Good News: U.K. Prime Minister Cameron Raises Shaker Aamer With President Obama

June 20, 2013

Shaker Aamer (Photo Credit: Department of Defense/MCT via Getty Images)
Shaker Aamer (Photo Credit: Department of Defense/MCT via Getty Images)

Shaker Aamer is a U.K. resident who has been held in U.S. custody since 2001 – originally detained in notorious detention facilities at the Bagram and Kandahar Air Force bases in Afghanistan before being transferred in February 2002 to Guantanamo Bay. He was allegedly tortured – both in Afghanistan and during his time at Guantanamo – and has now been on hunger strike for more than 120 days, joining more than 100 other detainees at the facility who are also on strike.

In a recent op-ed in the Guardian, Shaker stated that every day at Guantanamo is torture. He finished the piece with this poignant point: “I hope I do not die in this awful place. I want to hug my children and watch them as they grow. But if it is God’s will that I should die here, I want to die with dignity. I hope, if the worst comes to the worst, that my children will understand that I cared for the rights of those suffering around me almost as much as I care for them.”

The United Kingdom has previously pressed for his transfer to the U.K. – to little actual effect. It has now been reported that Prime Minister David Cameron raised the case of Shaker Aamer with President Obama at the G8 summit recently held in Northern Ireland. When subsequently questioned by Jane Ellison, the member of Parliament representing the district of Shaker’s wife and four children, Cameron stated, in part, that he “will be writing to [President Obama] about the specifics of the case and everything that we can do to expedite it.”

Some have said that current U.S. law prevents Shaker Aamer’s transfer to the U.K. But consider what Senator Carl Levin wrote recently to President Obama: “I recognize that Congress has made the process of relocating [Guantanamo] detainees to third countries more difficult by imposing certification requirements on such transfers. However, more than a year ago, I successfully fought for a national security waiver that provides a clear route for the transfer of detainees to third countries in appropriate cases, i.e., to make sure the certification requirements do not constitute an effective prohibition.”

The U.K. Government must insist that Congress and the U.S. administration, as a matter of urgency, work together to resolve the detention of Shaker Aamer and all other detainees held without charge or trial at Guantanamo Bay, consistent with the USA’s international human rights obligations. This situation can be resolved with prioritized action and applied human rights, and now that Cameron has said he will write to Obama there must be no further delays. Now it is time to take action.