STOP PRESS December 8: I just heard from Joy Hurcombe, the chair of the Save Shaker Aamer Campaign, that Clive Stafford Smith will also be speaking at the Parliamentary meeting on Tuesday.
If you’re in London, or anywhere near, and you care about the ongoing injustices of Guantánamo, then please come to a Parliamentary meeting for Shaker Aamer, the last British resident in Guantánamo Bay, on Tuesday December 10, which is Human Rights Day. Established by the UN in 1950, Human Rights Day marks the anniversary of the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which was approved on December 10, 1948.
Please also sign the international petition calling for his release, on the Care 2 Petition site.
Shaker, whose voice was recently recorded at Guantánamo by a CBS news crew, is one of 82 prisoners in Guantánamo who have long been cleared for release but are still held, and his continued imprisonment remains thoroughly unacceptable, because, although Congress has raised obstacles to the release of prisoners to countries they regard as dangerous, there is no conceivable way that the UK — America’s staunchest ally in the “war on terror” — could be regarded as an unsafe destination. Furthermore, the release yesterday of two Algerian prisoners who did not want to be repatriated, because they fear for their safety in their home country, which has a dubious human rights record, is not only a deeply troubling outcome for them, but also adds insult to injury where Shaker is concerned.
On the 65th anniversary of the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the Parliamentary meeting, organised by John McDonnell MP, one of the few genuinely principled MPs in Parliament, is entitled, “Why is Shaker Aamer still in Guantanamo? What about his human rights?” and is taking place from 7-9pm in Committee Room 10 in the House of Commons, London WC1A 0AA.
Speakers, in addition to John McDonnell, are the journalists Andy Worthington, Yvonne Ridley and Victoria Brittain; and Joy Hurcombe, the chair of the Save Shaker Aamer Campaign. The Green MP Caroline Lucas hoping to come, and Jane Ellison, the Conservative MP for Battersea — and Shaker’s constituency MP — has also been invited.
The Parliamentary meeting, following on the from the march and rally for Shaker that the Save Shaker Aamer Campaign recently held in Battersea, provides another opportunity to keep the spotlight on the British government, regarding ministers’ failure to secure Shaker’s release from Guantánamo. Although the government has repeatedly stated that it is working hard to secure Shaker’s release — and David Cameron apparently raised his case with President Obama during a recent G8 summit — it remains perplexing that he is still held, as the UK ought to be able to secure his return if it was made enough of an issue.
I hope to see some of you at the House of Commons on Tuesday, and in the meantime please read Shaker’s latest words from Guantánamo, as published in the Huffington Post, based on a recent phone call between Shaker and one of his lawyers, Clive Stafford Smith, the director of the legal action charity Reprieve, whose lawyers represent 15 prisoners still held at Guantánamo.
I have a very strong sense of family values, which makes my life in Guantánamo Bay a thousand times worse than it might be. I have four beautiful children who I have not seen for twelve years. My youngest, Faris, was born on February 14, 2002, which was the day I arrived in this terrible place. So I have never touched him, never even hugged him.
I believe that hugging kids is like a jar that you are filling with love. You need to hug them as much as you possibly can when they are young.
When I am in my cell I try to meditate. I try to imagine I am on a beach. In my imagination I go to the UK. As I circle around the sky above London, I look out for my house. Finally I locate it there in Battersea, and I swoop down to sit outside the window. There I sit, quietly watching my kids. Sometimes, I find myself talking to my wife. I feel as if it is real, and it gives me real solace. I want my family to know I am strong because they are strong. And always remember: no regrets, no regrets, no regrets.
I worry for other people in this prison. I know that Prime Minister David Cameron has specifically asked President Barack Obama to let me come home to my family. If two of the most powerful countries in the world can’t do it, what hope is there for other detainees?
I do not understand why they won’t let me go, and nobody is willing to give me any kind of an explanation. I do not spend too much time looking for an apology for everything that has happened to me here. It is all political. They won’t admit mistakes. It is all about covering up.
I know I will leave here one day, perhaps soon. I have long been cleared, for six years now. But what of the other men here? Again, I worry about the 80 people who have not been cleared more than I do about myself and the other 83 who have. Some might get a trial of sorts, but scores never will. They say it’s because they can’t use the evidence against them in court. Even if we believe this excuse, we might well ask why the evidence is inadmissible — is it because they tortured the men? If so, then a thousand years of experience tells us that the statements are certainly unreliable, and probably false.
But let’s pretend for a moment that the torture statements made by these men are true: the US should look at the worst that each person is meant to have done, assume they did it even if they did not, and then ask whether they deserve more than twelve years of abuse in this terrible prison.
We might consider twelve years in a terrible prison, for an unidentified crime, imposed without a trial, as harsh under the most despotic regime. Surely, even for the 40 or 50 people who have not been cleared, but will never be tried, America has exacted its pound of flesh?
Note: For further information about next Tuesday’s Parliamentary meeting, please contact Ray Silk of the Save Shaker Aamer Campaign on 07756 493877. And if you’re coming on Tuesday make sure that you allow up to half an hour to go through security at the St. Stephen’s Gate entrance to the House of Commons. Please also note that the SSAC’s weekly vigils for Shaker, which take place in Parliament Square, opposite the Houses of Parliament, will continue on Wednesday December 11 and Wednesday December 18 from 1-3pm.
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, and “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.
Thanks to everyone who has been liking and sharing this. Please also sign and share the international petition calling for his release, if you haven’t already: http://www.thepetitionsite.com/1/shaker-aamerguantanamo-bay/
Andy, well done! Any time you’d like a Master SERE Instructor, one who worked intimately with the Torture Doctors, Jessen & Mitchell… I’d be more than willing to come over (at my own expense) to join you for an event! Best personal regards mate, V/R, Kearnsey.
Thank you, Kearnsey. We will hopefully be meeting in San Francisco on Jan. 13, with Jeff Kaye and Debra Sweet, for a screening of “Doctors of the Dark Side” followed by a lively discussion.
Investigative journalist, author, filmmaker, photographer and Guantanamo expert
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