It’s eight months since the Labour MP John McDonnell MP, an indefatigable campaigner for justice, established the Shaker Aamer All-Party Parliamentary Group, to call for the release from Guantánamo of Shaker Aamer, the last British resident in the prison, who is still held, despite being approved for release by the US authorities twice — in 2007, under George W. Bush, and in 2009, under Barack Obama.
With support from the Save Shaker Aamer Campaign, which spent many years working to get the Parliamentary Group established, and also from We Stand With Shaker, the campaign group established by Andy Worthington and Joanne MacInnes, which was also launched eight months ago, the Parliamentary Group sent a delegation to Washington D.C. after the General Election in May. The four MPs involved — the Conservative MPs David Davis and Andrew Mitchell, and the Labour MPs Jeremy Corbyn and Andy Slaughter — met with Senators, including John McCain and Dianne Feinstein, and Obama administration officials, in the hope of securing a timeline for Shaker’s release, although no date has been given, despite repeated rumors that it would be this summer, and despite a hard-hitting op-ed in the New York Times by the MPs, who wrote, “There is simply no reason, domestic or international, for the United States to keep Mr. Aamer in custody,” and also stated, “It is difficult for us to shake off the depressing notion that the Obama administration is indifferent to the repeated requests of the British government,” adding that this is “a slap in the face for America’s staunchest friend.”
Prior to this, in March, the Parliamentary Group also secured a hugely important debate in the House of Commons, which led to the government supporting the motion “call[ing] on the US Government to release Shaker Aamer from his imprisonment in Guantánamo Bay and to allow him to return to his family in the UK.”
Despite all this, Shaker is still held, and so, for US Independence Day, I wrote an open letter to President Obama for We Stand With Shaker, calling for Shaker’s release, which was signed by nearly 100 celebrities and MPs, including London’s Mayor Boris Johnson and two former Attorney Generals, Keir Starmer and Dominic Grieve, and celebrities including Sir Patrick Stewart OBE, Ralph Fiennes, Russell Brand, Roger Waters, Peter Gabriel, Sting, Richard E. Grant, Mark Rylance, Juliet Stevenson, David Morrissey, Frankie Boyle, Ken Loach, Mike Leigh and Michael Brearley.
With Shaker still held, and a new Parliament featuring many new MPs, the time is ripe for a push on securing new MPs for the Shaker Aamer Parliamentary Group. Below is the list of the 27 current members of the Group, and if your MP is not there, please contact them via Write to Them, and ask them to join the Group.
Please ask them to contact Joanne MacInnes if they would like to join, as Joanne is the APPG coordinator. You can also ask them if they would be interested in standing with the giant inflatable figure of Shaker that is at the heart of the We Stand With Shaker campaign, and Joanne is, again, the contact for this.
Below the list I’m also posting a version of the message I sent to my MP, asking her to join the Shaker Aamer All-Party Parliamentary Group, which I encourage you to adapt if you are unsure what to write.
John McDonnell (Labour, Hayes and Harlington)
David Davis (Conservative, Haltemprice and Howden)
Andrew Mitchell (Conservative, Sutton Coldfield)
Jeremy Corbyn (Labour, Islington North)
Andy Slaughter (Labour, Hammersmith)
Caroline Lucas (Green, Brighton Pavilion).
Ann Clywd (Labour, Cynon Valley)
Andrew Smith (Labour, Oxford East)
Clive Lewis (Labour, Norwich South)
Diane Abbott (Labour, Hackney North and Stoke Newington)
Dominic Grieve (Conservative, Beaconfield)
Gareth Thomas (Labour Co-operative, Harrow West)
Gavin Shuker (Labour, Luton South)
Sir Gerald Kaufman (Labour, Manchester Gorton)
Hywel Williams (Plaid Cymru, Arfon)
Ian Murray (Labour, Edinburgh South)
Jacob Rees-Mogg (Conservative, Somerset)
Mark Durkan (SDLP, Foyle)
Neil Carmichael (Conservative, Stroud)
Sir Peter Bottomley (Conservative, Worthing West)
Rebecca Long-Bailey (Labour, Salford and Eccles)
Roger Godsiff (Labour, Birmingham Hall Green)
Sadiq Khan (Labour, Tooting, Mayoral candidate for London)
Stephen Timms (Labour, East Ham)
Tania Mathias (Conservative, Twickenham)
Tom Brake (Liberal Democrat, Carshalton and Wallington)
Yasmin Qureshi (Labour, Bolton South East)
MPs added September 2015:
Andrew Tyrie (Conservative, Chichester)
Andy McDonald (Labour, Middlesbrough)
Ruth Cadbury (Labour, Brentford and Isleworth)
I’d like to ask you to join the Shaker Aamer All-Party Parliamentary Group, established by John McDonnell MP last November to press for the release from Guantánamo of Shaker Aamer, the last British resident in the prison. The group is co-chaired by John and David Davis, and the Vice Chairs are Jeremy Corbyn, Andy Slaughter, Andrew Mitchell and Caroline Lucas.
Shaker has a British wife and four British children (the youngest of whom he has never seen), and he has been approved for release from Guantánamo twice — under George W. Bush in 2007, and under Barack Obama in 2009 — and yet, inexplicably, he is still held. It may be that the intelligence services on both sides of the Atlantic are blocking his release, because Shaker is an outspoken, intelligent and charismatic man, who has persistently opposed the appalling treatment of prisoners in the ‘war on terror.’ He may know some uncomfortable truths about what has happened over the last 13 years, which certain people would rather keep hidden, or it may simply be that his very outspokenness is regarded as threatening. No information has been publicly declared, however, and nothing can justify continuing to hold someone approved for release by high-level, inter-agency, US government review processes.
Shaker’s ongoing imprisonment is a disgrace for both the US and the UK. I hope that you will join the Parliamentary Group, which, with the support of campaigners, sent a delegation to Washington D.C. in May to meet with Senators and Obama administration officials, to try and establish a timetable for Shaker’s release.
I look forward to hearing from you, and, if you are willing to join the Shaker Aamer All-Party Parliamentary Group, please contact Joanne MacInnes, the APPG coordinator.
Don’t forget to include Joanne’s email, and please also feel free to keep me in the loop.
Andy Worthington is a freelance investigative journalist, activist, author, photographer, film-maker and singer-songwriter (the lead singer and main songwriter for the London-based band The Four Fathers, whose debut album, ‘Love and War,’ was released in July 2015). He is the co-founder of the Close Guantánamo campaign, the co-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 the University of Chicago Press in the US, and available from Amazon, including a Kindle edition — 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.
Thanks to everyone liking and sharing this. I do hope some of you in the UK will write to your MPs: https://www.writetothem.com/
And let them know to contact my colleague Joanne MacInnes to join the Shaker Aamer All-Party Parliamentary Group.
An idea, is it worth setting up a “ask a friendly American to contact their local Congressman/Senator over Shaker Aamer’ website (Im sure someone can think os a snappier name) given:
1)There is unanimous political support in the UK for him to return to London
2)Apart from the NYT piece you mentioned, there has been next to no coverage in the US regarding Shaker’s plight
I think now is the time for people to contact very US friend/family member to get them to hassle their politicians, what do you think? Cheers David
I think lawmakers in the US are generally much less approachable than here, but we could do something – perhaps in autumn. I’m actually trying to think of a good stunt for my activist friends – and I think I might have come up with something!
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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