Last Thursday, the Save Shaker Aamer Campaign — dedicated to securing the release from Guantánamo of the last British resident in the prison — held its final vigil outside Parliament prior to MPs’ summer recess. The campaigners had been holding lunchtime vigils on weekdays since May, and I was delighted to turn up to show my support. Please see below for a three-minute video in which I explained why the vigil was taking place, which was recorded by a representative of the PCS union.
It is, of course, outrageous that Shaker is still held, as he was cleared for release under President Bush in 2007, and again under President Obama in January 2010, along with 85 of the other 166 men still held. Opportunistic opposition to the release of prisoners by lawmakers in Congress, and shameful inaction on the part of President Obama are responsible for keeping these 86 men in Guantánamo.
Moreover, there are still no signs that any of the men will be released, even though they have been on a hunger strike to highlight their plight since February, and two months ago President Obama, responding to unparalleled criticism internationally and domestically, promised to resume releasing prisoners.
Please see below for the video, and if you like it, please feel free to share it:
I can scarcely express my disappointment with President Obama, who should not have promised to resume releasing prisoners if he had no intention of doing so, and who will be remembered for his cowardice and hypocrisy unless he is true to his word. Furthermore, in the recently released “Final Dispositions” of President Obama’s Guantánamo Review Task Force (dated January 22, 2010, but only made publicly available on June 17, 2013), it appears that campaigners’ and lawyers’ long-held fears that the US is intent on sending Shaker back to Saudi Arabia, the country of his birth, and not the UK, are true.
The entry for Shaker recommends, “Transfer to [redacted], subject to appropriate security measures, including [redacted],” and it appears that the space for the destination county is the right size for “Saudi Arabia” but not “United Kingdom.” This also corresponds to distressing rumors we have been hearing about for many years.
None of this lets the British government off the hook, as it remains imperative that ministers secure his release here, to be reunited with his British wife and British children, rather than in Saudi Arabia, where he may well be imprisoned and prohibited from being reunited with his family.
The obligation is on the British government, not just because Shaker was given indefinite leave to remain in the UK, and not just because of ministers’ failure to secure his release for the last eleven and half years, but also because the Metropolitan Police have been investigating Shaker’s claim, accepted by a British court in December 2009, that British agents were present while he was abused by US operatives in a prison in Afghanistan shortly after his capture.
When Parliament reconvenes, we will be pressing the government to make clear that they will accept nothing less than Shaker’s return to the UK — and that they will be actively pushing for it, and not accepting whatever nonsense the Americans have come up with.
I do wonder how much longer this disgraceful state of affairs can continue, but while it does, it makes a mockery of claims by either the US or the UK government that they are countries that respect the rule of law. Shaker, as a passionate and eloquent advocate for the rights of the prisoners, may embarrass both governments through his knowledge of what has taken place at Guantánamo and elsewhere in the “war on terror,” but they both need to understand that they will have to live with that.
Shaker Aamer needs to be released, and he needs to be released now.
Andy Worthington is a freelance investigative journalist, activist, author, photographer and film-maker. He is the co-founder of the “Close Guantánamo” campaign, and 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. He is also the co-director (with Polly Nash) of the documentary film, “Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo” (available on DVD here — or here for the US).
To receive new articles in your inbox, please subscribe to Andy’s RSS feed — and he can also be found on Facebook (and here), Twitter, Flickr and YouTube. Also see the four-part definitive Guantánamo prisoner list, “The Complete Guantánamo Files,” an ongoing, 70-part, million-word series drawing on files released by WikiLeaks in April 2011. Also see the definitive Guantánamo habeas list and the chronological list of all Andy’s articles.
Hi andy just heard that there could be a prisoner swap for our dear lovely brave dr. Aafia siddique – any news??? God willing this is true pls let me know anything u have. God bless u and urs.
On Facebook, Pauline Kiernan wrote:
Umm Ghazi wrote:
Thanks, Pauline and Umm Ghazi. Good to hear from you.
I hadn’t heard anything, Su. Then I Googled and saw that it’s all over the Pakistani media. Not sure what to think, to be honest …
this just in- the u.s. has offered to release Aafia in a prisoner exchange deal
it’s always so hard to believe something good can happen ya know? just hopin right now….
Great to hear from you, Paul!
I’m still awaiting confirmation from the Western media, but Aafia Siddiqui’s case was always one of the most horrible in the whole of the “war on terror,” and that 86-year sentence was outrageous. I wish there were prisoner exchanges available for some of the poor men in Guantanamo, who have discovered that “cleared for release” means, in Obama-speak, “Ha, just kidding. You’re going to rot here for the rest of your life.”
I understand from this, that the parliamentarian attention for Shaker Aamewr -based on the petition- has yielded nothing so far and he has to wait until after recess before the matter might or might not be taken up again?
Would be great if Aafia Siddiqi would be sent home (and hopefully released soon after), but against whom would she have to be swapped?
What have European rules to do with a Pakistan – USA swap?
It seems odd and does not suggest swapping against a US citizen held in Pakistan (if there is any at this moment?).
Heaven forbid it turns out to be some form of blackmail : we’ll give you Dr Siddiqui, if you cooperate in the extradition of some ‘terror suspect’.
With this government in the US, nothing (of this kind) seems impossible.
Great to hear from you. I hope all is well with you.
Shaker’s case is allegedly the subject of negotiations between the US and Uk governments, which has put the Parliamentary debate on the back burner, but the worry is that the UK is now prepared to accept that Shaker isn’t “cleared for release,” just “approved for transfer” – to Saudi Arabia. When Parliament reconvenes, we need to have new challenges ready.
I can’t begin to say how disappointing all of this is, but I know you will feel the same.
How many years of outrageous injustice must these men endure …
[...] de junio, como ya informé aquí , los abogados de cuatro de los prisioneros de Guantánamo – Shaker Aamer , el último residente británico en la prisión, Nabil Hadjarab y Ahmed Belbacha , ambos [...]
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