Guantánamo 14th anniversary: reminder of need for UK torture inquiry

‘Shaker Aamer’s chilling allegation that he was tortured in the presence of British agents in Afghanistan should be fully investigated’ - Kate Allen

On the 14th anniversary (11 January) of the first detainees being taken to the now notorious US military detention centre at Guantánamo Bay in Cuba, Amnesty has repeated its call for the camp’s closure and said that the allegations of mistreatment of British nationals and residents at Guantánamo should be investigated as part of a wider independent, judge-led inquiry into the UK’s involvement in torture.

Last week two Yemeni detainees - Mahmud Umar Muhammad bin Atef and Khalid Muhammad Salih al-Dhuby - and a Kuwaiti detainee - Fayez al-Kandari - were transferred out of Guantánamo, bringing the number of remaining detainees at the detention centre down to 104.

Forty-five of those still held - many for over a decade - have been cleared for transfer yet remain behind bars. See Amnesty’s new briefing on Guantánamo.

When US President Barack Obama came to power seven years ago (January 2009), he signed an executive order for Guantánamo’s closure within a year. Recently the Obama administration has hinted at a plan to close the camp by moving some detainees into the United States for continued indefinite detention.

Amnesty International USA’s Security and Human Rights Director Naureen Shah said:

“President Obama’s proposal to relocate some detainees for indefinite detention in the US would merely change Guantánamo’s zip code. It would also set a dangerous precedent that could be exploited by future administrations. President Obama must end, not relocate, indefinite detention without charge.

“The population at Guantánamo can be substantially reduced by transferring the dozens of detainees who have already been approved for transfer. Detainees who cannot be transferred should be charged in federal court or released and investigations should be expanded into reports of torture and other human rights violations suffered by detainees.”

A briefing on the Obama government's failure to close down the detention centre is here

Shaker Aamer’s release and torture allegations

After his release from Guantánamo last October, the UK resident Shaker Aamer alleged that he had been tortured in secret US detention in Afghanistan in early 2002 prior to his rendition to Cuba. As well as US officials, Aamer believes that MI5 officers were present at interrogations during which his head was “repeatedly banged so hard against a wall that it bounced”. Aamer has also alleged that he has been tortured and otherwise ill-treated at Guantánamo. According to his lawyers, he was the subject of hundreds of violent “Forcible Cell Extractions” at the camp, where a team of guards in riot gear forcibly remove a detainee from their cell.

Amnesty International UK Director Kate Allen said:

“Shaker Aamer’s chilling allegation that he was tortured in the presence of British agents in Afghanistan should be fully investigated as part of an independent, judge-led inquiry into a whole set of allegations that UK officials were involved in kidnap, detention and torture overseas during the ‘war on terror’.

“Shockingly, Mr Aamer was held for the vast majority of the 14 full years of Guantánamo’s disgraceful existence. Getting to the bottom of what happened to him is part of understanding what has happened at this notorious place.”

Amnesty’s campaign for a UK torture inquiry is here.

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