In response to reports that Saudi national Shaker Aamer will be transferred to the UK after being held without charge or trial at Guantanamo Bay for more than 13 years, Amnesty International USA Executive Director Steven W. Hawkins issued the following statement:
“For too long, Congress has perpetuated a toxic mythology that all of the individuals still held at Guantanamo are ‘the worst of the worst.’ Shaker Aamer’s situation reflects the larger truth: Nearly half of the remaining detainees have been cleared for transfer by the U.S. government’s national security agencies.
“Members of Congress have treated Guantanamo like a political punching bag, keeping individuals like Shaker Aamer languishing in detention without charge, some at death’s door during hunger strikes.
“Shaker Aamer’s case is a symbol of Guantanamo’s utter failure. This is a man who was held without trial or charge for more than 13 years, alleges he was tortured repeatedly, was cleared for transfer twice, and the UK government has asked that he be transferred back to the United Kingdom, yet he still languished in detention from February 2002 until today.
“As the Guantanamo prison enters its fourteenth year, Congress should quit playing political football with human lives and work with President Obama to continue progress toward removing this deep stain on the U.S. government’s human rights record.”
Aamer, 46, has been held without charge or trial at Guantanamo for over 13 years, since February 14, 2002. He was cleared for transfer from Guantanamo as long ago as 2009.
Aamer was arrested by Afghan forces in late 2001 in Jalalabad, Afghanistan, and subsequently transferred to U.S. custody. Aamer is originally from Saudi Arabia. His wife and four children are all British nationals who live in south London. Aamer had permission to live indefinitely in the UK on the basis of his marriage to a British national at the time of his original detention.
Through his lawyers, Aamer has alleged he was subjected to torture and other ill-treatment, including severe beatings, while held in secret U.S. detention in Afghanistan in early 2002. He says that, as well as U.S. 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 Guantanamo, Aamer has repeatedly alleged that he has also been tortured and otherwise ill-treated there. According to his lawyers, throughout much of his detention he has been held in solitary confinement. Aamer speaks fluent English and his lawyers understand he has been involved in protesting against conditions at the camp, including participating in hunger strikes and speaking out on behalf of other detainees. Aamer could be overheard in a 60 Minutes segment which aired in November 2013, appealing to the to CBS crew to “tell the world the truth.”