Photos: Free Shaker Aamer from Guantánamo – Parliamentary Vigil, July 16, 2014

22.7.14

See my photos of the latest protest for Shaker Aamer on Flickr here.

On July 16, 2014, I joined campaigners with the Save Shaker Aamer Campaign — calling for the release from Guantánamo of Shaker Aamer, the last British resident in the prison — at Parliament Square, opposite the Houses of Parliament, for their last Parliamentary vigil before the summer recess. The campaigners have been holding vigils every Wednesday lunchtime throughout the spring and summer, and will resume weekly vigils in September, unless Shaker is released in the meantime. See my photos on Flickr here.

Shaker’s British wife and his four British children live in Battersea, where they lived with Shaker before he was seized after the 9/11 attacks in Afghanistan. He had travelled to Afghanistan with his family to provide humanitarian aid, but while his wife and children safely returned to the UK, he was caught by bounty hunters, and was eventually sold to US forces.

Shaker was first cleared for release from Guantánamo under the Bush administration, in 2007, and he was cleared for release again in January 2010 by the high-level, inter-agency Guantánamo Review Task Force that President Obama appointed to review the cases of all the prisoners after he took office in 2009. His release has also been requested by successive UK governments since 2007. And yet, although all the other British citizens and residents held in Guantánamo have been freed, he is still imprisoned, perhaps because he is a charismatic and eloquent man, who has always stood up for the prisoners’ rights, and both the US and the UK governments fear what he will say on his release.

Sadly, although Shaker would agree to a life of silence if it ensured that he could be reunited with his family, he remains held, and is suffering physically and mentally, as Dr. Emily A. Keram, an independent psychiatrist, explained in a submission to a US court after being allowed to meet with him for three days in December. That submission also included shocking details, in Shaker’s own words, of how he was treated in US custody in Afghanistan as well as his treatment in Guantánamo.

Unfortunately, on June 24, District Judge Rosemary Collyer rejected Shaker’s request for her to order his release on that grounds that, as the New York Times decribed it, “he is suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder and other mental and physical ailments.”

Judge Collyer gave her rejection in what the Times described as “a terse one-page order.” An accompanying memorandum opinion, which explained her ruling, was sealed, as was the submission of the Justice Department. Judge Collyer ordered the DoJ “to file a public version of her order and its documents by July 9,” but that date has come and gone, with no sign of any release of documents.

At the vigil, John Hall, the Parliamentary assistant to Jane Ellison MP, the constituency MP for Shaker and his family, brought us updates regarding the latest efforts to  secure Shaker’s release; primarily, notification that letters have been sent to Cliff Sloan and Paul Lewis, the envoys for the closure of Guantánamo, in the State Department and the Pentagon, who were appointed by President Obama last year — and replies are awaited.

We anticipate that, after the recess, there will also be a day for Shaker Aamer involving events in the Houses of Parliament, and also that we will try to secure the full Parliamentary debate about Shaker’s case that we were promised last year after over 117,000 people signed an e-petition to the British government.

I’ll keep you posted about these plans, but in the meantime I found it useful to revisit what Clive Stafford Smith, the director of Reprieve, said after the backbench debate in Westminster Hall, in April 2013, which was triggered by the e-petition.

During that session, as Reprieve noted, then-Foreign Office Minister Alistair Burt responded to MP’s questions about why Shaker Aamer continues to be held at Guantánamo by saying, “I have a supposition [of why the US is continuing to hold Shaker Aamer] but it’s not a detail I can go into.”

In response, Clive Stafford Smith said, “It is deeply suspicious that the UK won’t say why their friends in the US refuse to transfer Shaker home to London. The US and UK intelligence services appear to be working together to ensure Shaker stays where he is or gets shipped off to Saudi Arabia. Shaker knows too much. Given that he could appear as a witness against the perpetrators of some the UK’s dirtiest secrets over their role in the ‘war on terror’, it is far better for the intelligence services if he is sent away to another prison in Saudi Arabia.”

He added, “We don’t doubt William Hague’s sincerity when he says that he wants Shaker released. Mr. Hague needs to get assurances from his own security service that they haven’t provided information to be used to keep Shaker in arbitrary detention, and that any falsehood they have told to the CIA have been corrected. National embarrassment isn’t a reason to keep a man who has been cleared for release locked away in prison. Shaker must be returned to his family in London at once.”

With William Hague’s abrupt departure from the cabinet last week, those questions now need to be directed to his successor, Philip Hammond, but they remain as crucial as ever, because it does indeed appear that it is, fundamentally, embarrassment that is keeping Shaker, first cleared for release over seven years ago, locked up in Guantánamo with — still — no end in sight to his unacceptable imprisonment.

If you wish to take further action, please sign and share the international petition calling for Shaker Aamer’s release from Guantánamo, and, if you’re in the UK, please write to your MP to ask them to demand his immediate release, and his return to the UK. You can contact your MP here.

A link to the photos is also below:

Free Shaker Aamer: the Parliamentary Vigil, July 16, 2014

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 six-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, the full military commissions list, and the chronological list of all Andy’s articles.

Please also consider joining the “Close Guantánamo” campaign, and, if you appreciate Andy’s work, feel free to make a donation.

6 Responses

  1. Andy Worthington says...

    On Facebook, Zilma L. Nunes wrote:

    free Shaker Aamer

  2. Andy Worthington says...

    Thank you, Zilma. Good to hear from you.

  3. Andy Worthington says...

    Willy Bach wrote:

    Andy, thanks for maintaining the ongoing campaign. What can we say to the continued impervious regime in Washington? They don’t even care about the accusation that they have a complete absence of justice. They just shrug it off.

  4. Andy Worthington says...

    Yes, it’s profoundly dispiriting, Willy. Last year the prison-wide hunger strike was the first time since Obama’s election that millions of people showed that they cared, and it made a difference. Now, however, that impetus has been lost, and we have to hope that repeatedly pointing out the injustices will keep reminding those people in the administration who do care – and there are some – that they need to keep working towards fulfilling Obama’s failed promise to close the damned place until his second and final term comes to an end two and a half years from now.

  5. Random Thoughts » Two men. says...

    […] Judge Collyer gave her rejection in what the Times described as “a terse one-page order.” An accompanying memorandum opinion, which explained her ruling, was sealed, as was the submission of the Justice Department. Judge Collyer ordered the DoJ “to file a public version of her order and its documents by July 9,” but that date has come and gone, with no sign of any release of documents. […] http://www.andyworthington.co.uk/2014/07/22/photos-free-shaker-aamer-from-guantanamo-parliamentary-v… […]

  6. Climate Revolution says...

    […] (The British government cannot want Shaker back that much, otherwise they would insist more strongly. They could make it a big public issue & introduce sanctions against America, etc. There is too much ‘pretending’ going on.) “A debate was held at Westminster Hall on April 24th 2013. It was sponsored by Jane Ellison MP for Battersea, South London, where Shaker’s British wife and four British children live. During the session Foreign Office Minister Alistair Burt responded to MP’s questions about why Shaker Aamer continues to be held at the US prison by saying, “I have a supposition [of why the US is continuing to hold Shaker Aamer] but it’s not a detail I can go in to.” http://www.andyworthington.co.uk/2014/07/22/photos-free-shaker-aamer-from-guantanamo-parliamentary-v… […]

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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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