Cameron urged to act on Shaker Aamer after US Defense Secretary says case is ‘not on desk’

February 12, 2015

Lawyers for a British resident held at Guantanamo Bay for the last 13 years have urged the Prime Minister to press the US for a timeline for his release, after it emerged that the case was ‘not on the desk’ of the US Defense Secretary.

Shaker Aamer, a father of four from South London, has been detained at the military prison since February 14th 2002. He has twice been cleared for release, and has never faced trial or been charged with a crime.

Following talks at the White House with David Cameron last month, US President Barack Obama had pledged to ‘prioritise’ Mr Aamer’s case. But it has been revealed that US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel – whose signature acts as the final authorisation to release prisoners from Guantanamo – has said Mr Aamer’s name was not ‘on his desk.’ He is reported to have said: “As far as I know, I have made a decision on everything that is ready to be made a decision on.”

In a letter to the Prime Minister, Reprieve attorney Cori Crider has asked: “What assurances were you given regarding Shaker’s case by the President during your visit, beyond what the NSC spokesperson said publicly on Mr Obama’s behalf? Did the President provide any indication on when Shaker’s family can expect to see him returned to London? Did you ask the President to ensure that Shaker’s case was sent to Secretary Hagel for his consideration? And finally, in the light of Secretary Hagel’s comments, will you now press the Obama administration on providing a concrete timetable for Shaker’s return?”

Clive Stafford Smith, Mr Aamer’s lawyer and director of human rights organization Reprieve, said:

“The US Defense Secretary’s admission that Shaker’s case isn’t even on his desk suggests that Obama’s claims to be ‘prioritising’ it may be little more than weasel words. If the US government wanted to ‘prioritise’ invading a country they could do it in a week, so sending one man home to his family in London cannot be too much to ask. Coming just days after David Cameron personally requested that Shaker be returned home to Britain, it doesn’t say much for the state of the ‘Special Relationship.’

“Shaker has been cleared for release twice by the US Government itself. The UK wants him brought home. It is an affront to justice that he continues to be detained, without charge or trial, 13 years after his arrival at Guantanamo. The suspicion must be that the US fears he will reveal yet more about its shameful torture programme if he is ever allowed to speak freely.”

ENDS

Notes to editors

1. For further information, please contact Reprieve’s press office: +44 207 553 8160

2. Reprieve’s letter to the Prime Minister is available here.

3. Mr Hagel’s comments can be read here.