February 14th marked the 10th anniversary of the arrival at Guantánamo of Shaker Aamer, the last British resident in the prison. On that day, his family and his lawyers in London launched an e-petition on the British government's website (http://www.freeshaker.com/), entitled, "Return Shaker Aamer to the UK".
This petition calls on the government - and, specifically, the Foreign Office and the Foreign Secretary, William Hague - to "undertake urgent new initiatives to achieve the immediate transfer of Shaker Aamer to the U.K. from continuing indefinite detention in Guantánamo Bay." This petition needs to secure 100,000 signatures by May 14 to trigger a Parliamentary debate.
Shaker, who has a British wife and four British children, was seized by bounty hunters in Afghanistan, where he had travelled with his family to undertake humanitarian aid, in November 2001, and was then sold to US forces. He arrived at Guantánamo on February 14, 2002, on the same day that his youngest son was born, and he continues to be held, even though the Bush administration cleared him for release in 2007, and President Obama’s Guantánamo Review Task Force cleared him for release in 2009, and even though successive British governments have been asking for him to be returned to the UK since August 2007.
On November 23rd, Reprieve Director, Clive Stafford Smith, visited Shaker and on departure immediately penned a letter to Foreign Secretary, William Hague, calling for his release and stating “Mr Aamer has suffered abuse that is unfathomable in the twenty-first century. I do not think it is stretching matters to say that he is gradually dying in Guantánamo Bay”.
Shaker’s continued detention is, therefore, thoroughly unacceptable, and no excuses can be made by either the Obama administration or the coalition government in the UK to justify his continued imprisonment. As a result, we urge you to call for his release through this petition.
Shaker’s case is not only significant in the UK, but also in the US and internationally, as he is the best candidate for release from the prison, able to break a deadlock which, for the last 14 months, has prevented the release of a single prisoner from Guantánamo.
This deadlock came about because of severe restrictions on releasing prisoners that were imposed by Congress, making security demands that were impossible for the administration to meet, and although these restrictions still exist in the latest legislation involving Guantánamo (the National Defence Authorization Act, signed into law by President Obama on December 31st), the new legislation also contains a waiver, allowing the administration to bypass the Congressional restrictions if they regard it as being safe and in the interests of national security.
Sign the petition and help us persuade the British government that the Prime Minister and the foreign secretary must insist on Shaker Aamer’s release, and that no more excuses are acceptable.
The U.K. campaign is supported by Reprieve, Cageprisoners, the London Guantánamo Campaign and the Save Shaker Aamer Campaign. We need volunteers to spread the word, so please contact the organizers (firstname.lastname@example.org) if you would like to volunteer to distribute leaflets and to secure signatures, for which paper copies of the petition are available. In addition, please feel free to use the campaign’s image of Shaker Aamer as you wish, on your website or on Facebook, to encourage people to sign.