Over 90 Celebrities and MPs Sign Open Letter to President Obama Calling for Shaker Aamer’s Release from Guantánamo on US Independence Day


The launch of the We Stand With Shaker campaign outside the Houses of Parliament on November 24, 2014, featuring, from L to R: Roger Waters, Clive Stafford Smith, Andy Worthington, Joanne MacInnes and Caroline Lucas.I’m delighted to report that, today, US Independence Day (July 4), the following open letter to President Obama, calling for the release from Guantánamo of Shaker Aamer, the last British resident in the prison, was published by the Guardian, on its website, which has seven million readers worldwide, and picked up on by the Daily Mail, Sky News and ITV News. Also see this Guardian article (a version of which was published in the newspaper), accompanying the publication of the letter.

I wrote the letter for the We Stand With Shaker campaign , which I founded, with the activist Joanne MacInnes, in November, and Jo has spent the last few weeks assiduously securing signatures. Celebrity supporters include 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.

Late yesterday afternoon, we secured the support of Boris Johnson, the Mayor of London, who joined dozens of other MPs, including former Attorney General Dominic Grieve, the former Director of Public Prosecutions and the Head of the Crown Prosecution Service, Keir Starmer, and the six MPs who lead the cross-party Shaker Aamer Parliamentary Group: the co-chairs, John McDonnell (Lab.) and David Davis (Con.), and the four officers of the group: Andrew Mitchell (Con.), Jeremy Corbyn (Lab.), Caroline Lucas (Green) and Andy Slaughter (Lab.).

In a press release, I stated: “As the US celebrates its independence, the continued imprisonment of Shaker Aamer is a disgrace. How can Americans celebrate their independence from executive tyranny when a modern-day symbol of it, the prison at Guantánamo, remains open, and Shaker Aamer continues to be held, despite being approved for release eight years ago?”

I added: “Indefinite detention without charge or trial undermines America’s notion of itself as a country founded on the rule of law and is a hallmark of tyrannical regimes. It is even more cruel to review the cases of prisoners, and to tell them their imprisonment is no longer required, but then to carry on holding them year after year. Shaker Aamer must be freed as soon as possible and returned to his family in the UK.”

The letter is below. If you like it, please share it widely, and please also share the letter as published on the Guardian‘s website.

A Letter to President Obama on Independence Day Calling for Shaker Aamer’s Release from Guantánamo

Dear President Obama,

On the day that the United States celebrates its independence, we the undersigned ask you to facilitate the transfer from Guantánamo of Shaker Aamer, the last British resident in the prison, and his return to his family in the U.K. — his British wife and his four British children.

The majority of us are British citizens, and it has not escaped our notice that, while the U.S. is celebrating its freedom, and its foundation under the rule of law, the continuing detention of men at Guantánamo — largely without charge or trial — continues to undermine America’s notion of itself and its international standing.

The U.S. authorities have given no indication over the years that they have any intention to charge Shaker Aamer with any criminal offence. Indeed, he is one of 52 men still held who have long been approved for release from Guantánamo after interagency reviews. In his case, he has twice been approved for release from the base – in 2007, under President Bush, and again, in 2010, by your Guantánamo Review Task Force.

We note that the Prime Minster, David Cameron, has asked you to release him, that the British Government supported a Parliamentary motion calling for his release in March, and that a cross-party delegation of MPs visited Washington, D.C. in May to seek to establish a timeline for his release. Although they met with Senators, and with the envoys for Guantánamo closure, no one was able to tell them when Mr. Aamer would be released.

We cannot understand the difficulty involved in releasing him to the U.K., a close ally of the U.S.A., including on counter-terrorism. The MPs noted in an op-ed in the New York Times on June 8: “There is simply no reason, domestic or international, for the United States to keep Mr. Aamer in custody.”

The MPs 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. It is a slap in the face for America’s staunchest friend.”

Just three weeks ago, the U.S. Attorney General, Loretta Lynch, visited the U.K. to take part in a ceremony marking the 800th anniversary of the signing of the Magna Carta, the document that introduced habeas corpus to the world. The right not to be imprisoned without a fair trial has become the centrepiece of respect for the rule of law all around the world, and yet, when Ms. Lynch stated at Runnymede that the fundamental principles of the Magna Carta have “given hopes to those who face oppression” and have “given a voice to those yearning for the redress of wrongs”, it was impossible not to think of Shaker Aamer, and others in Guantánamo, also “yearning for the redress of wrongs”, but finding that yearning repeatedly unfulfilled.

As we congratulate you on the celebration of your country’s independence, we also urge you to address the ongoing and unjustifiable detention of Shaker Aamer without further delay.

Yours sincerely,

Clive Stafford Smith, founder, Reprieve
Kate Allen, director, Amnesty International UK
Shami Chakrabarti, director, Liberty
Dr. Shuja Shafi, Secretary General, Muslim Council of Great Britain
Boris Johnson MP, Mayor of London, (Conservative, Uxbridge and South Ruislip)
John McDonnell MP (Labour, Hayes and Harlington, co-chair, Shaker Aamer Parliamentary Group)
David Davis MP (Conservative, Haltemprice and Howden, co-chair, Shaker Aamer Parliamentary Group)
Andrew Mitchell MP (Conservative, Sutton Coldfield, officer, Shaker Aamer Parliamentary Group)
Jeremy Corbyn MP (Labour, Islington North, officer, Shaker Aamer Parliamentary Group), Labour leadership candidate
Andy Slaughter MP (Labour, Hammersmith, officer, Shaker Aamer Parliamentary Group), Shadow Justice Minister
Caroline Lucas MP (Green, Brighton Pavilion, officer, Shaker Aamer Parliamentary Group)
Sir Patrick Stewart OBE, actor
Ralph Fiennes, actor
Russell Brand, comedian, activist, actor
Roger Waters, musician, ex-Pink Floyd
Peter Gabriel, musician
Sting, musician
Juliet Stevenson OBE, actress, Olivier Award winner
David Morrissey, actor and director
Mark Rylance, actor, two Tony Awards
Richard E. Grant, actor
Rhys Ifans, BAFTA award-winning actor
Nick Davies, special correspondent, the Guardian
Sophie Ellis-Bextor, singer
Sir Richard Eyre, theatre director
David Hare, playwright, two Tony Awards, two Academy Award nominations
Ken Loach, film director
Mike Leigh, film director and writer
Frankie Boyle, comedian
Sara Pascoe, comedian
Maxine Peake, actress
Peter Oborne, journalist and author
Gillian Slovo, writer, Golden PEN Award winner
Lisa Appignanesi OBE, writer
Susie Orbach, psychotherapist and writer
Michael Brearley OBE, former England cricket captain
Natalie Bennett, leader, the Green Party of England and Wales
Denis Halliday, former Assistant Secretary-General, United Nations
Anna Perera, author, Guantanamo Boy
Julie Hesmondhalgh, actress
Dr. David Nicholl, neurologist, human rights activist
Lindsay German, convener, Stop The War Coalition
Sir Iqbal Sacranie, Chairman, Board Of Trustees, Balham Mosque
Shaykh Suliman Ghani, teacher and broadcaster
Peter Tatchell, human rights activist
Bianca Jagger, Bianca Jagger Human Rights Foundation
Moazzam Begg, human rights activist
Janet Ellis, actress, TV presenter, author
Jeremy Hardy, comedian
Charlie Winston, musician
Benjamin Zephaniah, poet and author
David Knopfler, musician
Lemn Sessay, author and broadcaster
Harriet Walter DBE, actress, cast member, Death Of A Salesman
Guy Paul, actor, cast member, Death Of A Salesman
Miranda Nolan, actress, cast member, Death Of A Salesman
Alex Hassell, actor, cast member, Death Of A Salesman
Emma King, actress, cast member, Death Of A Salesman
Brodie Ross, actor, cast member, Death Of A Salesman
Carol Anne Grayson, writer and researcher
SE (His Excellency) Prince Stefano Massimo di Roccasecca dei Volsci
Sir Alan Duncan MP (Conservative, Rutland and Melton)
Ann Clywd MP (Labour, Cynon Valley)
Andrew Smith MP (Labour, Oxford East)
Andrew Tyrie MP (Conservative, Chichester)
Clive Lewis MP (Labour, Norwich South)
Diane Abbott MP (Labour, Hackney North and Stoke Newington), Mayoral candidate for London
Dominic Grieve MP (Conservative, Beaconfield), former Attorney General
Gareth Thomas MP (Labour Co-operative, Harrow West), Mayoral candidate for London
Gavin Shuker MP (Labour, Luton South)
Sir Gerald Kaufman MP (Labour, Manchester Gorton)
Hywel Williams MP (Plaid Cymru, Arfon)
Ian Murray MP (Labour, Edinburgh South), Shadow Secretary Of State For Scotland
John Pugh MP (Liberal Democrat, Southport)
Kate Hoey MP (Labour, Vauxhall)
Keir Starmer MP (Labour, Holborn and St. Pancras), former Director of Public Prosecutions and the Head of the Crown Prosecution Service
Kelvin Hopkins MP (Labour, Luton North)
Mark Durkan MP (SDLP, Foyle)
Neil Carmichael MP (Conservative, Stroud)
Sir Peter Bottomley MP (Conservative, Worthing West)
Rebecca Long Bailey MP (Labour, Salford and Eccles)
Roger Godsiff MP (Labour, Birmingham Hall Green)
Ruth Cadbury MP (Labour, Brentford and Isleworth)
Sadiq Khan MP (Labour, Tooting), Mayoral candidate for London
Stephen Timms MP (Labour, East Ham)
Tania Mathias MP (Conservative, Twickenham)
Tom Brake MP (Liberal Democrat, Carshalton and Wallington)
Yasmin Qureshi MP (Labour, Bolton South East)
Jean Lambert MEP (Green, London)
George Galloway, Mayoral candidate for London
Tessa Jowell, Mayoral candidate for London
Baroness Helena Kennedy QC (Labour, House of Lords)
Baroness Jenny Jones (Green, House of Lords)
Lord Hylton (Crossbench, House of Lords)
Joanne MacInnes, co-director, We Stand With Shaker
Andy Worthington, co-director, We Stand With Shaker
Joy Hurcombe, Chair, Save Shaker Aamer campaign

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). 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.

Please also consider joining the “Close Guantánamo” campaign, and, if you appreciate Andy’s work, feel free to make a donation.

10 Responses

  1. Andy Worthington says...

    When I posted the link to the open letter on the Guardian’s website, I wrote:

    Excellent! Here, in the Guardian, is the open letter to President Obama for US Independence Day calling for Shaker Aamer’s release from ‪Guantanamo‬, which I wrote, and the 90+ celebrities and MPs that Joanne chased to sign it. We’ve got Boris Johnson, Sir Patrick Stewart OBE, Ralph Fiennes, Roger Waters, Peter Gabriel, Russell Brand, Frankie Boyle and many more celebrities, and dozens of MPs including all those heading the Shaker Aamer Parliamentary Group – co-chairs John McDonnell and Davis Davis, officers Andrew Mitchell, Jeremy Corbyn, Andy Slaughter and Caroline Lucas. Please share widely!

  2. Andy Worthington says...

    Neil Wilson wrote:

    done mate. and well done you sir

  3. Andy Worthington says...

    Thanks, Neil. Yes, very chuffed that it’s all worked out. I’m grateful that Boris Johnson has signed it. It will make a difference in the US. Also great to have Patrick Stewart, Ralph Fiennes, Russell Brand and many others on board for the first time, along with our many regular supporters, both celebrities and MPs.

  4. Andy Worthington says...

    Neil Wilson wrote:

    you should be very proud of what you’ve achieved my friend, I know I am.You really make a difference for the better Andy, and that is sadly a rare but noble act in these times. I have an enormous amount of respect and admiration for you pal, you are a genuinely good man.I’m chuffed I get to call you a friend, love and hugs and hope the sun is shining on your smile.have a great weekend Nx

  5. Andy Worthington says...

    Thanks, Neil. I appreciate your kind words, and yes, it’s going to be a great weekend. Yesterday I collected CDs of my band The Four Fathers’ debut album from the manufacturers, and tonight we’re playing a gig at a friend’s party and having a bit of a launch do. Couldn’t be better! https://www.facebook.com/fourfatherslondon

  6. Andy Worthington says...

    Waris Ali wrote:

    Great work Andy and of course Joanne MacInnes. So good to see the support growing. I’m sure it took a lot of leg work and following up, respect for all that you’ve both done and helped to achieve You make a great team 🙂

  7. Andy Worthington says...

    Thanks, Waris. Very good to hear from you.

  8. Andy Worthington says...

    The letter, and a full list of signatories, is also on the website: http://www.westandwithshaker.org/

  9. Andy Worthington says...

    And please circulate the letter on the Guardian’s website. The more views and shares, the better! http://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/jul/03/open-letter-barack-obama-shaker-aamer-guantanamo-boris-johnson-russell-brand-natalie-bennett

  10. Climate Revolution says...

    […] believe that they are democratic & respect the freedom & institutions of their peoples. An open letter was written & presented to President (of what & whom?) […]

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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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