Please sign and share the international petition calling for the release of Shaker Aamer from Guantánamo.
If you’re anywhere near Leicester on Saturday, February 15, 2014, and can spare a fiver to hear me speak, I’m the keynote speaker at Amnesty International’s East Midlands Regional Conference, where I will be discussing the “war on terror” prison at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, which I have been researching and writing about for the last eight years.
Following my recent experiences discussing Guantánamo during my two-week “Close Guantánamo Now” US tour, I will be talking about the monstrous history of the prison, 12 years since it opened, and explaining what has happened over the last few years — primarily involving obstacles to the release of prisoners that were raised by Congress, President Obama’s refusal to bypass Congress, even though he had the power to do so, and the promises to resume releasing prisoners that President Obama finally made last year, after the prisoners had embarked on a huge hunger strike that led to severe criticism of his inaction.
The Amnesty International conference takes place at the Friends Meeting House, 16 Queens Road, Leicester, LE2 1WP. It begins at 9.30am and runs until 5pm, and I’ll be speaking at 2pm. Entry is £5 (or £4 for the unwaged). For further information, please contact Ben Ashby by email or on 07794 441189.
The conference in Leicester takes place the day after campaigners in London — myself included — will be marking the 12th anniversary of the arrival at Guantánamo of Shaker Aamer, the last British resident in the prison, who remains held despite having been cleared for release in 2007, under President Bush, and again in 2009 by President Obama’s high-level, inter-agency Guantánamo Review Task Force. Shaker arrived at Guantánamo on the same day that his youngest child was born, who, of course, he has never seen. Just in case it is unclear, I will also be talking about Shaker Aamer at the conference.
The Save Shaker Aamer Campaign is holding a protest for Shaker outside MI6 headquarters, on Albert Embankment by Vauxhall Bridge in London, beginning at 1pm on Friday February 14, and running until 3pm, asking, in particular, whether MI6 is playing a major role in preventing Shaker’s release from Guantánamo, as has been claimed by Shaker’s lawyers at Reprieve, the London-based legal action charity founded by Clive Stafford Smith. See here for the Facebook page for Friday’s event.
In December, Clive Stafford Smith told the Observer that a letter written to Shaker by the British foreign secretary William Hague “reflects very strongly that the government is working hard for Shaker, but underlines that some elements are not playing it straight.” He added, “If there were no opposition to his release, he’d come home tomorrow.”
As I explained in an article at the time:
That opposition, as Stafford Smith made clear, appears to be the British security services. As the Observer described it, Reprieve believes they are “the stumbling block to [Shaker’s] release,” with both MI5 and MI6 accused of making “defamatory statements” that have contributed to his long imprisonment without charge or trial –nearly seven years since he was first cleared for release under President Bush — and his torture, which was accepted by a judge in 2009, and led, earlier this year, to a three-day visit to Guantánamo by Metropolitan Police officers, who interviewed him about British complicity in his torture.
Last month, Shaker reported that the hunger strike at Guantánamo had resumed, with 33 men refusing food, 16 of whom were being force-fed, and just two weeks ago Clive Stafford Smith had a powerful op-ed published on CNN’s website, which I cross-posted here with my own commentary, in which — referring to the 77 prisoners, out of 155 in total, who are still held despite having been cleared for release (all but one since 2010) — he pointed out, “There can be no other prison in the world where 50 percent of the inmates are told: ‘You are cleared to leave, but you cannot go.'”
According to the latest report from Guantánamo, 34 prisoners are now on a hunger strike, with 17 being force-fed.
Note: For a detailed analysis of the potential obstacles to Shaker’s release, please see this article in the Daily Mail last April by David Rose.
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, Dimma. My sentiments exactly!
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