Shaker Aamer, Abandoned in Guantánamo

Please sign and share the petition on Change.org urging renewed action from President Obama to close Guantánamo, which now has over 200,000 signatures! Also please show your support for Shaker Aamer, if you can, by joining the protest outside Parliament from 12 noon to 3pm every weekday this week, and also next Monday and Tuesday (May 20-21), organised by the Save Shaker Aamer Campaign. Also please note that, to mark the 100th day of the hunger strike, Witness Against Torture and other activists will be handing in the Change.org petition (and other petitions) to the White House at noon on May 17, and the London Guantánamo Campaign is staging a street theatre action outside the US Embassy at 2pm on Saturday May 18 (see the Facebook page)Please also sign the international petition to the British and American governments calling for Shaker’s release.

Although the prison-wide hunger strike at Guantánamo is still raging, and President Obama spoke eloquently last week about the need for the prison to be closed, it remains painfully true that, for the 86 prisoners (out of 166 in total), who were cleared for release by an inter-agency task force that President Obama established in 2009, there is still no easy route out.

The case of Shaker Aamer, the last British resident in the prison, ought to be the easiest to resolve. One of the 86, his return has regularly been requested since August 2007 by the British government, and the legislative obstacles raised by Congress to prevent the release of prisoners to countries they regard as dangerous doesn’t apply in Shaker’s case — the UK, after all, where his wife and children live, and are all British citizens, is America’s staunchest ally in the “war on terror,” and more than capable of keeping Shaker under surveillance if that were to be requested.

In the UK, pressure has been mounting for Shaker’s release. Last month, a petition to the British government, calling for renewed action to get him released, secured the 100,000 signatures necessary to trigger a Parliamentary debate (see here and here for the transcript), and it is to be hoped that a full Parliamentary debate will follow later this month or in June. Read the rest of this entry »

Return Shaker Aamer from Guantánamo: The Full Text of the Parliamentary Debate, April 24, 2013 (Part Two of Two)

This is the second part of the transcript of a Parliamentary debate that took place last Wednesday, April 24, 2013, eleven years, two months and ten days after Shaker Aamer, a British resident, arrived at Guantánamo, six years after he was told that the Bush administration no longer wanted to hold him, nearly six years after his return to the UK was first requested by the British government (under Gordon Brown), and over three years since he was officially cleared for release by the inter-agency task force that President Obama established after he took office in January 2009.

That he is still held — as are 85 other men cleared for release by the task force — is so monstrously unjust that is is unsurprising that many of the men, including Shaker, are part of a prison-wide hunger strike, which has been ongoing for nearly three months, to draw attention to their plight.

The men have been failed by all three branches of the US government — by President Obama, who promised to close the prison within a year when he took office; by Congress, where cynical lawmakers have imposed almost insurmountable obstacles to their release; and by the courts, where a handful of judges (in the DC Circuit Court) have gutted habeas corpus of all meaning for the men held in Guantánamo, and have been allowed to do so by the Supreme Court. Read the rest of this entry »

Return Shaker Aamer from Guantánamo: The Full Text of the Parliamentary Debate, April 24, 2013 (Part One of Two)

On April 24, 2013, eleven years, two months and ten days after Shaker Aamer, a British resident, arrived at Guantánamo, his case was finally the subject of a Parliamentary debate. The trigger for this was an e-petition to the British government, calling on ministers to “undertake urgent new initiatives to achieve the immediate transfer of Shaker Aamer to the UK from continuing indefinite detention in Guantánamo Bay,” which secured over 100,000 signatures, through the tireless work of numerous campaigners, making it eligible for a discussion in Parliament.

Jane Ellison, the Conservative MP for Battersea, Shaker’s constituency, requested the debate, which took place in Westminster Hall, and it will, hopefully, be followed sometime next month by a full debate in the House of Commons.

Below I’m cross-posting the transcript of the debate, in which, as I explained yesterday when I posted photos from a demonstration in Parliament Square that followed the debate, the MPs who spoke made “an unassailable case for Shaker’s immediate release.”

Primarily, these MPs were Jane Ellison, the Green MP Caroline Lucas, and the Labour MPs John McDonnell, Jeremy Corbyn and Yasmin Qureshi. Also present, and making short statements or asking questions were the Labour MPs Kerry McCarthy, Jim Cunningham, Stephen Timms, John Woodcock, Russell Brown, Gavin Shukur, Andy Slaughter and Anas Sarwar, the Conservative MP Mike Freer, Mark Durkan of the SDLP and the Independent MP Eric Joyce. Read the rest of this entry »

Free Shaker Aamer from Guantánamo: Photos of a Protest Outside Parliament, April 24, 2013

Free Shaker Aamer from Guantanamo: Protest in Parliament Square, April 24, 2013Over 117,000 People Say: Free Shaker Aamer from GuantanamoStand up for Shaker Aamer: Save his lifeI died waiting for justice: Adnan Latif 1975-2012Free Shaker Aamer from GuantanamoJoy Hurcombe, the chair of the Save Shaker Aamer Campaign
Bring Shaker home nowCampaigners call for the release from Guantanamo of Shaker AamerSadiq Khan calls for the release of Shaker Aamer from GuantanamoShaker Aamer: where's the justice?Sheikh Suliman Ghani calls for the release of Shaker Aamer from GuantanamoJohn McDonnell calls for the release of Shaker Aamer from Guantanamo
I am waiting 11 years for Shaker AamerMr. Prime Minister, phone your friend, President ObamaMr. Cameron, ask Obama to close Guantanamo now

Free Shaker Aamer from Guantánamo: Protest Outside Parliament, April 24, 2013, a set on Flickr.

On April 24, 2013, campaigners calling for the release from Guantánamo of Shaker Aamer, the last British resident in the prison, held a demonstration outside Parliament following a Parliamentary debate in Westminster Hall from 9.30 to 11 am. Shaker, who has a British wife and four British children, is one of 86 prisoners cleared for release by an inter-agency task force established by President Obama in 2009 but still held, and, in recent weeks, his story has finally become prominent in the mainstream British media, as he is part of the prison-wide hunger strike that began on February 6, and there are fears for his life (see my recent reports here and here).

The Parliamentary debate followed a successful e-petition, calling on the British government to “undertake urgent new initiatives to achieve the immediate transfer of Shaker Aamer to the UK from continuing indefinite detention in Guantánamo Bay,” which secured over 100,000 signatures, through the tireless work of numerous campaigners, making it eligible for a discussion in Parliament. Please note that an international petition for Shaker is still ongoing. Read the rest of this entry »

Free Shaker Aamer from Guantánamo: Photos and Report from Saturday’s Day of Action in Tooting

Please sign the e-petition calling for the British government to secure the return to the UK from Guantánamo of Shaker Aamer, the last British resident in the prison, who has been cleared for release since 2007 but is still held. 100,000 signatures are needed by April 20. This is for UK citizens and residents only, but there is no lower age limit, so children can sign as well as adults. A global petition, for anyone anywhere in the world, is available here.

On Saturday, despite the snow and the bitterly cold weather, campaigners from the Save Shaker Aamer Campaign held a Day of Action in Tooting for Shaker Aamer, the last British resident in Guantánamo, who is still held, despite having been cleared for release from the prison under George W. Bush (in 2007) and again under President Obama (in 2009). Shaker has a British wife and four British children, and lived just down the road in Battersea before his capture and his long imprisonment without charge or trial at Guantánamo.

The Day of Action included a meeting at the Tooting Islamic Centre, at which the speakers were myself, Jean Lambert MEP (London representative of the Green Party) and Jane Ellison MP (the Conservative MP for Battersea), as well as Sheikh Suliman Gani, the Imam of the Tooting Islamic Centre, and Joy Hurcombe, the chair of the Save Shaker Aamer Campaign, who chaired the meeting.

The Day of Action also included campaigners encouraging the people of Tooting to sign the e-petition to the British government calling for renewed action on the part of ministers to secure Shaker’s immediate return from Guantánamo. Read the rest of this entry »

Photos of the Protest Calling for Shaker Aamer’s Release from Guantánamo, and a New Challenge to the UK Government

Free Shaker Aamer from GuantánamoStand Up for Shaker AamerSadiq Khan MP joins campaigners calling for the release of Shaker AamerSadiq Khan MP calls for the release of Shaker AamerFree Shaker Aamer Now: The protest outside ParliamentWhile Churchill watches
Andy Worthington and Joy Hurcombe call for the release of Shaker AamerAndy Worthington and Joy Hurcombe in front of Big Ben

Stand Up for Shaker Aamer: The Protest at Parliament Calling for His Return to the UK from Guantánamo, a set on Flickr.

Today, February 14,  2013, is the 11th anniversary of the day that Shaker Aamer, the last British resident in Guantánamo, who has a British wife and four British children, arrived at the Bush administration’s experimental “war on terror” prison from Afghanistan, where he had travelled with his family to engage in humanitarian aid. After the 9/11 attacks, however, having managed to get his family to safety, he was captured and sold to US forces by bounty hunters. Ironically, Shaker’s arrival at Guantánamo on February 14, 2002 was also the day that his youngest son was born.

To mark this dreadful anniversary, six years — six whole years! — since Shaker was first told that he would be going home to his family, the Save Shaker Aamer Campaign organised a protest outside Parliament yesterday, attended by activists and campaigners — myself  included — and also by MPs: Caroline Lucas (Green, Brighton Pavilion), Sadiq Khan (Labour, Tooting), John O’Donnell (Labour, Hayes and Harlington) and Shaker’s constituency MP, Jane Ellison (Conservative, Battersea).

We were all there to ask why it is that Shaker is still held, when he was not only cleared for release in 2007, under the Bush administration, but was also cleared for release again in 2009, under the Obama administration, a fact that was only made public in September, when the Justice Department publicly released a list containing the names of 55 cleared prisoners, of which he was one. Read the rest of this entry »

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Andy Worthington

Investigative journalist, author, filmmaker, photographer and Guantanamo expert
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