An open letter to David Cameron demanding the return from Guantánamo of Shaker Aamer

22.6.10

Yesterday, I wrote about how the Save Shaker Aamer Campaign, based in the home borough of Shaker Aamer, the last British resident in Guantánamo, had handed in an open letter to Prime Minister David Cameron on Friday, asking the PM and foreign secretary William Hague “to make the strongest representations possible to the US administration to secure Shaker Aamer’s release and return to this country,” and reproducing a press statement issued by the SSAC.

I also mentioned my recent article, “Murders at Guantánamo: The Cover-Up Continues,” and explained how it “provides a distressing insight into what may be one of the reasons why Shaker Aamer has not yet been released” — despite being cleared for release over three years ago — “because he was tortured in Guantánamo on the same night in June 2006 that three other prisoners died, in circumstances that have never been adequately explained.”

I also mentioned how Shaker’s story is featured in the new documentary film, “Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo” (co-directed by Polly Nash and myself) — and available here on DVD — and urged readers to write letters to William Hague — and to their MPs — which are available here and here.

I’m delighted to say that I have now received a copy of the letter handed in the David Cameron, which is posted below. As well as stressing the injustice of his ongoing detention, the letter also draws the Prime Minister’s attention to the recent report published by President Obama’s Guantánamo Review Task Force, regarding the “disposition” of the remaining prisoners, including Shaker Aamer, and clearly seeks information about what the Task Force decided in his case, and it also refers to a recent appeal for Shaker’s release that was made by the former hostage Terry Waite.

An open letter to Prime Minister David Cameron

Dear Prime Minister,

We are writing again to request that you act immediately to secure Shaker Aamer’s release and return home to the UK. It is difficult for anyone to imagine the level of suffering undergone by Shaker Aamer — a father-of-four from Battersea — who has been the victim of mercenary kidnapping, unjust detention, and brutal torture. Shaker has been deprived of his freedom and human rights and incarcerated in Guantánamo for more than eight years without being charged with any offence.

In the past, Mr. Cameron, you have spoken highly of Britain’s “proud tradition of providing a safe haven for those fleeing persecution” and, it would seem, you have a genuine respect for due legal process. Shaker too has been persecuted and has been held in solitary confinement. He has been subject to abuse and torture, and to the constant agony of not knowing when his unjust imprisonment and torment will end.

I am sure you agree that someone wholly innocent, who has never been charged or brought to trial for any offence, has every right to family life. Shaker was failed by the previous government and left unprotected. You and the new British government now have the means to bring about a positive resolution of the situation.

The Save Shaker Aamer Campaign (SSAC) welcomes foreign secretary William Hague’s statements with respect to an inquiry into UK complicity in torture. It would be a travesty of justice if such an inquiry took place while, at the same time, Shaker Aamer continues to be subjected to torture in Guantánamo. His story of abusive interrogations and torture must be heard. Any inquiry must be full and open and have the widest possible remit.

An important and relevant document, the “Final Report of the Guantánamo Review Task Force,” published on 22nd Jan. 2010, decided on the “proper disposition” — transfer, prosecution, or continued detention — of all 240 detainees subject to review. As you will be aware, the purpose of the review was to collect and examine information from across the US government to determine which detainees the US should transfer or release from custody, prosecute, or detain.

The previous UK government was unable to clarify the situation for us in Shaker’s case — they simply reiterated the view that any decision rested with the US. In other words, the UK government’s approaches to the US have been weak and characterised by long periods of silence and inaction resulting in the unacceptable situation that we are still in the dark regarding what is happening to Shaker.

It is our view that Shaker poses no threat to the national security of the US administration. Nothing should stand in the way of Shaker being returned to the UK, especially as he has already been cleared for release back in 2007. All other British former detainees have been released and returned to Britain after having suffered lengthy and horrific traumatic experiences and have re-engaged with British society in a wholly positive way. We have no reason to think Shaker would be any different. He has the love of his family and friends as well as the significant support of his local community.

Former hostage, humanitarian and writer Terry Waite CBE, who, as you know, in 1987 travelled to Lebanon as an envoy for the Church of England, to try and secure the release of four hostages, was kidnapped himself and held captive until 1991. Pledging his support for Shaker’s release, Terry has said, “I am writing this brief note in support of the British resident Shaker Aamer who was cleared for release in 2007 by the former President of the USA, George W. Bush, but continues to remain in detention in Guantánamo Bay … The fact that individuals have been detained for years in Guantánamo Bay and elsewhere, on suspicion, is disgraceful and ought to have no place in the procedures of any country that prides itself on respect for the rule of law … I add my voice to the many thousands of people who are profoundly disturbed by the detention of Mr. Aamer and others and would urge that he be released forthwith.”

SSAC calls upon you, Prime Minister, along with foreign secretary William Hague and the British government, to take up Terry Waite’s advice, to make the strongest representations possible to the US administration to secure Shaker’s release and return to this country. It is time for Britain to be seen again as a country that cares about justice, protects the innocent and shows a respect for others. High-level diplomatic, legal and medical delegations must be sent to the US and Guantánamo to secure Shaker’s release and re-instate his human rights.

We would appreciate receiving your views on all that is stated above.

Sincerely,

Ray Silk, Save Shaker Aamer Campaign
Jean Lambert MEP
Victoria Brittain, author and playwright
Moazzam Begg, director, Cageprisoners
John Clossick, Wandsworth Stop the War Coalition
Bruce McKenzie, Wandsworth Green Party

Note: For my analysis of the “Final Report of the Guantánamo Review Task Force,” please see my article, “Does Obama Really Know or Care About Who Is at Guantánamo?

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) and of two other books: Stonehenge: Celebration and Subversion and The Battle of the Beanfield. 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, currently on tour in the UK, and available on DVD here), and my definitive Guantánamo habeas list, and, if you appreciate my work, feel free to make a donation.

One Response

  1. Frances Madeson says...

    It’s a powerful letter. I hope they’ll forward the PM’s response to you for publication here when it arrives.

    On April 11th, I had occasion to speak face-to-face with U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer, member of the Senate Judiciary Committee and the Subcommittee on Terrorism, Technology, and Homeland Security. While holding his hand in a prolonged handshake, not whispering, but softly, I told him that I was concerned about the Guantanamo detainees. He had to lean in to hear me, we were very close, intimate really, our eyes were locked, our faces mere inches away from each other’s. He’s not only shrewd but a very smart man. He knows I could have chosen to say anything to him in that moment, but that’s what I asked for. Concern. Andy, I know he’s a politician and a practiced one at that so without drawing any conclusions about what it might mean I’ll just report that his gaze was steady and his voice unquavering when he told me that they’re working on it.

    I read the timbre of this letter on behalf of Aamer and remember my own polite but insistent approach. If things don’t start breaking our way soon, next time, I promise I won’t be so reasonable, so gentle, so scrupulous about avoiding the Senator’s public embarrassment in his own community.

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Andy Worthington

Investigative journalist, author, campaigner, commentator and public speaker. Recognized as an authority on Guantánamo and the “war on terror.” Co-founder, Close Guantánamo, co-director, We Stand With Shaker. Also, singer and songwriter (The Four Fathers) and photographer.
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