‘I am dying here every day, mentally and physically’
Shaker Aamer is the last remaining former British resident detained at Guantánamo Bay.
Shaker was also one of the first detainees to arrive at Guantánamo Bay in 2002. He was detained in Afghanistan in November 2001 where, according to his account, he was working for a Saudi charity. He has been cleared for release and the UK government has repeatedly called on the USA to free him.
Shaker is now 44-years-old and has spent over 11 years behind bars at the notorious detention centre, thousands of miles away from his family who have not seen him at all during this time.
He is said to be riddled with arthritis and other medical complaints, the result – he and his lawyers claim – of years of brutal torture and solitary confinement, and the ongoing denial of adequate medical attention.
What is Guantánamo?
‘Clearly in international armed conflicts, states can recognise people they capture as prisoners of war and hold them until the war is over. What’s happened in this case is the United States has defined for itself a kind of war that would seem to go on everywhere and forever, and then use that concept as the basis to assert the right to indefinitely detain people’
Matt Pollard, Senior Legal Advisor
In the wake of terrorist attacks in the USA on 11 September 2001, the administration - headed by President George Bush - declared a ‘war on terror’. He argued that the need to counter terrorism and keep people safe overrode the obligation to respect human rights.
Guantánamo Bay was established in January 2002 as a place for the US authorities to hold people perceived to be ‘enemy combatants’ in this war on terror. The first detainees were transferred to the prison camp on 11 January 2002.
Illegal detention and unfair trials
779 men have been taken to the facility since then. Of these, only seven have been convicted, including five as a result of pre-trial agreements under which they pleaded guilty in return for the possibility of release from the base. These men faced trial by 'military commission'. The proceedings did not meet fair trial standards.
Only one Guantánamo detainee has been transferred to the US mainland for trial in a civilian court.
Shaker is one of 16 men who remain in limbo at the camp. Like him, most of them have been denied their freedom despite never being charged, tried or convicted of any criminal offence. This is illegal.
Dozens of inmates have resorted to hunger strikes in protest at their conditions and continuing detention. At one time over 100 detainees were on hunder strike.
The video above produced by The Guardian is based on testimonies from five detainees describing how they have been force fed with a tube. Shaker has told his lawyer about dozens of 'Code Yellow' incidents, in which imates collapse or pass out.
Immediately after his election as president in 2009, Barack Obama promised that he would close the camp within a year.
At speeches in April and May 2013 he announced further steps towards closing Guantánamo, including transferring detainees cleared for release. But these are yet to be put into action and the travesty of justice continues.
What we’re doing about it
‘Myself, my son Mohammed and my wife Asma thank all Amnesty International members for supporting me and for supporting human rights... I will never forget their help’
Sami al-Hajj, a cameraman with Al Jazeera television, detained at Guantánamo for six years
Since the first person was transferred to Guantánamo Bay in 2002 we have been campaigning for all detainees to be immediately released or charged with a recognisable criminal offence and given a fair trial.
The international outcry has led to many, like Sami, gaining their freedom. But 166 remain behind bars and we will not stop campaigning until they get justice.
While governments should of course protect citizens from the threat of terrorism, this threat should never be used to justify the violation of human rights or to repress legitimate opposition and dissent. We continue to call on President Obama to urgently close the detention centre at Guantánamo Bay.
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05 Jun 2013, 6:26pm