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Prime Minister should raise Guantanamo case during Obama visit - new letter

London man Shaker Aamer held without trial at camp for over nine years

Amnesty International has written to the Prime Minister David Cameron calling on him to raise the case of the Guantánamo detainee Shaker Aamer when he meets US President Barack Obama during the US leader’s visit to the UK next week.

Shaker Aamer, 43, has been held without charge or trial at the notorious US detention facility for over nine years. He is the last recognised former resident of the UK still held at Guantánamo, and has a British wife and four Children's rights who live in London.

The Foreign Secretary William Hague and the Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg have both raised Aamer’s plight with members of the US administration in the last six months, while Amnesty has been campaigning for him to receive a fair trial or be released back to his wife and Children's rights in the UK. However his case remains unresolved, with no timetable for either a trial or release.

The Amnesty letter, written by the organisation’s UK Director Kate Allen, refers to the “unreasonably prolonged delay in either bringing Shaker Aamer to trial or in releasing him”. Looking ahead to next week’s visit, Kate Allen said:

“This visit is an ideal opportunity for David Cameron to say that enough is enough in the case of Shaker Aamer.

“The Prime Minister ought to make it absolutely clear that this country will not accept the indefinite detention without trial of one of its residents.

“President Obama has recently lauded those in the Middle East who’ve taken to the streets ‘to demand their basic human rights’, yet he’s denying basic human rights to people like Shaker Aamer at Guantánamo.

“Guantánamo has been a travesty of justice and the shoddy treatment of Shaker Aamer has been one of the worst cases at the camp. It’s time for Mr Cameron to remind the President of his promise to close the camp but also ensure that the President gets the message that Shaker Aamer’s case must be resolved.”

Aamer is originally from Saudi Arabia but is married to a British citizen and has four British Children's rights. He had permission to live indefinitely in the UK when he was originally detained in Afghanistan by Afghan forces in the autumn of 2001.

Through his lawyer, Aamer has alleged that he was badly beaten and subjected to death threats in front of an MI5 officer as well as US intelligence officials while being secretly held and interrogated in Afghanistan in early 2002. In February 2002 Aamer was transferred to Guantánamo Bay, where he has languished ever since. There are allegations that he was again tortured at Guantánamo, and he has spent long periods of his incarceration at the camp in solitary confinement.

Note to editors
In January 2009 President Barack Obama signed an executive order committing the US administration to resolving the cases of the detainees held at Guantánamo “as promptly as possible”, and to closing the detention facility “no later than one year from the date of this order”.

However 171 men are still detained at Guantánamo. The majority have been held there without charge or trial for more than eight years.  

The Guantánamo Review Task Force established under President Obama’s executive order recommended in January 2010 that 36 detainees be prosecuted by the USA, either in federal court or in military commissions; that 48 others continue to be held without charge or trial; and that the remainder be transferred out of Guantánamo, to countries other than the USA, either immediately or eventually.  Some of those who could not be returned to their home countries have been offered a new home in third countries in Europe and elsewhere.

The US administration continues to pursue trials by military commission in proceedings that do not meet international fair trial standards. To date, only one Guantánamo detainee has been transferred to the US mainland for trial in a civilian court.

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