Please Ask your MP to Support the Parliamentary Debate for Shaker Aamer, Mar 17

8.3.15

An image promoting the Parliamentary debate for Shaker Aamer on March 17, 2015.In the run-up the the General Election in the UK, on 7 May, it is important that MPs recognise the importance of the case of Shaker Aamer, and act upon it — by attending a Parliamentary debate on 17 March, and by joining the Shaker Aamer Parliamentary Group, recently established by John McDonnell MP, as well as other requests listed below in a letter I’m asking you to send to your MP — unless, of course, they are already a member of the group.

Shaker Aamer is the last British resident in Guantánamo, and is still held, despite being approved for release by the US authorities twice — in 2007 under President Bush and again in 2009 under President Obama. The British government has also been requesting his return since August 2007.

His continued imprisonment is therefore inexplicable — unless you recognise that certain forces (probably the security services in the US and the UK) are working to prevent his release not because he is dangerous but because he has always stood up for the rights of the prisoners held lawlessly in the “war on terror,” because he knows some of the dark secrets of the last 13 years of high-level US crimes, and because he has the ability to embarrass the governments on both sides of the Atlantic.

That, however, is not a sufficient reason for him to be held, under any circumstances. I have been calling for his release since I began working on Guantánamo in 2006, and I have, for many years, supported the efforts of the Save Shaker Aamer Campaign to secure his freedom. In November, I established a new campaign, We Stand With Shaker, with an activist friend, Joanne MacInnes, which has featured a giant inflatable figure of Shaker, which dozens of celebrities and MPs have stood with, and which has secured significant mainstream support, including influential parts of the Conservative establishment.

You can find your MP here. Please send them the letter below. You can cut and paste it, or you can amend it as you see fit.

As I mentioned above, it includes a request for them to do a number of things to show their commitment, including attending the full Parliamentary debate about Shaker Aamer in the main chamber of the House of Commons on 17 March, which has just been announced, and joining the recently-formed Shaker Aamer Parliamentary Group.

Letter regarding the plight of Shaker Aamer, the last British resident in Guantánamo

Dear [fill in the name of your MP]

I am writing to you to raise my concern regarding the plight of Shaker Aamer, the last British resident in the US prison at Guantánamo Bay, who, as I’m sure you know, has been held for 13 years without charge or trial despite twice being cleared for release by high-level US Government review processes in 2007 and 2009. He has a wife and four children, all of whom are British citizens, the youngest of whom he has never met.

In August 2014, Shaker’s lawyer, Clive Stafford Smith, the founder of the legal action charity Reprieve, revealed that the ‘Forcible Cell Extraction’ team at Guantánamo have beaten Shaker Aamer over 300 times since his arrival at the prison in February 2002. [1] As Dr. Emily Keram, an independent medical expert, established after she was allowed to visit Mr. Aamer in December 2013, he suffers from extensive health issues including debilitating headaches, asthma, chronic urinary retention, and post traumatic stress due to his on-going detention and torture. [2]

The UK’s official position is that “any decision regarding his release remains ultimately in the hands of the US Government”. However, what the US would like to do with Mr. Aamer is irrelevant, as the British Government has a non-negotiable responsibility to secure the return of Mr. Aamer, given his status as a legal British resident. I can find no grounds for believing that, given the special relationship between our two countries, David Cameron cannot do more. He should be using every means possible within his diplomatic arsenal to bring Mr. Aamer home to his family. If he were a white aid worker held without charge or trial by a foreign country, I daresay this injustice would not have been allowed to go on for thirteen years. It should shame the Government that Mr. Aamer is now the last European resident in the prison.

As you will know, public pressure on David Cameron led to the Prime Minister discussing  Mr. Aamer’s case with President Obama during a visit to Washington DC in January, which resulted in the president stating that he would ‘prioritise’ Mr. Aamer’s case. Unfortunately,  there is no evidence that this has happened. The outgoing US Defence Secretary, Chuck Hagel, suggested recently that Mr. Aamer case had not been presented to him. We must be told what the obstruction to his release is.

Thanks to the work of campaigners, pressure in the UK continues to be exerted on the UK Government, and Mr. Aamer’s case is becoming an election issue. See, for example, Sky News’ coverage on 13 February, which ran all day on the hour. [3] In addition, the Daily Mail has made Shaker their ‘big campaign’ and run stories about the injustice of his ongoing imprisonment on a regular basis.

There is also a Shaker Aamer Parliamentary Group, formed at the end of last year, which enjoys cross-party support with more than 30 MPs as members, [4] and which recently secured a full Parliamentary debate about Shaker Aamer’s case on 17 March, and Amnesty International has launched a major campaign to secure his return to the UK. [5]

I’m writing to ask you to add your voice to the campaign. There are a number of things I’d like you to do:

  1. Join the debate about Shaker Aamer in the main chamber of the House of Commons on 17 March.
  2. Join the Shaker Aamer Parliamentary Group, convened by John McDonnell MP.
  3. Make Shaker Aamer’s plight a part of your election manifesto.
  4. Ask a question in PMQs urging answers as to why Mr. Aamer continues to be held.
  5. Ask the same of the Foreign Office, the US Secretary of State and US Ambassador Matthew Barzun. Tell them your constituents will not settle for anything short of an agreed, fixed timeline for the release of Shaker Aamer back to the UK.
  6. Ask an oral question of the FCO.
  7. Pose for a photograph with the We Stand With Shaker campaign as over 30 other MPs have done. [6]

This is a serious issue for me and will affect how I vote. I look forward to hearing from you positively with regard to the suggested actions above.

Yours sincerely,

[1] See: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2910758/Top-doctors-join-fight-free-Briton-Guantanamo-13-years-Eminent-physicians-warn-impact-Shaker-Aamer-s-health-join-list-signed-Mail-s-letter.html
[2] See: http://www.documentcloud.org/documents/1104738-aamer-medical-report.html
[3] See: http://news.sky.com/story/1426661/british-sons-plead-for-guantanamo-dads-release
[4] See: http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/dec/22/shaker-aamer-continued-detention-shames-society
[5] See: https://www.amnesty.org.uk/actions/bring-shaker-aamer-home-guantanamo
[6] See: http://westandwithshaker.org/

Andy Worthington is a freelance investigative journalist, activist, author, photographer, film-maker and singer-songwriter. He is the co-founder of the “Close Guantánamo” campaign, the director of “We Stand With Shaker,” calling for the immediate release from Guantánamo of Shaker Aamer, the last British resident in the prison, 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.

One Response

  1. Andy Worthington says...

    If you write to your MP, please feel free to leave a comment to let me know – and, if you like, to identify who your MP is.

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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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