Posted: 11 January 2011
Detention centre reaches ninth ‘anniversary’ - denounced as ‘miserable milestone’
Letter hand-in at US embassy at 2pm
In a letter to be handed in this afternoon (11 January) to the US embassy in London, Amnesty International will issue a fresh call for action by the US authorities on the case of Shaker Aamer, 42, the former UK resident who has been detained at Guantánamo Bay for nearly nine years.
In the letter, addressed to US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and to be delivered to the US embassy on the ninth “anniversary” of the first prisoners being taken to Guantánamo on 11 January 2002, Amnesty International UK Director Kate Allen says there is “mounting concern” in Britain at the failure of the US authorities to resolve the case after almost nine years.
Ms Allen calls for “reassurance that the case will now be resolved quickly” and the US authorities are urged to agree a timetable for Aamer to be either allowed a fair trial or for him to be released and returned to his family in the UK. The letter points out that the Foreign Secretary William Hague and the Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg have both recently raised Aamer’s plight directly with Ms Clinton.
The letter hand-in comes as Amnesty activists step up their campaign for Aamer, including with online lobbying of Hillary Clinton (see www.amnesty.org.uk/shaker). In the US, Amnesty supporters are pressing President Obama, US Attorney General Eric Holder and US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates about the case, and activists are staging a rally in Washington today to mark the “anniversary”.
Shaker Aamer, who was born in Saudi Arabia but is a UK resident with a British wife and four British children, has been detained at Guantánamo since February 2002 but has never been charged or brought to trial. In November Amnesty stepped up its campaigning for Aamer and almost 6,000 Amnesty supporters wrote to their MPs asking them to press William Hague over the need for immediate action on his case.
Amnesty International UK Director Kate Allen said:
“Today we’ve reached the miserable milestone of nine years of Guantánamo Bay’s lawlessness.
“Ever since the shocking 11 September attacks Amnesty has said that where the authorities suspect someone of terrorism then they should be charged and given a fair hearing - instead we’ve had Guantánamo, a total travesty of justice.
“Enough is enough. It’s time for this travesty of justice to end. President Obama has got to deliver on his promise to close Guantánamo and all the detainees - including Shaker Aamer - have got to be either given proper trials or safely released.”
Note to editors:
Amnesty International UK Director Kate Allen will hand in the letter to the US embassy in Grosvenor Square in London (W1A 1AE) at 14.00 hrs GMT. She will be available for interview.
The full text of the letter is available on request.
In January 2009 President Barack Obama signed an executive order committing the US administration to resolving the cases of the detainees held at Guantánamo “as promptly as possible”, and to closing the detention facility “no later than one year from the date of this order”.
However 173 men remain at Guantánamo. The majority have been held there without charge or trial for more than eight years.
The Guantánamo Review Task Force established under President Obama’s executive order recommended in January 2010 that 36 detainees be prosecuted by the USA, either in federal court or in military commissions; that 48 others continue to be held without charge or trial; and that the remainder be transferred out of Guantánamo, to countries other than the USA, either immediately or eventually. Some of those who could not be returned to their home countries have been offered a new home in third countries in Europe and elsewhere.
The US administration continues to pursue trials by military commission in proceedings which do not meet international fair trial standards. To date, only one Guantánamo detainee has been transferred to the US mainland for trial in a civilian court.