Despite Barak Obama’s promise to close down Guantanamo Bay, Shaker Aamer a former British resident and father of four is continuing to be detained in the illegal enclosure in Cuba after nine years of being imprisoned without charge or trial. The Prisma’s Memoirs. November 2010.
43 year old Shaker Aamer is the last remaining British Resident in Guantanamo Bay. Amnesty International has launched a campaign to pressure Britain’s foreign secretary William Hague and US officials into action and free the final Britain locked in the US’s controversial detention centre.
Last week Foreign Secretary William Hague informed parliament that he has asked Hilary Clinton the US Secretary of State to return Shaker Aamer to the UK, and US officials have agreed to look into it. Director of UK Amnesty international Kate Allen insists that the British government and the US must make his release a priority and rapidly agree a timetable for this. If this does not happen Allen fears Aamer will continue to “languish in a cell at Guantanamo”.
Back in January 2009, President Obama signed an agreement promising that the US administration would endeavour to resolve all of the remaining cases of detainees in Guantanamo Bay with a view of closing down the centre entirely “no later than one year from the date of this order”. It is now November, and the reality is a far cry from Obama’s promises that are fast approaching the one year date.
As of the 17th of November, 174 men remain detained in Guantanamo and the majority have been held there without charge or trial for at least eight years. Despite Obama’s fresh approach to this matter, these statistics reflect the arrogance of a world power that can casually disregard international law and violate the human rights of hundreds with little accountability.
Shaker Aamer’s story begins in 2001 where he was originally detained in Afghanistan by Afghan forces, then transferred to US custody in Afghanistan and ultimately taken to Guantanamo Bay.
Aamer’s story is a familiar one; detained for nine years, without a single charge against his name nor a trial to be heard of. Aamer is originally from Saudi Arabia, he married a British citizen and has four children with her, tragically he is yet to meet his youngest son.
Moreover like many other detainees he has spoken of brutal torture and abuse that he has suffered under the guise of officials. Further shame has been brought upon the UK government as his allegations go further than this and he claims he was tortured several times in Afghanistan by US officials, while British intelligence officials were present.
Sadly Aamer’s experience does not appear to be an isolated incident. Earlier this year Prime Minister David Cameron appointed Sir Peter Gibson to head an enquiry into allegations of UK complicity in torture and other human rights abuses of individuals detained abroad. Jane Elison, the local MP of Aamer’s family has welcomed this development; “A change of government and, in particular, the Prime Minister’s announcement that there was to be an inquiry into the UK’s complicity in torture, has given the campaign for Mr Aamer’s release new impetus”. Aamer’s account means that he is a key witness in the forthcoming inquiry into the UK’s involvement in torture and rendition and thus his release is a matter of even greater urgency, something acknowledged by Justice Secretary Kenneth Clarke.
Originally a US naval base, Guantanamo Bay was part of George Bush’s “war on terror” set up after September 11th and the US’s siege on Afghanistan. It has been used as a place to detain foreign terrorism suspects indefinitely without charge or trial.
Those detained have been considered “enemy combatants” rather than prisoners of war so that the US can conveniently render their rights according to the Geneva convention void.
Since its inception, Human rights groups, politicians and governments across the world have condemned its existence.
At its peak Guantanamo Bay held 750 prisoners, eighteen of which were either British citizens or British residents. Amnesty International’s members are writing to their local MPs pressing William Hague to urgently address the case of the last of those eighteen; Shaker Aamer.