Cameron 'shouldn't leave Washington without cast-iron guarantee' over Shaker Aamer release

Shaker Aamer has been held for nearly the entire 13 years of Guantánamo's lifetime © Amnesty International

‘Mr Cameron needs to make it absolutely clear to the US President that Shaker’s release should be a matter of days in coming’ - Kate Allen

David Cameron “shouldn’t leave Washington without a cast-iron guarantee” over Shaker Aamer’s  release from Guantánamo Bay, said Amnesty International today, ahead of the Prime Minister’s two-day visit to the USA.

Mr Cameron is visiting the USA on 15 and 16 January and the plight of Mr Shaker - the only former UK resident still detained at the camp - is expected to be on the agenda during talks between the two leaders.

The 46-year-old Aamer, whose family live in south London, has been held without charge or trial at Guantánamo for almost 13 years - since 14 February 2002 - and there are growing fears for his mental and physical well-being. Aamer was “cleared for transfer” from Guantánamo as long ago as 2007 yet has continued to be held at the camp, including for long periods in solitary confinement. He is reported to be suffering from numerous medical ailments and last year was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder.

Amnesty has recently launched a petition calling on David Cameron and Barack Obama to secure Aamer’s release and return to the UK “without delay”. The petition, which has gained 17,000 signatures in less than a week, requests that the two leaders “secure the release of Shaker Aamer and return him to the UK without delay, if he is not to be charged and brought to fair trial.”

Amnesty International UK Director Kate Allen said:

“David Cameron shouldn’t leave Washington without a cast-iron guarantee over Shaker Aamer’s release from Guantánamo Bay.

“This terrible farce has gone on for 13 miserable years. We need a date - no more delays, no more excuses.

“Mr Cameron needs to make it absolutely clear to the US President that Shaker’s release should be a matter of days in coming, not weeks or months.

“Messrs Cameron and Obama need to put the relevant officials in a room and sort out the means of releasing Shaker without delay.”

Torture allegations

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 UK Security Service (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 defiance against his indefinite detention and ill-treatment.

13 years of Guantánamo

*127 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 20 December 2014, when four men were transferred to their native Afghanistan.

*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. 

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