Last Brit in Guantanamo; Parliamentary Meeting Oct 29th Hse of Commons

by on Oct.28, 2012, under Uncategorized

You are invited to attend a
Par­lia­ment­ary Meet­ing entitled
Monday 29th Octo­ber, at 7pm to 9pm
Room 15, the House of Com­mons, Lon­don SW1A2TT
(St. Stephen’s Entrance)
Meet­ing hos­ted by Jane Ellison MP on behalf of the
Save Shaker Aamer Cam­paign (SSAC).
Clive Stafford Smith OBE, Jane Ellison MP, Omar
Deghayes, Kate Hud­son, Yvonne Rid­ley, Joy Hurcombe
Oth­ers invited/include:
Car­oline Lucas MP, Sarah Lud­ford MEP, John McDon­nell
MP, and Terry Waite CBE, Andy Wor­thing­ton.
We will show the new short video by Spec­tacle called “Shaker the dec­ade of
Injustice.” This will be fol­lowed by a panel dis­cus­sion and Q&A to focus on
how we can all work for Shaker Aamer’s release and return to the UK.
Please note – arrive in good time for the meet­ing. Allow 20 minutes to clear
secur­ity at the House of Com­mons. The House of Com­mons is a no-smoking
zone and we are reques­ted not take in any food.
Fur­ther details: con­tact SSAC 07756493877



CALLING ALL STUDENTS: We need your help. If you wish to get involved in the Save Shaker Aamer Cam­paign and help bring an end to Shaker’s ordeal, and organ­ise an event to pub­li­cise his plight and story in your col­lege or uni­ver­sity, please con­tact us by email­ing a reply or phoning 07756493877

Ray Silk Sec Save Shaker Aamer Campaign


This art­icle, pub­lished sim­ul­tan­eously here and on the “Close Guantá­namo” web­site, con­tains inform­a­tion from a visit to Shaker Aamer, the last Brit­ish res­id­ent in Guantá­namo, by Ramzi Kassem, one of his law­yers, and was made avail­able exclus­ively to Andy Wor­thing­ton at Shaker’s request.

Shaker Aamer, the last Brit­ish res­id­ent in the US “war on ter­ror” prison at Guantá­namo Bay, Cuba, has a mes­sage to the world, which has been made avail­able exclus­ively to me, at his request. He wants people to know that the treat­ment of the pris­on­ers is “com­pletely arbit­rary,” and there are “no laws, rules or SOPs [Stand­ard Oper­at­ing Pro­ced­ures] in Cuba.” Sub­jec­ted to viol­ence every day, he con­tin­ues to demand “free­dom and justice.”

In inform­a­tion from a visit on May 14 this year by Ramzi Kassem, one of his law­yers, Shaker, who has spent much of his time in Guantá­namo in isol­a­tion, explained how, from Decem­ber 2011 to April 2012, he was held in the max­imum secur­ity cells of Camp V, where those regarded as trouble­some have been held since the block was built in 2004, but was then returned to isol­a­tion in a block known as Five Echo.

The exist­ence of Five Echo — where the cells are only half the size of those in Camp V — was first revealed by the US mil­it­ary in Decem­ber 2011, when David Remes, another of Shaker’s law­yers, explained to the Asso­ci­ated Press that his cli­ent had been held there and that it was “a throw­back to the bad old days at Guantánamo.”

At the time, Ramzi Kassem also said that Shaker had “described abysmal con­di­tions in Five Echo,” explain­ing that “the squat toi­let is dif­fi­cult to use, there are foul odors, bright lights shine on detain­ees and air con­di­tion­ers keep it extremely cold.” He added, “It is decrepit, filthy and dis­gust­ing. Those are the words he [Shaker] used to describe it.” He also said that Shaker had told him “there is not enough room in Five Echo for the Muslim pris­on­ers to do their prayers.”

In May, explain­ing his under­stand­ing of how decisions are made in Guantá­namo, Shaker told Ramzi Kassem, “It is com­pletely arbit­rary. There are no laws, rules or SOPs [Stand­ard Oper­at­ing Pro­ced­ures] in Cuba.” He also com­plained that the per­son­nel at Guantá­namo refuse to acknow­ledge that he is being held in isol­a­tion, even though a digital dis­play at the entrance to the cell block reads, “Isol­a­tion Block — Echo Five.” Shaker explained that he has star­ted mock­ing the guards, say­ing, “Even the com­puter knows that this is isol­a­tion, yet you deny it!”

This sounds light-hearted, but the abuse it dis­guises is hor­rendous. Shaker has spent years in isol­a­tion, even though pro­longed isol­a­tion is tor­ture, and for him to be returned to isol­a­tion so long after being cleared for release only con­firms how Guantá­namo remains a place of almost cas­ual cruelty.

Shaker also provided fur­ther evid­ence of this when dis­cuss­ing his recre­ation time. After explain­ing that he is only allowed out of his cramped cell for two hours of recre­ation per day, he told his law­yer that, every day, he refuses to leave the recre­ation area and return to his cell. He described this as “a peace­ful protest, to remind his captors that he is being mis­treated and wants to go home,” but it is met with viol­ence every day.

Although Shaker repeatedly makes his point peace­fully, and asked the author­it­ies to allow him a one-week period to protest peace­fully about his con­tin­ued impris­on­ment, any­where in the prison (even out­doors), his request was refused. Instead, every­day, Shaker is force­fully extrac­ted from the recre­ation area and dragged back to his cell by the Imme­di­ate Reac­tion Force (IRF), the five-man teams of guards who enforce even the most minor infringe­ments of the rules with violence.

In the pro­cess, as Shaker told his law­yer, he is “often beaten and some­times choked.” He also made a point of stat­ing that “abuse at GTMO is com­mon because there is little to no over­sight,” explain­ing that this is the real GTMO, and that, if the treat­ment he endures daily is pos­sible for him, if it is pos­sible for any pris­oner in Guantá­namo. Fur­ther­more, he described this as “a time warp back to the con­di­tions that pre­vailed for the pris­on­ers in 2005.”

In fur­ther descrip­tions of con­di­tions in Guantá­namo, Shaker also stated that many pris­on­ers have been brought from Camp VI — where the major­ity of pris­on­ers are held, and are gen­er­ally allowed to have some time to social­ize — to Five Echo, and added that he believes that this means there have been many prob­lems at Camp VI.

He added that he was not sur­prised, because, in the past, the prison author­it­ies showed their dom­in­ance of the pris­on­ers, and sub­jec­ted them to humi­li­ation by mak­ing them kneel, and that one of the ways they did this was through bribery, offer­ing pris­on­ers watches, MP3 play­ers and DVDs in exchange for their compliance.

Shaker also explained that, recently, he was being har­assed for sev­eral months by a watch com­mander who threw out some of his per­sonal items. He stated that, in protest, he broke the mir­ror moun­ted on the wall in his cell and cut his hand. Even­tu­ally, the watch com­mander was re-assigned.

Shaker showed his law­yer the scars on his hand and fore­arm dur­ing the visit in May, and this, together with his return to isol­a­tion in Five Echo, added poignancy and power to his desire for a formal request to be made on his behalf for a meet­ing with the UN Spe­cial Rap­por­teur on Tor­ture, Pro­fessor Juan Mén­dez.

Shaker also recalled that, when a del­eg­a­tion of senior offi­cials in the Obama admin­is­tra­tion met with him three years ago, he reacted neg­at­ively when they said that they “wanted to ensure his com­fort,” telling them, “This isn’t com­fort to me. It’s about free­dom and justice!”

Shaker Aamer’s words always carry weight. He is well-known as an elo­quent, cha­ris­matic man, who has always stood up for the rights of his fel­low pris­on­ers, but now, how­ever, his words are more highly charged than ever before, because it has been offi­cially revealed, for the first time ever, that he was cleared to leave Guantá­namo three years ago; in other words, that the Obama admin­is­tra­tion has no desire to hold him any longer.

The shame that ought to accom­pany this news is two-fold: firstly, that he con­tin­ues to be held des­pite being cleared for release three years ago; and secondly, that, since this inform­a­tion was pub­licly released, on Septem­ber 21, he has not been promptly put on a plane and flown back to the UK, to be reunited with his Brit­ish wife and his four Brit­ish children.

The inform­a­tion about Shaker’s status was revealed on a list of the names of 55 cleared pris­on­ers that was released as part of a court case, sur­pris­ing law­yers for the Guantanamo pris­on­ers who had been told since 2009 that this inform­a­tion was clas­si­fied, and that it was import­ant that it remained secret, in order to help the US government’s attempts to secure new homes for those who can­not be safely repat­ri­ated because of human rights con­cerns in their home countries.

28 of these names were pre­vi­ously known, as we revealed here in June, in an exclus­ive report entitled, “Guantá­namo Scan­dal: The 40 Pris­on­ers Still Held But Cleared for Release At Least Five Years Ago.” Shaker was one of the 28 men named in that report, but whereas almost every­one else in the report had their status con­firmed in pub­licly avail­able doc­u­ments, Shaker’s status as a cleared pris­oner had only been con­firmed indir­ectly, in a let­ter to Con­gress by four Brit­ish MPs in Decem­ber 2011.

In light of the recent news of Shaker’s status as a cleared pris­oner, and this latest inform­a­tion about how ter­ribly he is being treated, it is time to renew calls to the Obama admin­is­tra­tion — and to the Brit­ish gov­ern­ment — to secure Shaker Aamer’s return to the UK. A peti­tion to the Brit­ish gov­ern­ment is here, and an inter­na­tional peti­tion is here.

In con­clu­sion, it’s worth remem­ber­ing what the Brit­ish MPs who wrote a let­ter to Con­gress about Shaker noted, last Decem­ber, about what Shaker was told in a noti­fic­a­tion of his cleared status by the US gov­ern­ment. “On Janu­ary 22, 2009 the pres­id­ent of the United States ordered a new review of the status of each detainee in Guantá­namo,” the doc­u­ment stated, adding, “As a res­ult of that review you have been cleared for trans­fer out of Guantá­namo … The US gov­ern­ment intends to trans­fer you as soon as possible.”

That time is now, and no more excuses can be tolerated.

Note: In April, two more exclus­ive art­icles about Shaker Aamer’s treat­ment in Guantá­namo were pub­lished here and on the “Close Guantá­namo” web­site.

Andy Wor­thing­ton is the author of The Guantá­namo Files: The Stor­ies of the 774 Detain­ees in America’s Illegal Prison (pub­lished by Pluto Press, dis­trib­uted by Mac­mil­lan in the US, and avail­able from Amazon

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