In alarming news from Guantánamo, Shaker Aamer, the last British resident in the prison, has stated that the prisoners have renewed the hunger strike that, earlier this year, involved at least two-thirds of the remaining prisoners, and reawakened the world’s media to the ongoing injustice of Guantánamo.
The hunger strike provided evidence of the men’s despair, after eleven years’ imprisonment without charge or trial, in an experimental prison where they are still in a legal limbo, held neither as criminal suspects nor as prisoners of war. Their despair was heightened by the fact that 82 of them were cleared for release in January 2010 — nearly four years ago — by a high-level Presidential task force, and yet they are still held, and 80 others are, for the most part, detained without charge or trial, and with no sign of when, if ever, they might either be tried or released. As I explained in a recent article for Al-Jazeera, long-promised reviews for most of these 80 men have recently begun, but the process is both slow and uncertain.
In a recent phone call with Clive Stafford Smith, the director of Reprieve, the legal action charity whose lawyers represent 15 men still at Guantánamo, Shaker “revealed there are now 29 Guantánamo hunger strikers, including him, of whom 19 are being force-fed,” as the Observer described it on Sunday.
“The hunger strike is back on,” Shaker said, adding, “The number is increasing almost every day.” He also explained that he has been on the new hunger strike for almost a month and has lost 30 pounds in weight. On November 8 he weighed 188 pounds, and he now weighs 158 pounds. Read the rest of this entry »
What will it take to free Shaker Aamer, the last British resident in the US prison at Guantánamo Bay? Cleared for release in 2007 under President Bush, and again in 2010 under President Obama, he languishes still in Guantánamo, separated from his British wife and his four British children, because President Obama cannot be bothered to muster the political will to send him home to his family, and the British government may also be to blame, despite claims to the contrary, and despite a request for his return that was made to Barack Obama by David Cameron at a meeting in June.
On Wednesday, Reprieve, the London-based legal action charity whose lawyers represent 15 prisoners still held at Guantánamo, including Shaker Aamer, issued a press release announcing that, in the latest attempt to put pressure on the British government, he has “filed a complaint against the UK security services over their continuing involvement in his detention without charge or trial.”
Shaker has submitted his complaint to the Investigatory Powers Tribunal (IPT), which “investigates complaints about the conduct of the UK’s intelligence agencies,” although it is “also highly secretive and provides a one-sided process in which the citizen hears at best very little — and usually nothing at all — about the case put against them.” In his complaint, Shaker states, “The actions of the [UK] security services have prevented [my] release due to defamatory statements that have no basis in honest fact.” Read the rest of this entry »
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 »
I wrote the following article for the “Close Guantánamo” website, which I established in January 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.
As we approach the 11th anniversary of the opening of the “war on terror” prison at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, those of us calling for the prison’s closure, as President Obama promised on his second day in office nearly four years ago, are still waiting for a sign that, in his second and final term, the President will revisit that promise and, first of all, address the disgraceful and unacceptable fact that, of the 166 prisoners still held, 86 were approved for transfer out of the prison by the Guantánamo Review Task Force that he established soon after taking office in 2009.
One of these men, and the one who, we believe, ought to be the first to be freed, is Shaker Aamer, the last British resident in the prison, who is one of the 86 cleared prisoners — and was one of 55 cleared prisoners named in an important document released by the Justice Department in September, which, for the first time ever, identified these men publicly. Read the rest of this entry »
I wrote the following article for the “Close Guantánamo” website, which I established in January 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. Also, if you’re a UK citizen or resident, please sign the e-petition to the British government calling for the immediate release of Shaker Aamer, the last British resident in Guantánamo, and also please sign the international petition, which anyone can sign.
On the eve of the Presidential election in the United States, it remains disgraceful that the injustices of the George W. Bush years still persist, with torturers officially protected, and President Obama’s promise to close the “war on terror” prison at Guantánamo unfulfilled and largely unmentioned.
The failure to close Guantánamo is compounded, as we have been reporting since establishing this campaign and website in January, by the fact that 86 of the remaining 166 prisoners at Guantánamo were cleared for release in 2009 by the Guantánamo Review Task Force, which consisted of around 60 officials from the main government departments and the intelligence agencies, who reviewed all the prisoners’ cases before reaching their careful conclusions. In addition, many of these men were also cleared for release under the Bush administration — in some cases, as long ago as 2004. Read the rest of this entry »
Clive Stafford Smith, the director of the London-based legal action charity Reprieve, has just visited Guantánamo, for the first time in a number of years, as his colleagues have been undertaking visits instead, and has returned with a renewed sense of horror at the continued existence of Guantánamo, that bleak icon of the Bush administration’s disregard for the law, which President Obama has found himself unable to close.
This is a time of grim anniversaries. The 10th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks in September was followed, in October, by the 10th anniversary of the US-led invasion of Afghanistan, and, as the 10th anniversary of the opening of Guantánamo approaches, on January 11, 2012, we have now reached the point where we can begin to mark the 10th anniversary of the dates on which the 171 men still held there were first seized, and to reflect on what it says about America’s notions of justice and fairness that they are, for the most part, still held without charge or trial.
On his visit to Guantánamo, Stafford Smith was visiting Shaker Aamer, the last British resident in Guantánamo, whose case has long been of concern to British citizens and to opponents of Guantánamo in the US and elsewhere in the world. I have written about his case extensively over the years, and his story also features in the documentary film, “Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo,” which I co-directed with the filmmaker Polly Nash. Read the rest of this entry »
Last Wednesday, just before David Cameron was engulfed in the News of the World phone hacking crisis, he had the opportunity to practice demonstrating the disregard for justice that he called on in response to the Murdoch scandal, when he attempted to distance himself from his friendship with two former News of the World editors, Rebekah Brooks and Andy Coulson, who, of course, served as his director of communications until January this year.
The practice run last Wednesday involved the torture inquiry that Cameron announced exactly a year before, on July 6, 2010, when he told the House of Commons that he had asked a judge, Sir Peter Gibson to “look at whether Britain was implicated in the improper treatment of detainees held by other countries that may have occurred in the aftermath of 9/11,” noting that, although there was no evidence that any British officer was “directly engaged in torture,” there were “questions over the degree to which British officers were working with foreign security services who were treating detainees in ways they should not have done.” Last Wednesday, the terms of reference for the torture inquiry were published. With storm clouds gathering over Wapping, David Cameron did not comment directly as human rights groups and lawyers savaged the pending inquiry as a whitewash, but he had already done all that was needed in the preceding twelve months. Read the rest of this entry »
Investigative journalist, author, filmmaker, photographer and Guantanamo expert
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