Release of Shaker Aamer, but UK authorities face difficult questions – the Round-up

In the news

Following almost fourteen years of detention without trial, the last British resident to be held in Guantanamo Bay, Shaker Aamer, has been released. Amnesty International has described Aamer’s plight as “one of the worst of all the detainees at Guantanamo,” given the time involved, the lengthy spells in solitary confinement and the torture he was allegedly subjected to.

“The case against the US authorities that perpetrated this travesty of justice, and British ministers and security personnel who allegedly colluded with them, should now be vigorously pursued”, writes the Observer. Long-standing questions remain surrounding claims of UK complicity in human rights abuses: in the 2009 civil case of former Guantanamo detainee Binyam Mohamed, the High Court pointedly noted that the UK’s relationship with US authorities went “far beyond that of a bystander or witness to the alleged wrongdoing.”

An investigation by the Metropolitan Police into the extent of British involvement is already under way. However, as UK HRB’s Jim Duffy argues, “anything less than a judge-led inquiry would seem ill-equipped to press the UK’s security apparatus in the way that ensures Aamer’s allegations of torture, complicity and unlawful imprisonment are properly ventilated.”

For the present, Shaker Aamer is quietly adjusting to life with his wife and children, including a fourteen year-old son he has never met. With Aamer having been cleared for release in 2007, the reunion is long overdue.

In other news:

  • BBC: Lord Harris has warned that young people “will continue to die unnecessarily” in our prisons, unless measures are taken to combat unsafe environments caused by overcrowding, escalating violence and fewer staff and resources. The peer expressed “frustration” at the lack of government response to his report on self-inflicted deaths, submitted to the Ministry of Justice six months ago.
  • The Telegraph: the Government is facing legal action from a human rights group, following amendment of the ministerial code so as to remove a requirement that ministers comply with international law. Director of Rights Watch UK, Yasmine Ahmed, has described changes to the code as “seriously concerning”, reflecting a “market shift in the attitude and commitment of the UK Government towards its international legal obligations.” David Allen Green considers the significance of the amendment in the Financial Times.
  • The Independent: the family of Mark Duggan has been granted permission to appeal a ruling of the High Court that an inquest jury were entitled to find he was ‘lawfully killed’ by a police marksman. In granting permission, Lord Justice Sales noted that “the shooting dead of a suspect by the police is always a matter for careful scrutiny.”
  • An inquest report into the death of 84 year-old Alois Dvorzac has described his treatment by the Home Office as “shameful”. Mr Dvorzac was detained in Harmondsworth immigration centre for two weeks prior to his death, despite suffering from heart disease and dementia. Mr Dvorzac spent his last hours “chained to a custody officer without justification,” which according to the report may have amounted to “inhuman and degrading treatment’ in violation of Article 3 ECHR. The Guardian reports.

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