‘This terrible farce has gone on long enough’ - Kate Allen
Amnesty International has launched a new petition calling on Prime Minister David Cameron and US President Barack Obama to urgently arrange the release of Shaker Aamer, the only former UK resident still held at Guantánamo Bay.
The online petition to the two leaders - www.amnesty.org.uk/shaker
- comes ahead of the 13th anniversary on Sunday of the first detainees being taken to the US military base in Cuba on 11 January 2002.
The 46-year-old Aamer whose family live in south London has been held without charge or trial at Guantánamo for almost all of the 13-year lifetime of the camp - since 14 February 2002 - and there are growing fears for his mental and physical well-being.
Aamer, who has never been charged and was “cleared for transfer” from Guantánamo as long ago as 2007, has been held for long periods in solitary confinement and has taken part in protracted hunger strikes against his continuing incarceration. He is reported to have numerous ailments and last year was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder.
The new petition calls for the release and return to the UK of Mr Aamer “without delay”, and for there to be an immediate investigation into “all allegations that Shaker Aamer has been subjected to torture and other ill-treatment”. In November, Downing Street confirmed that the UK government had requested Aamer’s release from Guantánamo - one of a number of such calls the UK says it has made to the US authorities - though there has been no sign of Aamer’s release despite a flurry of transfers from the camp late in 2014.
Amnesty International UK Director Kate Allen said:
“Since the publication of the report into CIA torture there’s been renewed interest in Shaker’s plight, and not before time.
“It’s been 13 shameful years since the US authorities took those first orange-jumpsuited detainees to Guantánamo, and Shaker’s been there almost for the duration.
“We need the UK government to definitively establish what the blockage over his release actually is - this terrible farce has gone on long enough.
“Messrs Cameron and Obama need to put the relevant officials in a room and sort out the means of releasing Shaker without delay - in days, not weeks.”
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.