End Indefinite Detention at Guantanamo
Charge or Release Shaker Aamer
As of February 14, 2013, former UK resident Shaker Aamer will have been held at Guantanamo without charge for 11 years. Indefinite detention is a human rights violation: the US must either charge Aamer with a crime or release him.
Former UK resident Shaker Aamer, a Saudi Arabian national, was originally detained in Afghanistan, where he was living with his family, by Afghan forces in the autumn of 2001. He was then transferred to US custody in Afghanistan.
In February 2002, Shaker Aamer was sent to Guantanamo Bay where he remains detained. At Guantanamo he has been involved in protesting against conditions at the camp, including by participating in hunger strikes. He has spent much of his time in Guantanamo held in solitary confinement.
Shaker Aamer was arrested by Afghan forces in late 2001 in Jalalabad, Afghanistan and subsequently transferred to US custody. Aamer is originally from Saudi Arabia, and his wife and four children are all British nationals and currently live in South London in the United Kingdom (UK). He had permission to live indefinitely in the UK, on the basis of his marriage to a British national, when he was originally detained by Afghan forces in late 2001.
On February 13/14 2002 he was transferred from US custody in Afghanistan to the US naval base at Guantánamo Bay in Cuba and has been held there ever since. He is the last former resident of the UK held at Guantánamo and has never been charged, tried or convicted of any criminal offense by the US authorities.
Via his lawyers, Shaker Aamer has alleged that he was subjected to torture, including severe beatings, and other ill-treatment while being held in secret detention and interrogated at Bagram Theater Internment Facility, Afghanistan in early 2002. He has alleged that, as well as US officials, men claiming to be UK Security Service (MI5) officers were present at interrogations during which his head was “repeatedly banged so hard against a wall that it bounced".
Since his transfer to Guantánamo Bay, Shaker Aamer has repeatedly alleged that he has been tortured there. According to his lawyers, throughout much of his detention he has been held in solitary confinement. Shaker Aamer speaks fluent English and his lawyers understand that he has been involved in protesting against conditions at the camp, including participating in hunger strikes and speaking out on behalf of other detainees. They have stated their belief that he has been subjected to prolonged isolation and frequent ill-treatment as punishment for his defiance against his indefinite detention and ill-treatment.
Shaker Aamer’s lawyers have said that while he remains defiant, his physical and mental health continue to deteriorate. They say that lack of adequate medical treatment for the multiple illnesses from which he is now reported to suffer means that increasingly his long-term health and well-being is at risk. His legal team is attempting to secure an independent medical assessment for him but claim that US authorities continue to refuse access. His lawyers inform us that despite receiving some medical assistance Shaker Aamer continues to suffer from a number of ailments.
The UK Government has agreed to accept him if he is returned to the UK and has on numerous occasions since 2007 called for the USA to release him. According to media reports, in March 2009, the then Joint Head of the Counter Terrorism Department at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in London, Robert Chatterton-Dixon, told the US Department of State's Coordinator for Counterterrorism, Dell Dailey, that neither the United Kingdom nor Saudi Arabia would prosecute Shaker Aamer if he were released.
On March 1, 2012, British Foreign Secretary William Hague met with Shaker Aamer’s local UK Member of Parliament and legal representatives. AI UK has received confirmation in writing and in person on several occasions that Foreign Secretary Hague has personally raised Shaker Aamer’s case with US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, calling for him to be returned to his family in the UK.
On September 21, 2012 the U.S. Department of Justice made public a list of 55 current Guantánamo detainees, including Shaker Aamer, who had been “approved for transfer” by the Guantánamo Review Task Force, a body consisting of officials from key government departments and the intelligence agencies and established under President Barack Obama’s January 22, 2009 executive order on resolution of the Guantánamo detentions and the closure of the detention facility. The Task Force’s final report was issued on January 22, 2010. The list made public in September 2012 did not include any current detainee whose “transfer status” was sealed under protective order. A 56th detainee “approved for transfer” has been identified since then.
Despite the seeming willingness of UK authorities to permit Shaker Aamer’s return to the UK and rejoin his family, and the absence to date of any charges, he remains detained without charge or criminal trial at Guantánamo Bay.
Shaker Aamer's designation by US authorities as “approved for transfer” implies that US authorities have no intention of charging him with criminal offenses. If so, like any other Guantánamo detainee who is not to be charged, he should be immediately released. In Shaker Aamer's case he should be released to the UK following repeated requests for his return made by the UK government.