Healing the Wounds of Guantanamo


There is no need to exaggerate the mistreatment of Shaker Aamer. Snatched away into a closed world of dungeons, shouting, threats, chains and humiliation, denied any sort of trial, cut off from his growing family by high fences and thousands of miles, never knowing the accusations against him, entirely in the power of his captors, he has endured treatment which would have broken and embittered most of us.
Disgracefully, he received this treatment at the hands of a great and proud democracy, which proclaims its devotion to constitutional government and liberty for all. Friends of the USA, and of freedom, such as this newspaper, have been greatly grieved by this lapse, and criticise it mainly in the hope of seeing that it does not happen again.

Yet even in the depths of this injustice, Mr Aamer generously sought to help save the life of the British hostage Alan Henning. And he has marked his release with a powerful denunciation of Islamist fanatics who accept the hospitality of Britain, and turn on their hosts.

He says: ‘You cannot just go in the street walking like normal people and get a knife and start stabbing people. If you are angry about this country, you can get the hell out.’ It is good advice, well put.

The Mail on Sunday is proud and glad to have played a significant part in the long campaign for justice for this man, who is plainly so pleased to be home.

It has been, from the start, a simple case of justice denied. There are those who still harbour suspicions against him, but they must now explain why, despite having him utterly in their power for 14 long years, the US authorities never produced a case against him.

Maddened by anger over September 11, the US set aside its own most fundamental rules, which were in fact designed to apply even in such circumstances. And once those rules have been broken, even the best institutions and the best men are tempted into wrong, oppressive actions.

It is too early to say how much damage this episode has done to the cause of liberty and to the free world.

But it is at least now possible to say that one man, Shaker Aamer, is seeking to heal the wounds of Guantanamo, not to make them worse. We should rejoice over this.