On Nov. 19, the U.S. Senate took a big step forward in the struggle to close the Guantánamo Bay detention facility by voting to roll back problematic restrictions on the transfer of detainees from the facility. The Senate detainee transfer provisions must now be reconciled with the versions that already passed in the House in June. Once this happens, the president can sign the provisions, which are part of the National Defense Authorization Act, into law for 2014. But President Barack Obama doesn't have to wait on Congress to begin transferring prisoners like Shaker Aamer who were cleared for transfer years ago.
Aamer is a Saudi national and has been imprisoned without charge — the last British resident to be so held — since Nov. 24, 2001. He was moved to Guantánamo on Feb. 14, 2002 and has since been cleared twice by U.S. authorities, once at the personal plea of British Prime Minister David Cameron.
Following a recent "60 Minutes" report, Aamer's case has once again caught the attention of the U.S. media. In the CBS broadcast, Aamer can be heard in the background shouting at the journalist from inside his prison cell: "Leave us to die in peace or tell the world the truth!"
Aamer's case is particularly troubling because officials in both the Obama and Bush administrations have said that he should be allowed to leave Guantánamo. In fact, British Prime Minister David Cameron, Obama's closest ally in the so-called war on terror, said that the United Kingdom wants Aamer to be released.
Indefinite detention without charge or trial is a violation of human rights, no matter who is being held. As we look forward to International Human Rights Day on Dec. 10, there is no better time to call attention to Aamer's unlawful detention and the ongoing violation of human rights at Guantánamo.
This year's Human Rights Day marks the 12th year Aamer will have spent in a prison cell without being told why. But he is far from alone. From Aamer's fellow detainees at Guantánamo to Russian free expression activists and Chinese dissidents, all arbitrarily detained prisoners need the advocacy of global citizens dedicated to impartial justice and universal human rights.