As part of my coverage of the huge, ongoing hunger strike at Guantánamo, I’m delighted to make available the full text of a statement (actually an affidavit) made by Clive Stafford Smith, the director of the London-based legal action charity Reprieve, based on a phone conversation that Clive had on March 29 with Shaker Aamer, the last British resident in Guantánamo, whose story has been a focus of my work for many years. See here, here and here for reports made available to me by Shaker last year, and see here for an e-petition to the British government calling for renewed action to secure Shaker’s release — and here for an international petition.
As I have been reporting for many weeks (see here, here, here, here and here), the hunger strike began two months ago, in response to the renewed ill-treatment of the prisoners and their despair at ever being released, after President Obama promised to close the prison and then failed to do so, even though 86 of the remaining 166 prisoners — including Shaker — were cleared for release, at least three years ago, by an inter-agency task force that the President established shortly after taking office in 2009.
Shaker’s testimony, via Clive (and available here via Reprieve), adds important, and disturbing new information about the hunger strike, and the behavior of the authorities, as well as providing numbers — Shaker told Clive that there are “130 prisoners total on hunger strike in the whole prison,” and that, “Of the 66 prisoners in Camp V, 45 are recognized as being on strike, though more actually are doing it.” Read the rest of this entry »
This photo set collects a few photos from events over the last week and a half that I haven’t included in any other sets — three relating to the ongoing campaign to free Shaker Aamer, the last British resident in Guantánamo, and to bring him back to the UK to be reunited with his wife and children, and four of a “die-in” for the NHS, involving a roadblock outside the Houses of Parliament, during a protest that took place prior to a Parliamentary lobby on Tuesday.
I have been writing about Shaker Aamer’s case — and campaigning for his release – for many years, not just because Guantánamo has been a legal, moral and ethical abomination since its creation over 11 years ago, and remains so to this day, but also because his release is so long overdue. He was first told that he would be released under President Bush, in 2007, and again under President Obama in 2009, but, disgracefully, he is still held. Read the rest of this entry »
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 »
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. 100,000 signatures are needed by April 20.
With a huge hunger strike taking place at Guantánamo, the prison is on the mainstream media’s radar more than it has been for many, many months, if not years — and, in the UK, it is also time for there to be a renewed focus on the case of Shaker Aamer, the last British resident in the prison.
Despite being cleared for release under President Bush and President Obama, Shaker is still held, even though he is the one prisoner, out of 86 prisoners cleared for release but still held, who could — and should — be released immediately. Congress has raised obstacles to the release of prisoners to any country that can be regarded as dangerous, but few, if any lawmakers would dare to argue that Britain fits that category.
In the UK, the ongoing detention of Shaker Aamer continues to appal those who have been campaigning for his release for many years — and the British government’s persistent claims that they are doing all they can to secure his return do not sound convincing. Last year, Shaker’s family launched an e-petition asking the British government to explain how, as America’s closest ally in the “war on terror,” it cannot secure Shaker’s return to the UK, to his British wife and four children, and there is now just one month to go for campaigners to try and ensure that the petition gets 100,000 signatures so that it is eligible for a Parliamentary debate. Please note that only British citizens and residents can sign it, although there is no lower age limit, so all family members can sign. Anyone anywhere in the world can sign the international petition here. Read the rest of this entry »
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 »
I wrote the following article for the “Close Guantánamo” website, which I established in January 2012 with US attorney Tom Wilner. Please join us — just an email address is required to be counted amongst those opposed to the ongoing existence of Guantánamo, and to receive updates of our activities by email.
Two weeks ago, there was a flurry of activity in the mainstream media when it was announced that the State Department had reassigned Daniel Fried, the special envoy for closing the “war on terror” prison at Guantánamo, and would not be replacing him. As Charlie Savage explained for the New York Times, “Mr. Fried’s office is being closed, and his former responsibilities will be ‘assumed’ by the office of the department’s legal adviser,” according to an internal personnel announcement.
The Times article continued: “The announcement that no senior official in President Obama’s second term will succeed Mr. Fried in working primarily on diplomatic issues pertaining to repatriating or resettling detainees appeared to signal that the administration does not currently see the closing of the prison as a realistic priority, despite repeated statements that it still intends to do so.” Read the rest of this entry »
Please sign the e-petition to the British government calling for the return of Shaker Aamer from Guantánamo.
On Wednesday February 13, between 11am and 1.30pm, I’ll be joining representatives of the Save Shaker Campaign and the London Guantánamo Campaign in Parliament Square, opposite the Houses of Parliament, to call for the release of Shaker Aamer, the last British resident in the prison, on the 11th anniversary of the day that, in 2002, he was flown to Guantánamo from Afghanistan, arriving on February 14, the day that his youngest son was born.
Shaker, who is now 44 years old, and has spent a quarter of his life in Guantánamo, is “suffering from a list of ailments, including arthritis and serious asthma problems,” as the legal action charity Reprieve explained last month, prompting “grave fears for his health.” One of his lawyers, Clive Stafford Smith, the director of the legal action charity, recently returned from visiting Shaker in Guantánamo. According to unclassified notes of their meeting, Shaker told him, “The ERF team grab me harshly, bend my arms and my head and slam me to the floor. They shackle me and put me in the chair.”
Clive Stafford Smith said: “The US gulag Guantánamo Bay is a disgrace where men are abused, and where any notion of human rights or the rule of law is flagrantly disregarded. In the US films which purport to justify torture [Zero Dark Thirty] are being nominated for awards, those who did the torturing enjoying immunity and the courageous people who expose wrongdoing are prosecuted for violating secrecy. Those who continue to be subjected to abuse and indefinite detention are all but forgotten.” Read the rest of this entry »
Listen here to my show with Omar Deghayes on Radio Free Brighton. And please sign the petition calling for the release of Shaker Aamer.
Last week, when I visited Brighton to take part in “Freedom from Torture,” an event organised by the University of Sussex Amnesty International Society, I stayed overnight with my friend Jackie Chase and her family, and, the following day, recorded a radio show about Guantánamo on Radio Free Brighton, with my friend, the former Guantánamo prisoner and Brighton resident Omar Deghayes. The 40-minute show is available here.
Jackie is a long-standing campaigner for justice, having been involved in the Save Omar campaign, to secure the return from Guantánamo of Omar Deghayes (who was freed in December 2007). Jackie then campaigned to secure the release of Binyam Mohamed, who was finally freed in February 2009, and now runs Under the Bridge Studios, a wonderfully busy community of rehearsal studios, which also houses Radio Free Brighton, which was recently recognised by Mixcloud as one of the 30 most popular online radio shows in the world. Read the rest of this entry »
Brighton at Night, in the Rain, a set on Flickr.
On January 29, 2013, I travelled to Brighton, one of my favourite places in England, for “Freedom from Torture,” an event about Guantánamo organised by the University of Sussex Amnesty International Society, featuring myself, my friend Omar Deghayes, a former Guantánamo prisoner, and Elspeth Van Veeren, a researcher and writer about Guantánamo in the university’s International Relations Department.
The event was filmed, and I’ll publicise it here as soon as it has been edited and is made available, but I can confirm that it was a powerful evening, very well attended, in which the 120 students and other members of the public who turned up were left in no doubt about the shameful history of Guantánamo, and the even more shameful truth that it is still open because of the failures of all three branches of the US government to deal appropriately with the wretched legacy of the Bush administration — primarily through cowardice and/or laziness on the part of President Obama, and opportunistic fearmongering and obstruction on the part of Congress and the D.C. Circuit Court (the court of appeals dealing with the Guantánamo prisoners’ habeas corpus petitions), as well as indifference in the Supreme Court. For more on these issues, see my recent article, “Eleven Years of Guantánamo: End This Scandal Now!” and also see the videos of my speech outside the White House on January 11, and a panel discussion at the New America Foundation on the same day. Read the rest of this entry »
On Friday, the 11th anniversary of the opening of Guantánamo, myself and the attorney Tom Wilner, the steering committee of the “Close Guantánamo” campaign, held our annual reunion at the New America Foundation in Washington D.C. with Col. Morris Davis, the former chief prosecutor of the military commissions, who resigned in 2007, the day after he was placed in a chain of command under William J. Haynes II, the Pentagon’s senior lawyer and one of the Bush administration officials most involved in developing the administration’s notorious torture program. The event was moderated by Peter Bergen, the director of the National Security Studies Program at the New America Foundation.
For three years now, we have gathered on the anniversary of the opening of Guantánamo to call on President Obama to fulfill the promise to close the prison that he made on taking office in January 2009.
This year our call was more passionate, intense, and driven by righteous indignation than ever before. Read the rest of this entry »
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