Dr David Nicholl to run 26-mile race to raise awareness of former UK resident Shaker Aamer’s 13-year detention
‘I ran the Marathon for Shaker a full ten years ago … I would never have dreamt that I’d actually be back here a decade later preparing to do it all over again’ - David Nicholl
A Birmingham doctor is running Sunday’s London Marathon in an orange Guantánamo-style jumpsuit and body chains to raise awareness of the case of Shaker Aamer, a former UK resident who has been held at Guantánamo Bay without charge or trial for over 13 years.
Dr David Nicholl, 50, a consultant neurologist who lives in Hagley in Worcestershire, is a long-term campaigner on Aamer’s case and ran the London Marathon for the detainee in 2005.
Dr Nicholl, an Amnesty International member, is one of Amnesty’s designated London Marathon entrants
. He has the backing of the detained man’s family for the run as efforts intensify to secure either a fair trial or an immediate release for 46-year-old Aamer. In January the Prime Minister David Cameron raised Aamer’s case in face-to-face talks with US President Barack Obama in Washington, with Mr Obama saying the US authorities would “prioritise” the case. Last month a House of Commons debate saw the UK government supporting a motion calling on the US “to release Shaker Aamer from his imprisonment in Guantánamo Bay and to allow him to return to his family in the UK.”
Last weekend, as part of his Marathon training Dr Nicholl ran an eight-mile lap around the White House before arriving at the White House gates with a 41,000-signature petition
calling for the UK and US authorities to urgently arrange Aamer’s release and return to the UK unless he’s charged and put on trial. Last month Dr Nicholl also took the petition to the gates of Downing Street.
The jumpsuit which Dr Nicholl will be wearing during this Sunday’s gruelling 26 mile race will feature an image of Aamer’s face and the slogan “Justice for Shaker Aamer”.
David Nicholl said:
“I’m running for justice for Shaker. It’s an absolute disgrace that Shaker Aamer is still behind bars at Guantánamo.
“I ran the Marathon for Shaker a full ten years ago and at the time I would never have dreamt that I’d actually be back here a decade later preparing to do it all over again.
“I’ve always said that Shaker’s case is about very basic principles - you don’t lock someone up for years without giving them a proper trial. It’s as simple as that. Of the 122 detainees still there, Shaker’s case ought to be one of the easiest to resolve: he was cleared for transfer eight years ago!
“I’d hoped when Obama announced in January that he would ‘prioritise’ Shaker’s case that he’d be back with his family in London by now. Whatever pain I go through on Sunday will be nothing compared to the years of torment Shaker and his family have gone through.”
Amnesty International UK Director Kate Allen said:
“Guantánamo has always been a travesty of justice and it’s astonishing that over 100 detainees - including Shaker - are still held at this miserable place.”
The last UK detainee
Aamer is the last of the UK nationals and residents still held at the notorious detention centre. He has been detained there since February 2002 despite never being charged or brought to trial. As long ago as 2007 he was “cleared for transfer” by the US authorities but Aamer remains at the camp for reasons that remain unclear. Last month Amnesty wrote to David Cameron seeking urgent answers over why Aamer is still detained. Meanwhile, there is growing urgency amongst campaigners amid reports that Aamer’s mental and physical health have deteriorated significantly in the past year. Aamer has been held for long periods in solitary confinement and has taken part in protracted hunger strikes in protest at his incarceration. He is reported to have numerous ailments and last year was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder.
Aamer was arrested by Afghan forces in late 2001 in Jalalabad, Afghanistan, and subsequently transferred to US custody. Aamer is originally from Saudi Arabia. His wife and four children are all British nationals who live in south London. Aamer had permission to live indefinitely in the UK on the basis of his marriage to a British national at the time of his original detention.
Via his lawyers, Aamer has alleged he was subjected to torture and other ill-treatment, including severe beatings, while held in secret US detention in Afghanistan in early 2002. He says that, as well as US officials, men claiming to be MI5 officers were present at interrogations during which his head was “repeatedly banged so hard against a wall that it bounced”. Aamer has also repeatedly alleged that he has been tortured and otherwise ill-treated at Guantánamo. According to his lawyers, Aamer has been the subject of hundreds of “Forcible Cell Extractions” at the camp, where a team of guards in riot gear forcibly remove a detainee from their cell. Aamer speaks fluent English and his lawyers understand he has been involved in protesting against conditions at the camp, including participating in hunger strikes and speaking out on behalf of other detainees. They believe he has been subjected to prolonged isolation and frequent ill-treatment as punishment for his protests over his indefinite detention.
13 years of Guantánamo
*122 men remain at Guantánamo.
*779 detainees have been held at the US detention centre at Guantánamo since 2002.
*The last release of detainees occurred on 14 January 2015, when five Yemenis were transferred out of the detention centre.
*Over 600 detainees have been transferred from Guantánamo to other countries since 2002 without being the subject of criminal charges.
*Nine detainees have died in custody in Guantánamo.
*Guantánamo was earmarked for closure by January 2010 at the latest by President Obama shortly after his inauguration as President in January 2009.
Last year Amnesty launched a global Stop Torture campaign