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Guantanamo: call for Cameron to 'urgently secure' release of Shaker Aamer

‘Does Mr Cameron want to be remembered as the prime minister who acted too late to save Shaker Aamer?’ - Kate Allen

Amnesty International has launched a new call on Prime Minister David Cameron to “urgently secure” the release of Shaker Aamer, the last former UK resident held at Guantánamo Bay.

Last week Mr Cameron said in Parliament that he had raised Shaker Aamer’s case “directly” with the US President at the recent G8 meeting, and that he would be writing to Mr Obama “about the specifics of the case and everything that we can do to expedite it”.

In recent years transfers of detainees out of Guantánamo have ground to a halt after the White House signed a series of National Defense Authorization Acts, legislation which places obstacles in the way of transfers. Amnesty strongly opposes such provisions, but even under the terms of the legislation the obstacles are not insurmountable.

Amnesty’s online campaign ( ) targeting Downing Street aims to generate political momentum in a case which has dragged on for years without resolution. A similar campaign is being mounted by Amnesty supporters in the USA, also calling on the White House to urgently arrange Aamer’s release to the UK.

Amnesty International UK Director Kate Allen said:

“David Cameron’s recent remarks about Shaker’s case are encouraging but we need to see the UK and the USA urgently agreeing to his release and return to the UK.

“We need follow-through after the Prime Minister’s letter and sustained diplomatic activity.

“Time is of the essence - I can’t stress this enough. There’s an understandable concern that detainees at Guantánamo - Shaker included - could die at the camp before they are ever released.

“Does Mr Cameron want to be remembered as the prime minister who acted too late to save Shaker Aamer?”

In a letter to the Prime Minister, Kate Allen has asked that Mr Cameron “reaffirm” that the UK has agreed to accept Shaker Aamer from US custody. Mindful of the danger that the issue of Aamer’s fate could once again fall off the transatlantic political agenda, Ms Allen’s letter also insist that all diplomatic efforts on his case must be “sustained”.

Note to editors:
Shaker Aamer, 44, has been held without charge or trial at Guantánamo for over 11 years (since 14 February 2002). He was cleared for transfer from Guantánamo as long ago as 2009. Aamer is reportedly one of the more than 100 Guantánamo detainees currently on hunger strike in protest at their continued detention, and there are serious concerns about his health.

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's rights 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”. Since his transfer to Guantánamo, Aamer has repeatedly alleged that he has also been tortured and otherwise ill-treated there. According to his lawyers, throughout much of his detention he has been held in solitary confinement. 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.

Guantánamo was earmarked for closure by January 2010 by President Obama shortly after his election. In recent years the Obama administration has blamed its failure to close the detention centre on opposition from the US Congress, in particular the National Defense Authorization Act, legislation which places obstacles in the way of Guantánamo’s closure. Under international law, each branch of government is obliged to ensure compliance with the country’s human rights obligations; one branch of government cannot point to the failings of another branch to excuse non-compliance with its international legal obligations.

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