One of Guantanamo's Forgotten Prisoners

Shaker Aamer protest in London

Shaker Aamer was cleared for release by the Bush administration in 2007. (Photo by Leon Neal/AFP/Getty Images)

Shaker Aamer, a former UK resident of Saudi descent, has been held without charge at the US detention center at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, for nearly 10 years. He was cleared for release by the Bush administration in 2007 but is still inexplicably incarcerated more than four years later.

Shaker was detained by irregular Afghan forces in Jalalabad in December 2001, shortly after the beginning of Operation Enduring Freedom. By his own account he had been in Afghanistan working for a Saudi charity and no compelling evidence refuting this contention has been presented.

He was quickly handed over to US custody. He was initially held at Bagram airbase and was then one of the first inmates transferred to Guantanamo in February 2002. Shaker has claimed that he was tortured and abused in both detention facilities.

A photograph of Shaker Aamer in his Guantanamo detainee file

Shaker’s Detainee Assessment Brief (DAB), obtained and made public by the Wikileaks organization, reveals that the US government has set great store in allegations that have been made against him by other Guantanamo detainees. Inmate testimony of this nature has proved to be notoriously unreliable.

Shaker’s DAB also contains at least one other statement that appears to be at odds with established facts. The brief claims that he is considered a high priority target by the Saudi intelligence service but the Saudi authorities have stated that they have no intention of seeking his prosecution if he is released.

Indeed, the central complaint against Shaker appears to be how he has behaved in detention in Guantanamo – he is described by the US authorities as being “non-compliant and hostile to the guard force and staff” and to have amassed more than 100 disciplinary infractions.

Shaker was a central figure in organizing detainee protests against poor conditions at the Guantanamo detention facility. This seems to have provoked the ire of the prison authorities and he has spent extended periods locked up in solitary confinement as a result.

In September 2006 Shaker’s defense counsel filed a motion alleging that Shaker 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.

It is worth noting that, despite these experiences, prison staff concede that Shaker has never posed a physical threat to the guard force and that his disciplinary infractions have all been of a non-violent nature.

I rather suspect that being held ten years without an opportunity to challenge one’s detention and with no end in sight would provoke a certain amount of hostility from us all. Indeed, given what he has been through, the disciplinary infractions detailed in Shaker’s DAB actually seem rather tame.

In 2007 Shaker was cleared for release by the Bush administration and the British government has been seeking to secure his repatriation ever since. British Foreign Secretary William Hague commented in March 2011 that he was pressing the US to return Aamer:

“To put right some of the damage caused to Britain’s moral authority by allegations of complicity in torture and in rendition leading to torture.”

The British government has stated publicly that it does not intend to prosecute Shaker if he is released and he has already been included in absentia in a compensation settlement reached by the British government last year with other former Guantanamo inmates.

December will mark the tenth anniversary of Shaker’s detention without trial. No case has been brought against him and there are no charges in the offing. Even the ‘intelligence material’ gathered together in his DAB is circumstantial at best.

Depriving an individual of his liberty is no small thing. To do so the state must make its case in court. There is no more fundamental principle of justice.

Shaker has four children who have gone a decade without being able to see their father. This travesty has gone on long enough. If the United States does not intend to charge Shaker with a crime – it must release him and repatriate him to the United Kingdom.

Shaker Aamer is just one of many “forgotten prisoners” languishing in prisons around the world. Take action for these prisoners and other individuals at risk by joining the Write for Rights Global Write-a-thon.

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4 thoughts on “One of Guantanamo's Forgotten Prisoners

  1. Torture is not just unamerican, it should be against a worldwide law. I will not vote for Obama unless he shuts down Guantanamo and denounces torture. He should be taking the lead worldwide to denounce and stop it. I can't believe we have come this far with human rights abuses. It is pure evil and needs to be stopped. Good people need to keep working to stop this evil worldwide.

  2. Torture is not just unamerican, it should be against a worldwide law. I will not vote for Obama unless he shuts down Guantanamo and denounces torture. He should be taking the lead worldwide to denounce and stop it. I can’t believe we have come this far with human rights abuses. It is pure evil and needs to be stopped. Good people need to keep working to stop this evil worldwide.

  3. Reading this makes me sick to my stomach. It makes me hate the country that I was born in, and have lived in for 52 years. I cannot believe the things that this country does and gets away with! It is sickening to think of innocent men being put to death and prosecutors KNOWING they are probably innocent! It is sickening to think of this man who has already been cleared to be released from this hellhole they call a prison, but four years later he is still there! Just open the dang door and let him OUT!! I'm sure there are MANY people that would see he got back to the UK safely! To the US Government: I don't care how you people fight over health care and budgets and taxes, you cannot forget these people that are languishing in prisons all over the world that YOU put them in. YOU are responsible for tearing apart their families, leaving children fatherless, wondering "when is daddy coming home". It would be different if they were guilty of some crime; YOU put them there because you SUSPECTED them of something, and you only suspected them because of their ethnicity; their COLOR. Then you want to teach people/children about being politically correct! What a joke. Let these people go home, please! Open the doors and LET THEM GO!!!

  4. Reading this makes me sick to my stomach. It makes me hate the country that I was born in, and have lived in for 52 years. I cannot believe the things that this country does and gets away with! It is sickening to think of innocent men being put to death and prosecutors KNOWING they are probably innocent! It is sickening to think of this man who has already been cleared to be released from this hellhole they call a prison, but four years later he is still there! Just open the dang door and let him OUT!! I’m sure there are MANY people that would see he got back to the UK safely! To the US Government: I don’t care how you people fight over health care and budgets and taxes, you cannot forget these people that are languishing in prisons all over the world that YOU put them in. YOU are responsible for tearing apart their families, leaving children fatherless, wondering “when is daddy coming home”. It would be different if they were guilty of some crime; YOU put them there because you SUSPECTED them of something, and you only suspected them because of their ethnicity; their COLOR. Then you want to teach people/children about being politically correct! What a joke. Let these people go home, please! Open the doors and LET THEM GO!!!