantánamo detainees with recognizable criminal offenses or release them immediately;
- Ensure that those detainees who are to be charged receive fair trials in US federal courts;
- Ensure that an independent commission on US “war on terror” abuses is set up.
Learn more about the Uighur’s Guantanamo detention.