Ten years after his arrival in Guantánamo Bay, British resident Shaker Aamer remains held under the harshest conditions
February 14, 2012
Today marks ten years since Londoner Shaker Aamer was transferred to the US military prison in Guantánamo Bay, where he has since been abused and held in punishing isolation but never charged with any crime.
Shaker arrived in Guantánamo Bay on the same day – Valentine’s Day 2002 – that his youngest child was born, a child he has never met. He was cleared for release by the Bush Administration in 2007, and it has been publicly reported that he has also been cleared by the Obama Administration.
He wishes to rejoin his British wife and four British children in the UK. A new law opens an avenue for Shaker’s possible release: it may now be done without a personal certification from US Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta. The question is whether the US will do it – no prisoner has been released now for a full year.
Reprieve’s director Clive Stafford Smith, and Legal Director Cori Crider, recently visited Shaker Aamer in Guantánamo Bay: Shaker reports his most recent isolation being for several months, starting on July 15, 2011. It is not for doing anything wrong, merely asserting the human rights of his fellow prisoners.
“There is meant to be a 30 day maximum on isolation as a punishment,” he says. “So it’s not called isolation any more it’s called ‘separation.’” He is in a cell with no view to the outside, just a one metre by 30 centimetres of opaque glass, and no real toilet, just a hole in the ground. Shaker reports that he has been reading (and re-reading) 1984 by George Orwell. It has made a big impact on him. “You must read this book because you need to understand what is happening here in Guantánamo. Torture is for torture, the system is for the system.” In many ways, Shaker reports that the torture is worse today than it was before.
“Please torture me the old way,” says Shaker. “Here they destroy people mentally and physically without leaving marks.”
Shaker does not expect President Obama to do anything better than his predecessor, President Bush. Presidents are, he thinks, hemmed in by the powers that surround them: “The White House is a straitjacket. You just wear it.” Immediately following his visit with Shaker, Reprieve’s director wrote to Foreign Secretary William Hague concerning the disastrous physical ailments that Shaker suffers – these details have now been cleared through the US censorship process and the letter is publicly available.
Reprieve’s legal director Cori Crider said: “Shaker is no longer the man he was ten years ago: he has dropped to perhaps 150 pounds, losing forty percent of his body weight; his face bears the marks of suffering and of time passing; and while he has an irrepressible spirit, the authorities seem determined to grind him down to nothing. The British Government must do more – not only in pushing for his release, but in getting his living conditions eased. While the US military boasts about improvements in the conditions at GTMO for many, it is no exaggeration to say that the conditions of Shaker Aamer’s imprisonment have long been, and remain, the harshest at the base.”
Reprieve’s director Clive Stafford Smith said: “It is inconceivable that our closest ally could hold Shaker, the father of four little British children, for ten years without charge, and for five years after he has been cleared for release. Surely the UK is not totally impotent when it comes to protecting such basic human rights.”
Notes to editors
1. For further information please go to http://www.reprieve.org.uk/cases/shakeraamer/ or contact Donald Campbell or Katherine O’Shea in Reprieve’s press office on +44 (0)20 7427 1082
2. Read Clive Stafford Smith’s latest letter to Foreign Secretary William Hague on Shaker Aamer.
3. Reprieve, a legal action charity, uses the law to enforce the human rights of prisoners, from death row to Guantánamo Bay. Reprieve investigates, litigates and educates, working on the frontline, to provide legal support to prisoners unable to pay for it themselves. Reprieve promotes the rule of law around the world, securing each person’s right to a fair trial and saving lives. Clive Stafford Smith is the founder of Reprieve and has spent 25 years working on behalf of people facing the death penalty in the USA.Reprieve’s current casework involves representing 15 prisoners in the US prison at Guantánamo Bay, assisting over 70 prisoners facing the death penalty around the world, and conducting ongoing investigations into the rendition and the secret detention of ‘ghost prisoners’ in the so-called ‘war on terror.’