New letter to William Hague, asking him to secure the return from Guantánamo of Shaker Aamer

22.5.10

With the welcome news that foreign secretary William Hague has ordered a judicial inquiry into allegations of British complicity in torture, I’ve amended the letter to him that I drafted just four days ago, which, in addition to calling for the return from Guantánamo of Shaker Aamer, the last British resident in the prison (and also calling for the UK to accept cleared prisoners from other countries who cannot be safely repatriated), also urged him to follow through on his impressive track record of calling for an investigation into allegations of British complicity in torture abroad.

While the scope of this inquiry has yet to be established, it is clearly no longer appropriate to ask Mr. Hague to follow through on his promise to launch an inquiry, and as a result an amended letter below now focuses primarily on Shaker Aamer and other prisoners in Guantánamo, although I also thought it was important to include an amended paragraph asking Mr. Hague to ensure that the scope of the inquiry will be as wide as possible, and pointing out that no credible inquiry can take place while Shaker Aamer is still held, because, as was revealed in a UK court case in December, he has alleged that MI5 agents were present while he was being tortured in US custody in Afghanistan, and, in February, the Metropolitan Police announced that they were investigating these allegations.

As before, please cut and paste it and send it to Mr. Hague, and also feel free to cross-post it, and to circulate it widely. There is an FCO feedback form here, should you wish to send your letter via the web.

A letter to William Hague calling for action on Guantánamo, and the return of Shaker Aamer

William Hague MP
Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs
Foreign and Commonwealth Office
King Charles Street
London, SW1A 2AH

Dear Foreign Secretary,

I am writing to you regarding the closure of the US prison at Guantánamo Bay, and to ask you to do all in your power to secure the return to the UK of Shaker Aamer, the last British resident in the prison — and also to take other cleared prisoners who cannot be sent back to their home countries.

As you know, between 2004 and 2007, the Labour government secured the release of all the British nationals held in Guantánamo, and all but one of the British residents. That man is Shaker Aamer, who has a British wife and four British children, and was cleared for release from Guantánamo in 2007. However, although government officials pressed for his return for over three years, they were ultimately unsuccessful in their endeavours. Given our special relationship with the US, which, as you recently stated, should be “solid not slavish”, I urge you to do all in your power to secure his immediate release.

As well as securing the release of Shaker Aamer, I would also like to ask you to help President Obama close Guantánamo by offering homes in the UK to other prisoners cleared for release by the President’s Task Force, out of the many dozens of men who cannot be repatriated because of fears that they will be tortured or subjected to other ill-treatment, and who, as a result, are effectively stateless.

One suitable candidate is Ahmed Belbacha, an Algerian man who lived in Bournemouth and cannot return to Algeria for fear for his life. Mr. Belbacha was also cleared for release in 2007, and yet he remains in Guantánamo because no other country will take him, and because the Labour government, which could so easily have offered him a new home, turned its back on him.

By offering a home to Mr. Belbacha, the UK would join an illustrious list of other European countries — Albania, Belgium, Bulgaria, France, Hungary, Ireland, Portugal, Slovakia, Spain and Switzerland — who have accepted cleared prisoners on a purely humanitarian basis. There are no reasons for the British government not to accept a small number of prisoners on a humanitarian basis to help close Guantánamo Bay.

In addition, while congratulating you on your commitment to launch a judicial inquiry into allegations of British complicity in torture, I urge you to ensure that its scope will be as broad as possible, given the dozens of allegations relating to the intelligence services’ involvement in torture from 2001 to the present day.

I must also stress that this inquiry will be hollow if Mr. Aamer remains in Guantánamo while it takes place, because his allegations that MI5 agents were present while he was tortured in Afghanistan (which were revealed in a UK court last December) are being investigated by the Metropolitan Police (as was announced in February), and it would be shocking if his case was investigated by an inquiry while he remains unjustly deprived of his liberty.

I look forward to hearing from you.

Yours faithfully,

Note: As before, this letter, and an updated version of a related letter to MPs (which also calls for action on the use of secret evidence and control orders in the UK) will be handed out at future screenings of the new documentary film, “Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo” (directed by Polly Nash and myself, and with a focus on Shaker’s story), to continue the campaign for Shaker’s release that I undertook, primarily with former prisoner Omar Deghayes, but also with other guests, including Polly and former prisoner Moazzam Begg, during screenings of the film between February and the day of the General Election.

Please also note that I have not included links in the template letter above, but see here for information about Ahmed Belbacha, and see here for articles dealing with the other European countries who have taken cleared prisoners from Guantánamo, even though they have no previous connection with that country.

Andy Worthington is the author of The Guantánamo Files: The Stories of the 774 Detainees in America’s Illegal Prison (published by Pluto Press, distributed by Macmillan in the US, and available from Amazon — click on the following for the US and the UK). To receive new articles in your inbox, please subscribe to my RSS feed (and I can also be found on Facebook and Twitter). Also see my definitive Guantánamo prisoner list, updated in January 2010, details about the new documentary film, “Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo” (co-directed by Polly Nash and Andy Worthington, and currently on tour in the UK), my definitive Guantánamo habeas list, and, if you appreciate my work, feel free to make a donation.

2 Responses

  1. Stair Dickerman says...

    William Hague MP
    Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs
    Foreign and Commonwealth Office
    King Charles Street
    London, SW1A 2AH

    Dear Foreign Secretary,

    I am writing to you regarding the closure of the US prison at Guantánamo Bay, and to ask you to do all in your power to secure the return to the UK of Shaker Aamer, the last British resident in the prison — and also to take other cleared prisoners who cannot be sent back to their home countries.

    As you know, between 2004 and 2007, the Labour government secured the release of all the British nationals held in Guantánamo, and all but one of the British residents. That man is Shaker Aamer, who has a British wife and four British children, and was cleared for release from Guantánamo in 2007. However, although government officials pressed for his return for over three years, they were ultimately unsuccessful in their endeavours. Given our special relationship with the US, which, as you recently stated, should be “solid not slavish”, I urge you to do all in your power to secure his immediate release.

    As well as securing the release of Shaker Aamer, I would also like to ask you to help President Obama close Guantánamo by offering homes in the UK to other prisoners cleared for release by the President’s Task Force, out of the many dozens of men who cannot be repatriated because of fears that they will be tortured or subjected to other ill-treatment, and who, as a result, are effectively stateless.

    One suitable candidate is Ahmed Belbacha, an Algerian man who lived in Bournemouth and cannot return to Algeria for fear for his life. Mr. Belbacha was also cleared for release in 2007, and yet he remains in Guantánamo because no other country will take him, and because the Labour government, which could so easily have offered him a new home, turned its back on him.

    By offering a home to Mr. Belbacha, the UK would join an illustrious list of other European countries — Albania, Belgium, Bulgaria, France, Hungary, Ireland, Portugal, Slovakia, Spain and Switzerland — who have accepted cleared prisoners on a purely humanitarian basis. There are no reasons for the British government not to accept a small number of prisoners on a humanitarian basis to help close Guantánamo Bay.

    In addition, while congratulating you on your commitment to launch a judicial inquiry into allegations of British complicity in torture, I urge you to ensure that its scope will be as broad as possible, given the dozens of allegations relating to the intelligence services’ involvement in torture from 2001 to the present day.

    I must also stress that this inquiry will be hollow if Mr. Aamer remains in Guantánamo while it takes place, because his allegations that MI5 agents were present while he was tortured in Afghanistan (which were revealed in a UK court last December) are being investigated by the Metropolitan Police (as was announced in February), and it would be shocking if his case was investigated by an inquiry while he remains unjustly deprived of his liberty.

    I look forward to hearing from you.

    Yours faithfully,

    Stair Dickeeman

  2. John Steggles says...

    Guantanamo continues to be a festering sore on the conscience of humanity. Please do your utmost to eliminate it completely.

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