Shaker Aamer: Campaign Group Asks Gordon Brown to Secure His Release from Guantánamo


Shaker Aamer and two of his four childrenRegular readers of my work will be aware that I have long campaigned for the release of Shaker Aamer, the last British resident in Guantánamo Bay. Shaker was cleared for release from Guantánamo over three years ago, yet he remains imprisoned for no discernible reason except that it suits both the US and UK governments to put off the inevitable day when he will be free to tell the media about his deep knowledge of Guantánamo (as one of the foremost advocates of the prisoners’ rights), as well as his knowledge of British and American involvement in torture.

Shaker’s story features prominently in the new documentary film, “Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo” (directed by filmmaker Polly Nash and myself), and, since February, former prisoner Omar Deghayes and I have been touring the UK showing the film, taking part in post-screening Q&A sessions, and encouraging audiences to send a letter to foreign secretary David Miliband asking him to do all in his power to secure Shaker’s release. That letter can be cut and pasted here, and there is also an Amnesty International campaign page, where interested parties can send a letter to Prime Minister Gordon Brown and can email David Miliband. The film tour is ongoing, and further details can be found here.

Today, representatives of the Save Shaker Aamer Campaign, based in Shaker’s home borough of Wandsworth, and signatories to the letter including Kate Hudson, the Chair of CND, journalist Yvonne Ridley and Chris Nineham of the Stop the War Coalition delivered the following open letter to Gordon Brown demanding Shaker’s return to his wife and four children.

An Open Letter to Prime Minister Gordon Brown

Dear Gordon Brown,

Time may be running out for you to obtain the release and return of British Resident Shaker Aamer, still detained after more than eight years in Guantánamo. You have claimed to have made repeated requests to the US for his release, yet you have failed to bring him home. It is beyond belief that Shaker, a long-term legal British resident, cleared for release in 2007, without charge, remains in Guantánamo in a cell, 6 foot by 8 foot, in solitary confinement, in the harshest of conditions. Your Government has been derelict in its duty to protect Shaker Aamer, a refugee from Saudi Arabia, who was given indefinite leave to remain in the UK and whose only wish is to return to family and home here in London.

Your Government withheld documents detailing the cruel and inhuman interrogations and torture of Shaker in the presence of M15 agents until the Courts demanded that they were made available to Shaker’s US lawyers. So you know Shaker has been tortured. You are aware of his cruel treatment at Kabul and at the US base at Bagram, Afghanistan. His torture has continued in Guantánamo. Shaker affirms that he has been beaten, chained, brutally force-fed whilst on hunger strike, half-suffocated with rags, denied food, clothes and sleep and kicked until his feet swelled. He has had his head repeatedly smashed against walls. His eyesight has been affected by the constant bright lights of his cell and he has lost half his body weight. A detention report states that his mental health is deteriorating. Despite knowing the extent of the abuse of his human rights, your Government, to its shame, has not used its power and authority to demand the immediate release and return of Shaker Aamer, victim of rendition and torture.

Furthermore, your failure to act has had a devastating affect on Shaker Aamer’s family. In January this year, Johina Aamer, Shaker’s 12-year old daughter, wrote a personal letter to you. She appealed to you to do all you can to bring her father home. She told you how much Shaker’s four children miss him. She told you about her mother’s depression and periods in hospital. Regrettably, you have not replied. This family has been denied the right to family life, in breach of international law. To date, the family has been denied contact with Shaker even by phone.

You must know that there is a strong public demand for urgent action for the release and return of Shaker Aamer. In all parts of the UK, every day, people are attending meetings and hearing about his case. They have signed petitions and written letters. Every day more MPs are putting their names to Early Day Motion 547 calling for Shaker’s release. Martin Linton, Shaker’s MP works closely with Shaker’s family in Battersea. The national and local press continue to press for his release. National and local groups including Amnesty International, Liberty, Reprieve, Cageprisoners, the Guantánamo Justice Centre, Scotland Against Criminalising Communities, the Stop the War Coalition, CND, members of the London Assembly, MEPs, lawyers and celebrities, and people of faith and none, have all called for Shaker’s return.

Very soon you will be asking the country to vote for you. People of goodwill everywhere would celebrate if you ensured the return of Shaker Aamer to his family whilst there is still time for your Government to act.

We appeal to you to note well the words of Brent Mickum, US lawyer for Shaker Aamer:

“He is still being tortured down there. And if he ends up dying down there, I have to say there is blood on the British hands.”

British Resident Shaker Aamer is being tortured in Guantánamo and his life is in your hands.

Yours sincerely,
Save Shaker Aamer Campaign

Note: You can contact your MP here to ask him or her to support Martin Linton’s Early Day Motion calling for Shaker’s release.

Andy Worthington is 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). To receive new articles in your inbox, please subscribe to my RSS feed (and I can also be found on Facebook and Twitter). Also see my definitive Guantánamo prisoner list, updated in January 2010, details about the new documentary film, “Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo” (co-directed by Polly Nash and Andy Worthington, and launched in October 2009), and, if you appreciate my work, feel free to make a donation.

5 Responses

  1. Susan says...

    I am working today to send information and resources to Gina Salazar a staff member for Jared Polis. I must say I was hopeful after speaking to her that she would go to work to free Shaker Aamer and therefore proclaim that people are still gaining some true justice in the US and that their congressman Jared Polis has made a difference for the good in Colorado.

  2. Andy Worthington says...

    Thanks, Susan, for all your efforts, and I do hope that you’re right. Shaker needs support not just in the UK, but in the US as well.

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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 and We Stand With Shaker. Also, photo-journalist (The State of London), and singer and songwriter (The Four Fathers).
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