The Hostages of Guantanamo: A Letter From Shaker Aamer

 A letter from Shaker Aamer, the last UK resident in Guantanamo Bay, to is lawyer has been recently unclassified by the Pentagon. The letter, dated July 15 2011, describes the inhumane treatment the detainee of ten years has been experiencing and the continuing injustice that led him to begin a peaceful protest involving a hunger strike.

I the signatory below, in Camp 5E announce the start of a peaceful protest/hunger strike for the reasons enumerated below:

1. The opening and continuing operation of this unjust detention facility for the ninth year of my continuing and indefinite detention in the absence of any real accusation or crimes committed. Therefore I am hostage.

2. The inhumane treatment and deprivation of some of the items we are truly in need of, most important of which are the family calls since they are most critical to our families, especially to those experiencing special circumstances. Therefore, I want these calls to take place on a continuing basis and recur once every 15 days. These family calls ought to last no less than 2 hours with further consideration given to those experiencing special circumstances. I also speak for the regular mail to be made more efficient and provide us with e-mail.

3. The inhumane treatment is taking place at the hospital among other areas especially affecting the sick and those who are on strike and our deprivation of real treatment, health diet and appropriate clothing which are not provided to us nor are we allowed to provide them for ourselves.

4. Not upholding the promise that both your president and government gave on 01/21/2009 concerning the closing of Guantánamo detention facility. Very few people have left ever since although many here have been deemed to not represent any danger for the United States. Therefore, I ask you to establish justice and remove the injustice that has befallen us and our brothers in all detention centers.

By submitting these demands, I affirm our right to life. We want our freedom and the right to return to our homes since I am innocent of the charges (if there were any) you have levied against us. I ask that you establish justice that you claim to be a foundation of your country.

After these years of hardship we have spent here — and which I managed to do only through the grace of God, otherwise I would have lost my sanity — I want you to consider my case as soon as possible and give me the right to a just and public trial or set me free without conditions.

Shaker Aamer (00239)

 

See our Shaker Aamer pages for more information.

Sign the Government petition to return Shaker Aamer to the UK.

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Shaker Aamer – Ten Years On


Shaker Aamer is one of the 171 men still held in Guantanamo Bay and its last remaining British resident. Despite never having had a trial, having been approved for release twice and been the focus of a high-profile campaign for his immediate release, Shaker has remained in detention for more than ten years. His physical and mental health deterioration is also a prevalent concern.

Spectacle is making a short film about Shaker Aamer to mark the tenth anniversary of his incarceration. The film includes interviews with activists and former detainees and paints a picture of who Shaker Aamer is and the injustices he has endured for the last decade.

The project area of the Spectacle website also contains full information about Shaker Aamer, the progress of the campaign and links to more content such as Scott Horton’s 2010 article, ‘The Guantánamo “Suicides”: A Camp Delta sergeant blows the whistle’, published in Harper’s Magazine.

Order Spectacle’s DVD Outside The Law: Stories from Guantánamo

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A screening of “Outside the Law: Stories from Guantanamo” at the European Parliament in Brussels- January 24


On Tuesday January 24, at 7 pm, there will be a special screening of the acclaimed documentary film “Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo” at the European Parliament in Brussels. The screening will take place in the main European Parliament building, the Altiero Spinelli Building, Rue Wiertz, in Room ASP – 3G2, on the 3rd floor, and Moazzam Begg, former Guantánamo prisoner, and the director of the NGO Cageprisoners, will be joining Andy Worthington and Polly Nash for the screening, and for the Q&A session afterwards.

 

The screening has been arranged by Jean Lambert (UK Green MEP), with the support of Sarah Ludford (UK Liberal Democrat MEP) and Ana Gomes (Portuguese Socialist MEP), and the purpose of the screening is to raise awareness of the continued existence of Guantánamo, and its mockery of universal notions of fairness and justice, ten years after the prison opened, on January 11, 2002. Given President Obama’s very public failure to close the prison as promised, it is essential that other countries step forward to take cleared prisoners who cannot be safely repatriated, and one of the main purposes of the screening is to encourage EU countries to re-engage with the process of resettling prisoners that was so successful in 2009 and 2010.

The screening is free, but anyone who wishes to attend needs to contact Rachel Sheppard, the Parliamentary Assistant to Jean Lambert MEP:  jean.lambert@europarl.europa.eu

This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

If those wishing to attend do not already have an access badge for the European Parliament, they need to provide their full name, date of birth, nationality, passport number or ID card and number and also specify the type of document (passport, ID card) so that access badges can be arranged. Without an access badge, those wishing to attend the screening will not be allowed.

Moazzam Begg and Andy Worthington will be available to talk to the press along with Jean Lambert MP, Sarah Ludford MEP and Ana Gomes MEP they are hoping to have the opportunity to discuss the need for European countries to revisit the generosity shown in 2009 and 2010, when many offered new homes to cleared Guantánamo prisoners who could not be safely repatriated.

171 prisoners are still held in Guantánamo, and 89 of these have been cleared for release by President Obama’s interagency Guantánamo Review Task Force. 58 of these men are Yemenis, whose release is being prevented by President Obama, and by Congress, but others remain in need of new homes, and it is only the absence of offers from, for example, countries in Europe, that is preventing them from finally being freed.

As Guantánamo recently marked the 10th anniversary of its opening, with no sign of when, if ever it will close, given Congressional opposition, and the President’s refusal, or inability to assert his authority, it would be a powerful humanitarian gesture if European countries once more agreed to take cleared prisoners, to help to close this shameful icon of the Bush administration’s misguided “war on terror.”

 

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Guantánamo – 10 years on

The London Guantánamo Campaign is marking the illegal detention centre’s first 10 years’ existence with a series of actions in January 2012.

Including a candlelight vigil outside the US embassy in London on 12th January, these actions have been designed to highlight a decade where over 800 prisoners were detained, most of them without charge or trial and subjected to torture and abuse.

The US Embassy can be found on Grosvenor Square, London W1A 1AE (nearest underground: Bond Street/ Marble.)

The LGC has also launched an e-petition which will be forwarded to the US ambassador to the UK, Louis Susman, on 11th January 2012 calling on the US government to repatriate UK prisoners Shaker Aamer and Ahmed Belbacha.

Click here to add your name to the e-petition.

Anyone wishing to get involved or obtain further information in any of the LGC’s planned events can email london.gtmo@gmail.com

Further details on the LGC can be found here

 

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England’s Guantanamo?

Save Shaker Aamer campaigner at the US embassy.

Nick Hardwick, Chief Inspector of Prisons, highlighted serious concerns of terror suspects being held indefinitely in his report on HMP Long Lartin. The report noted that two men had been held for more than 11 years in what Hardwick describes as a ‘legal limbo’.

The report reiterated that “We have previously raised concerns about holding a small number of detainees, who already inhabit a kind of legal limbo, in a severely restricted environment for a potentially indefinite period.”  However, although the prison had made some changes the recent unannounced inspection revealed that this had not made enough of an impact.

Ultimately the report concedes “The risks to the mental and physical health of detainees of such lengthy, ill-defined and isolated confinement are significant.” In addition the extra restrictions imposed on their movement only compounds the impact of detention without time-limit. HM Prison service will not appreciate the  comparison to Guatanamo Bay detention facility where Shaker Aamer, a British resident, still remains after eight years detained without charge or release date along with hundreds of others. The issue of torture at such facilities abroad (soon to be publicly discussed in the Metropolitan Police Inquiry into torture at Bagram prison) has revealed the disregard of the United States for international law when it suits.

Physical torture may not happening at Long Lartin but doctors at Medical Justice who document the physical and mental health of immigration detainees liken detention without time limit to mental torture. As long as the prison service continues their ‘war on terror’ with measures defying habeous corpus the basic human rights which the British government purport all over the world seem blindingly hypocritical.

Please join the Save Shaker Aamer Campaign

Watch video- Omar Deghayes, former Guantanamo Bay detainee, describes his interrogation by British Intelligence agent, “Andrew”, and others (MI5 and MI6) while held illegally in Pakistan.

Order Spectacle’s DVD Outside The Law: Stories from Guantánamo

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Shaker Aamer: 10 Years on

 

The Independent has drawn attention today to the “decade in detention without trial” of Shaker Aamer, cleared for release in 2007. The article emphasised Shaker’s current declining health and concerns about the amount of time he has endured in solitary confinement.

As a British resident, Shaker looks to be spending his tenth year in Guantanamo Prison where his recent hunger strike draws ever more concern about just exactly what it means to have been “cleared for release” in the United States of America. While this is a case that has drawn minimum media attention in the past ten years, what seems to be lacking is not just a public awareness of the issue but an informed public response to it.

One reader’s comment on the Independent article, with more than 10 ‘likes’, has expressed hostility about the idea of British taxpayers money being used on “lawyers looking after his interests” with a reluctance to accept Shaker as a British resident. This kind of prejudice dominating the response to the Independent article is disconcerting, especially given that we know of the torture received by Shaker in Guantanamo Prison and the trauma that has befallen his family for ten years now, particularly his son, who has never seen him. Shaker was abducted while residing in Afghanistan to build wells and a school for children as a charitable act. The real issue here is one of humanity and a huge injustice in the legal system of America – not one to do with terrorism or a bigoted gripe about who is paying for Shaker’s lawyers, who he has only had very little contact with anyway. He is a British citizen, it must be remembered.

The article brings little more to light than a reminder and a vague description of a decline in Shaker’s situation. Perhaps more prominent are the superfical and racist comments brought about by the article from an audience that seem unaware of the plight of Shaker, Omar Khadr and others suffering the injustices of Guantanamo.

It is interesting that fifty years after Stanley Milgram‘s experiment into obedience to authority; there has been no shift in human development. We still believe in upholding the justice system even when it is killing innocent people and destroying lives. We need to stop putting our trust in Government actions simply because it is easier to ignore them. Progress comes with education, so if you want more information about the save Shaker Aamer campaign, spend just five minutes getting to know his case and just why we need to call for his release today.

Please join the Save Shaker Aamer Campaign

Watch video- Omar Deghayes, former Guantanamo Bay detainee, describes his interrogation by British Intelligence agent, “Andrew”, and others (MI5 and MI6) while held illegally in Pakistan.

Order Spectacle’s DVD Outside The Law: Stories from Guantánamo

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Or visit our Guantánamo project pages for more information and videos.

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UK’s secret policy on torture: a threat to national security




Today the Guardian exclusively revealed  the UK’s secret policy on torture.
The document shows intelligence officers were instructed to “weigh the importance of information sought against the pain inflicted”.

One section states: “If [...] that information will be or has been obtained through the mistreatment of detainees, the negative consequences may include [...] adverse effects on national security if the fact [...] were to be publicly revealed”

Not only does this document expose the UK’s complicity with torture, which it acknowledges is illegal under UK and international law, but it also attempts to justify the need for keeping the policy secret because it may increase the threat from terrorism. In other words it is not the illegal torture policy that is a problem- just people finding out about it.

In other words, as any criminal will surely agree, the real crime is being found out.  The document attempts to blame the messenger or whistle-blower for any potential negative “blow back” rather than the torture policy itself.

Behind this lies a remarkable confidence that both the victims and the perpetrators of torture will keep silent or will not be believed if they speak out.
This policy of secrecy would explain why credible witness and UK resident Shaker Aamer is still in Guantanamo. It would appear he will be held until tormented into insanity.

Please join the Save Shaker Aamer Campaign

Watch video- Omar Deghayes, former Guantanamo Bay detainee, describes his interrogation by British Intelligence agent, “Andrew”, and others (MI5 and MI6) while held illegally in Pakistan.

Order Spectacle’s DVD Outside The Law: Stories from Guantánamo

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Or visit our Guantánamo project pages for more information and videos.

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Bradford screenings – Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo

As part of the Bradford International Film Festival, Cineworld at the Bradford Leisure Exchange will be hosting two screenings of the new Spectacle documentary, Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo on the 26th and 27th of March.

The March 26th viewing will also host a panel discussion of the project with filmmakers Polly Nash and Andy Worthington, along with former detainees Moazzam Begg and Omar Deghayes following the screening.

Outside the Law offers a powerful and personal insight into the claims that Guantánamo holds “the worst of the worst” and how those detained as “illegal enemy combatants” were given no chance to defend themselves and, even worse, given no rights whatsoever.

Information and tickets are available online as are DVD purchases

Click Guantánamo for more blogs or visit our Guantánamo project pages for more information and videos.

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Reprieve ask Sir Peter Gibson to stand down from inquiry

Clive Stafford-Smith has published a letter sent to Sir Peter Gibson – the man elected by David Cameron to lead the inquiry into whether the UK has been complicit in the torture of terrorism suspects – that calls for him to renounce his position. The letter was written on behalf of Reprieve, an organisation which represents prisoners held ‘beyond the rule of law’ or those facing the death penalty, and which represented Binyam Mohamed in the trial which cleared his name of any connections with any terrorist acts.

Clive Stafford-Smith of Reprieve

The content of the letter focuses on the bias that compromises Sir Gibson’s position; specifically that he has already conducted an internal review on the same subject and his role as Intelligence Services Commissioner. Stafford-Smith finishes by challenging Sir Gibson about the expansion of his duties in 2009 to Gordon Brown to ‘…protect the reputation of our security and intelligence services…’ and to ‘…ensure that our practices are in line with the United Kingdom and international law,’ arguing that he should be acting as a witness to the inquiry, not leading it.

Given that previous reports maintained that the integrity of British Intelligence remained intact and that those involved in the hearings were ‘trustworthy and dependable’, Stafford-Smith feels that he is unlikely to offer any public criticisms of, or claims for accountability from either MI5 or MI6.

The full letter has been printed in full for public consumption and Stafford-Smith also appeared on Radio 4′s Today programme to debate the matter with the former chairman of the Intelligence and Security Committee, Kim Howells.

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