Shaker Aamer

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Shaker Aamer

Shaker Aamer wearing an orange uniform, issued to compliant captives.
Born 12 December 1968 (1968-12-12) (age 55)
Medina, Saudi Arabia
Known for cleared for release since 2007, but still held in Guantánamo.[1]
Children four children with his British wife, the youngest of whom he has never met

Shaker Aamer is a Saudi Arabian citizen and the last British resident held by the United States in the Guantanamo Bay detention camps, in Cuba.[2] He was captured in Jalalabad, Afghanistan, on 24 November 2001 and was brought to Guantánamo on 14 February 2002, where he has now been held for Template:For year month day.[3][4][5]

According to documents published in the Guantanamo Bay files leak, the US military Joint Task Force Guantanamo believed in November 2007 that Aamer had led a unit of fighters in Afghanistan, including the Battle of Tora Bora, while his family was paid a stipend by Osama bin Laden. The file asserts past associations with Richard Reid and Zacarias Moussaoui.[6][7] Clive Stafford Smith a human rights lawyer said the leaked documents would not stand up in court. He pointed out that part of the evidence comes from an unreliable witness and that confessions Aamer made had been obtained through torture.[8][9] Mr Aamer’s father-in-law, Saaed Ahmed Siddique, said: "All of these claims have no basis. If any of this was true he would be in a court now."[10] The Bush administration acknowledged later that it had no evidence against Aamer.[11]

Aamer has never been charged with any wrongdoing and has never received a trial and his lawyer says he is "totally innocent."[12][13] He has been cleared for release by the Bush administration in 2007, and the Obama administration in 2009.[13] but Aamer remains in Guantánamo. He has been described as a charismatic leader who spoke up and fought for the rights of fellow prisoners and some have speculated that this might be a reason for his continued detention. Aamer alleges that he has been subject to torture while in detention.[14]

Mr Aamer's mental and physical health has been declining over the years, as he has participated in hunger strikes to protest detention condition and spent much of his time held in solitary confinement. He has lost 40 per cent of his body weight in captivity.[15][16][17] After a visit in November 2011 Clive Stafford Smith said, "I do not think it is stretching matters to say that he is gradually dying in Guantanamo Bay."[18] The UK government has been demanding his release for years and a growing number of people from all walks of life have started campaigning for him.[6][7]

Family, and personal life

Aamer was born and grew up in Medina in Saudi Arabia. He left the country at the age of 17, living and traveling in America, Europe and the Middle East.[19] He moved to the United Kingdom in 1996 where he met his British wife, Zin. They married in 1997 and have four British children. Aamer has never met his youngest son Faris, who was born after his imprisonment.[20] Aamer worked as an Arabic translator for London law firms. Some of the solicitors he worked for dealt with immigration cases. In his spare time Aamer helped refugees find accommodation and offered them advice on their struggles with the Home Office.[19]

Aamer's family, now live in Battersea, south London, and his wife Zin suffers from depression and mental episodes since his arrest.[17][21][22] Saeed Siddique, Aamer's father-in-law, said in 2011, "When he was captured, Shaker offered to let my daughter divorce him, but she said, 'No, I will wait for you.' She is still waiting."[23]

On July 7, 2014, The Times of London reported that Aamer's lawyer assert that the reason Aamer remains in detention years after all the other British residents have been repatriated is that senior US officials have blocked his release because they fear he will testify on their role in torture carried out long after official permission to use torture had been withdrawn.[24]

Capture, and allegations

Aamer with daughter, Johninh, (left) and son Michael (photo taken before his capture in 2001 was released by his lawyer)

Aamer was working for a Saudi charity in Afghanistan when the U.S. invaded.[20] Aamer was picked up by the Northern Alliance in Jalalabad on 24 November 2001 and handed over to the Americans, who transferred him to Guantánamo on 14 February 2002.

According to documents published in the Guantanamo Bay files leak, the US military Joint Task Force Guantanamo believed in November 2007, partly based on evidence given by informant and fellow detainee Yasim Muhammed Basardah, that Aamer was a “recruiter, financier, and facilitator” for al-Qaeda,[10] The leaked documents alleged that had confessed to interrogators that he was in Tora Bora with Osama bin Laden at the time of the US bombing.[7] Aamer denied the allegations.[25]

Clive Stafford Smith of Reprieve said the evidence against his client "would not stand up in court." He pointed out that part of the evidence comes from Basardah, whom American judges found to be “utterly incredible” and who was tortured and "promised all sorts of things."[10]

The Bush administration acknowledged later that it had no evidence against Aamer and he was cleared for release by the Bush administration in 2007, and the Obama administration in 2009.[11][13]

Bagram, MI5 involvement, torture allegations

In September 2009 another Reprieve lawyer, Zachary Katznelson, repeated Aamer's accounts of severe beatings in the Bagram Theater Internment Facility. Aamer had told him that close to a dozen men had beaten him, including interrogators who represented themselves as officers of MI5, the United Kingdom's internal counter-terrorism agency. Aamer described being terrified following one severe beating, when he recovered from being stunned by the beating he found all his interrogators had left the room and had left a pistol on the table.[26] He said he didn't know if the pistol was loaded. He said it occurred to him that it had been left either so he could kill himself, or that, if he picked it up, he could be shot and killed on the excuse he was trying to shoot them.[26]

Aamer says that interrogators in Afghanistan, who represented themselves as MI5 officers, told him he had two choices: (1) agree to spy on suspected jihadists in the United Kingdom; or (2) remain in US custody.[26] Aamer also alleges that his head was repeatedly bounced against the wall while MI5 officers were in the room. "All I know is that I felt someone grab my head and start beating my head into the back wall – so hard that my head was bouncing. And they were shouting that they would kill me or I would die."[27]

Fifteen other British detainees have alleged similar mistreatment by the MI5 and MI6 including torture.[8][28] The British government paid them millions of pounds in compensation.[29][30][31][32] Aamer is also on the compensation list and part of the deal but details are not known as most of the deal is still secret.[33][34]


Aamer has been described as unofficial spokesman for the prisoners. He is charismatic and spoke up for the welfare of other prisoners, negotiating with camp commanders and organizing protests against cruel treatment. He organized and participated in a hunger strike in 2005 were he lost half of his weight. He demanded the treatment of prisoners in a manner consistent with the Geneva Convention, allowing the detainees to form a grievance committee and was promised a healthier diet for the prisoners after he agreed to end the hunger strike.[19][35] His lawyer Stafford Smith said the grievance committee was formed, but that the camp authorities disbanded it after a few days. American spokesmen Major Jeffrey Weir denied that the Americans had ever agreed to any conditions.

Since then Aamer has been taking part in further hunger strikes and has been held in solitary confinement for most of the time. His lawyers describe his solitary confinement as "cruel" and said his health has been affected to a point were they fear for his life. Clive Stafford Smith said Aamer "is "falling apart at the seams."[18][19][36][37]

Cry "Havoc", and let slip the dogs of war.

Katznelson filed a motion to enforce the Geneva Conventions on his behalf on 19 September 2006.[38] And on 18 September 2006, Aamer's attorneys filed a 16 page motion arguing for his removal from isolation in Guantanamo Bay prison.[39] The motion alleges that Aamer had been held in solitary confinement for 360 days at the time of filing, and was tortured by beatings, exposure to temperature extremes, and sleep deprivation, which together caused him to suffer to the point of becoming mentally unbalanced.

In September 2011, Aamer's lawyer Brent Mickum who saw him in Guantánamo alleges that Aamer was repeatedly beaten before their meetings and that Aamer's mental and physical health is deteriorating. "It felt like he has given up: that’s what 10 years, mostly in solitary confinement will do to a person,” he said.[40]

Binyam Mohamed, one of the Britons who occupied a cell one door down from Aamer, said after his release that he knows why Aamer is still in the prison camps.[19]
"I would say the Americans are trying to keep him as silent as they could. It's not that he has anything. What happened in 2005 and 2006 is something that the Americans don't want the world to know – hunger strikes, and all the events that took place, until the three brothers who died ... insider information of all the events, probably. Obviously, Shaker doesn't have it, but the Americans think he may have some of it, and they don't like this kind of information being released."
Clive Stafford Smith his lawyer and director of human rights organisation Reprieve, comes to a similar conclusion. He said:[41]
"I have known Shaker for sometime, because he is so eloquent and outspoken about the injustices of Guantanamo he is very definitely viewed as a threat by the US. Not in the sense of being an extremist but in the sense of being someone who can rather eloquently criticise the nightmare that happened there."

Allegedly witness around the deaths of fellow detainees

Aamer said that he was beaten for hours and subjected to interrogation methods that included asphyxiation on 9 June 2006, the same day three fellow prisoner died in Guantanamo. Describing the event Aamer said that he was strapped to a chair, fully restrained at the head, arms and legs. When MPs pressed on pressure points all over his body: his temples, just under his jawline, in the hollow beneath his ears. They bent his nose repeatedly, pinched his thighs and feet. They inflicted pain to his eyes, bent his fingers until he screamed and when he screamed they cut off his airway and put a mask over him so he could not cry out.[25][42]

Cry "Havoc", and let slip the dogs of war.

Law professor Scott Horton published an award-winning article in Harper's Magazine in 2010, asserting that Aamer had been brought to "Camp No" a secret interrogation site with the three men who died on the day of the event. Horton described Aamer's account of cutting off his airways as "alarming" and he wrote "This is the same technique that appears to have been used on the three deceased prisoners."[25][42] Colonel Michael Bumgarner the commander of the camps during the incident, named in Horton's article as being present during the interrogations, denied Horton's claims.[43]

Horton wrote that Aamer's repatriation was being delayed so that he could not testify about the event on 9 June 2006 and his alleged torture in Bagram. He wrote: "American authorities may be concerned that Aamer, if released, could provide evidence against them in criminal investigations."[25][42]

UK release negotiations

The United Kingdom government initially refused to intervene on the behalf of Guantánamo detainees who are legal British residents without being British citizens. Then in August 2007, Foreign Secretary David Miliband requested the release of Aamer and four other men, citing the fact they had all been granted refugee status, or similar leave, to remain in Britain prior to their capture by US forces.[20][35][44][45] With the repatriation of Binyam Mohammed in February 2009, all British citizens and residents apart from Aamer have been released. [46][47][48]

In the following years UK government officials have repeatedly raised Aamer's case with the Americans. On a visit to the United States on 13 March 2009, when asked about Guantánamo captives, Home Secretary Jacqui Smith said that the U.S. administration has said they don't want to return him to the U.K. William Hague, the Foreign Secretary, raised Aamer's case again with Hillary Clinton, US Secretary of State, in November 2010,[49] followed by ongoing meetings with other United States officials. In September 2011 Foreign Office Minister Alistair Burt said that the negotiations are ongoing and confidential.[50]

Supporters of Aamer have criticized the UK government for not doing enough on his behalf, they urged the government to step up their efforts.[13] The Independent revealed in January 2012, that the British government has spent £274,345 fighting in court to prevent Aamer's lawyers gaining access to evidence which may prove his innocence. The newspaper also revealed that Aamer has several serious medical complaints from years of "inhumane" detention conditions and that the UK gave false hope to his family.[15][36]

Calls for his release

File:Shaker Aamer protest.jpg
Students campaign for the release of Aamer in March 2011
  • In January 2010, his 12-year-old daughter Johina wrote a letter to Gordon Brown asking for his release.[21]
  • August, 2010, protesters disrupted a meeting that discussed plans to create a US Embassy near Battersea, the home of Mr. Aamer.[51]
  • On 11 December 2010 hundreds took to the streets in London near the US embassy to demand Aamer's release.[52]
  • In February 2011 Amnesty International calls Aamer's ongoing incarceration a "mockery of justice" and denounces the "cruel limbo" he has been left in.[53] At the same time The Guardian reported that people had sent 12.000 emails to US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and UK MP's in support of Aamer.[54]
  • In her 2011 album In The Current Climate singer-songwriter Sarah Gillespie sings an imaginary first person song of Aamer entitled How The West Was Won. Gillespie devoted the track to Aamer in the CD booklet.[55]
  • In May 2011 Students of University of St Andrews protest for the release of Aamer.[56]
  • In early 2012 approaching Aamer's completion of ten years imprisonment in Guantánamo campaigners step up efforts for his release. Among them Jane Ellison Tory MP for Battersea writing to Barack Obama to urge his release.[57]
  • In May 2011 Mark Saunders of released the short film "Shaker Aamer: A Decade of Injustice".[58][59]

See also


  1. Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; no text was provided for refs named Independent2010-03-03
  2. OARDEC (15 May 2006). "List of Individuals Detained by the Department of Defense at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba from January 2002 through May 15, 2006" (PDF). United States Department of Defense. Retrieved 29 September 2007. 
  3. JTF-GTMO (16 March 2007). "Measurements of Heights and Weights of Individuals Detained by the Department of Defense at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba". Department of Defense. Retrieved 22 December 2008.  mirror
  4. from DoD data. "Measurements of Heights and Weights of Individuals Detained by the Department of Defense at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba (ordered and consolidated version)". Center for the Study of Human Rights in the Americas. Archived from the original on 21 December 2009. 
  5. "Shaker Aamer". 2011. Retrieved 31 December 2011. 
  6. 6.0 6.1 Ross, Tim (26 April 2011). "Wikileaks: Shaker Aamer willing to be 'a martyr'". The Daily Telegraph (London). 
  7. 7.0 7.1 7.2 Gordon Rayner (2 May 2011). "How Osama bin Laden, the world's most wanted man, eluded US during 10-year manhunt". The Daily Telegraph (London). 
  8. 8.0 8.1 "Guantanamo man wins papers ruling". BBC News. 8 December 2009. Retrieved 5 January 2012. 
  9. "Concerns over Guantanamo Bay interrogation methods". Wandsworth Guardian. 1 May 2010. Retrieved 5 January 2012. 
  10. 10.0 10.1 10.2 Cahalan, Paul (3 May 2011). "Shaker Aamer family rubbish Bin Laden link". Your Local Guardian. 
  11. 11.0 11.1 Mason, Chris (9 September 2011). "British Guantanamo inmate on hunger strike". BBC. Retrieved 5 January 2012. 
  12. "3,000 days of Guantanamo Bay imprisonment for Battersea man Shaker Aamer". Your Local Guardian. Retrieved 5 January 2012. 
  13. 13.0 13.1 13.2 13.3 MATT WILLIAMS (9 January 2012). "Ten years on, UK resident remains in detention at Guantanamo". The Scotsman (UK). Retrieved 09 January 2012. 
  14. "Shaker Aamer: Amnesty urgent action". The Guardian (London). 15 January 2012. Retrieved 15 January 2012. 
  15. 15.0 15.1 PAUL CAHALAN (11 February 2012). "Letters raise fears for last Briton in Guantanamo". The Independent (UK). Retrieved 13 February 2012. 
  16. Cockburn, Alexander (4 February 2011). "Nine years on and still no justice for Shaker Aamer". Morning Star. Retrieved 5 January 2012. 
  17. 17.0 17.1 Cahalan, Paul (18 August 2011). "Fears grow over Britain's last inmate at Guantanamo Bay". The Independent (London). 
  18. 18.0 18.1 McGuffin, Paddy (24 November 2011). "Guantanamo detainee 'slowly dying in hellhole'". Morning Star. Retrieved 5 January 2012. 
  19. 19.0 19.1 19.2 19.3 19.4 "Shaker Aamer: Guantanamo's last British detainee". The Independent (UK). 3 March 2010. Retrieved 5 January 2012. 
  20. 20.0 20.1 20.2 Calls to free Guantanamo father, BBC, 8 February 2005
  21. 21.0 21.1 Verkaik, Robert (11 January 2010). "Free my dad from Guantanamo, 12-year-old asks Brown". The Independent (UK). Retrieved 5 January 2012. 
  22. "Ten years in custody without charge for Battersea's Shaker Aamer". Your Local Guardian. Retrieved 5 January 2012. 
  23. Cahalan, Paul (1 January 2012). "Obama's U-turn on Guantanamo seals fate of lone Briton". The Independent (UK). Retrieved 5 January 2012. 
  24. David Taylor (2014-07-07). "UK ‘fears Guantanamo man’s torture evidence’". Washington DC: The Times. Retrieved 2014-07-07. "The last Briton held in Guantanamo Bay is being kept in detention because intelligence chiefs fear he will expose evidence of their knowledge of torture, say his lawyers." 
  25. 25.0 25.1 25.2 25.3 Horton, Scott (18 January 2010). "The Guantánamo "Suicides": A Camp Delta sergeant blows the whistle". Harper's Magazine. Archived from the original on 18 January 2010. 
  26. 26.0 26.1 26.2 Doward, Jamie (6 September 2009). "'MI5 agent left me alone with gun', says Guantánamo terror detainee". The Guardian (London). Archived from the original on 6 September 2009. 
  27. Verkaik, Robert (14 January 2012). "Last Briton in Guantanamo Bay says MI5 officer was in room as he was tortured". Daily Mail (London). 
  28. Cahalan, Paul (21 December 2009). "Ministers in U-turn over torture documents for Guantanamo Briton". The Independent (UK). Retrieved 5 January 2012. 
  29. Kate Allen (22 November 2010). "Where is the justice for Shaker Aamer?". The Guardian (UK). Retrieved 5 January 2012. 
  30. Gardham, Duncan (7 December 2009). "New allegations of MI5 complicity in Guantanamo abuse case". The Daily Telegraph (UK). Retrieved 5 January 2012. 
  31. "Guantánamo Bay prisoners to get millions from British government". The Guardian (UK). 16 November 2010. Retrieved 5 January 2012. 
  32. "Is The Return of Guantanamo Prisoner Shaker Aamer Part Of Compensation Deal? &#124; The Public Record". Retrieved 5 January 2012. 
  33. Burns, John F. (16 November 2010). "Britain to Compensate Guantánamo Detainees". The New York Times. Retrieved 5 January 2012. 
  34. "Moazzam Begg Explains How Ex-Guantánamo Prisoners Offered to Forego Compensation for Return of Shaker Aamer". Worthington, Andy. Retrieved 5 January 2012. 
  35. 35.0 35.1 Verkaik, Robert (14 September 2007). "The case of the Guantanamo lawyer, the detainees and the illegal pairs of pants". The Independent (London). Retrieved 7 August 2007. 
  36. 36.0 36.1 PAUL CAHALAN (11 January 2012). "Guantanamo is 10 years old – and the last British prisoner is 'falling apart'". The Independent (UK). Retrieved 11 January 2012. 
  37. Rosenberg, Carol. "Secret Guantánamo cell block cost nearly $700,000 – Guantánamo". Miami Herald. Retrieved 5 January 2012. 
  38. Katznelson, Zachary Philip (19 September 2006). "Shaker Aamer v. George W. Bush – 04-cv-2215: Motion to lift stay and for preliminary injunction enforcing Geneva Conventions". United States Department of Justice. Retrieved 29 December 2008. 
  39. Lawyers: Gitmo solitary wrecks captive's mind, CNN. 18 September 2006
  40. "Last Briton in Guantanamo on hunger strike". Channel 4 News. Retrieved 5 January 2012. 
  41. "'Heartbreaking' moment Shaker Aamer saw first photo of son". Your Local Guardian. 11 February 2010. Retrieved 5 January 2012. 
  42. 42.0 42.1 42.2 Cobain, Ian (18 January 2010). "US magazine claims Guantánamo inmates were killed during questioning". The Guardian (London). Archived from the original on 18 January 2010. 
  43. Horton, Scott (18 May 2006). "The Official Response Begins". Harpers Magazine. Retrieved 5 January 2012. 
  44. Stringer, David (7 August 2007). "UK asks US to release 5 from Guantanamo". Associated Press. Retrieved 7 August 2007. 
  45. James Kirkup (14 August 2007). "Life of house arrest awaits Guantanamo detainees on return to UK". The Scotsman (UK). Retrieved 10 October 2007. 
  46. Mikkelson, Randall (14 March 2009). "US and Britain at odds over detainee". Swissinfo. Retrieved 14 March 2009.  mirror
  47. Rosen-Molina, Mike (29 July 2008). "UK Guantanamo detainee asks court to order turnover of 'torture' evidence". The Jurist. Retrieved 31 July 2008.  mirror
  48. "Transferred to Britain – The Guantánamo Docket". The New York Times. Retrieved 5 January 2012. 
  49. Verkaik, Robert (19 November 2010). "Torture settlement brings hope to last British inmate in Guantanamo". The Independent (UK). Retrieved 5 January 2012. 
  50. Mason, Chris (9 September 2011). "BBC News – British Guantanamo inmate on hunger strike". BBC. Retrieved 5 January 2012. 
  51. Harding, Eleanor (3 August 2010 in News). "Battersea man Shaker Aamer protesters gatecrash Nine Elms meeting". Wandsworth Guardian. 
  52. "Hundreds join campaigners demanding release of last British Guantanamo detainee". Your Local Guardian. 13 December 2010. 
  53. "Amnesty condemns Guantanamo UK Shaker Aamer case". BBC News. 12 February 2011. 
  54. "Nine years without trial for Guantanamo Brit is 'travesty of justice'". Wandsworth Guardian. 14 February 2011. 
  55. "Peter Baker, In The Current Climate review, The Jazz Breakfast – 25 January 2010". 25 January 2011. Retrieved 5 January 2012. 
  56. "St Andrews Guantanamo Bay protest highlights case of Shaker Aamer". The Courier. 3 May 2011. Retrieved 5 January 2012. 
  57. McVeigh, Tracy (31 December 2011). "Last British resident held in Guantánamo Bay faces another year's captivity". The Observer (UK). Retrieved 5 January 2012. 

External links