After 13 years, Shaker Aamer Is Leaving Guantanamo: Here are 5 Things You Should Know


By Gay Gardner, Amnesty International USA member

I’m an activist with Amnesty International, and today is a reminder of why I have been doing this for more than 30 years. Shaker Aamer is finally returning to his family in the U.K., after being held without charge at Guantanamo for more than 13 years. Amnesty’s campaign, along with the work of countless activists around the world, has helped get the U.S. government to release him. It is the unwavering defense of the dignity of individuals such as Shaker Aamer that inspires me and keeps me active in Amnesty. SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

Shaker Aamer Will Be Transferred Home After 13 Years in Guantanamo


This is big news. At long last, the Obama administration has reportedly notified both Congress and the UK government that Guantanamo detainee Shaker Aamer will be transferred home to the UK after 13 years. Shaker’s case has for years compelled the Amnesty movement, along with many others, to call loudly for him to be transferred back to the UK. So today’s news is, to say the least, heartening. But as we celebrate, let us not forget – there is much more to be done, and not much time left to do it. SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

3 Must-Watch Videos, 13 Lost Years: Shaker’s Story

Shaker Aamer

Shaker Aamer

There’s a superstitious part of me, and a worried part of me. And both parts of me fear this Saturday: it marks thirteen years since Shaker Aamer was airlifted to Guantanamo.

My fear is that in Congress, the fear-mongers who are seemingly relentless in their drive to keep Guantanamo open forever—and to keep Shaker Aamer in detention without charge until he dies. They are encouraging public panic and anxiety over the prospect that anyone at Guantanamo might either go free or face a fair trial.


Guantanamo Forever: 28 Words of Hate

Activists protest the 10th anniversary of the Guantanamo Bay detention, Washington DC, USA, 11 January 2012.

“As far as I’m concerned every last one of them can rot in Hell, but as long as they don’t do that they can rot in Guantanamo Bay.” – U.S. Senator Tom Cotton

I don’t know if it was just me, or if it was everyone, but the room seemed oddly quiet after Senator Cotton said these 28 words at today’s Senate hearing on Guantanamo. Behind me were dozens of high school students, there for some kind of civics lesson. In front of me were protestors in orange jumpsuits, seated and rapt. For the moment, we were all quiet.


Guantánamo: 12 Years Too Many, No More Excuses, Shut It Down


“In retrospect, the entire detention and interrogation strategy was wrong. We squandered the goodwill of the world after we were attacked by our actions in Guantánamo.”

– Major General Michael Lehnert (ret.), first commander of detentions at Guantánamo (2002), December 2013

By Natalie Butz, Communications Specialist at Amnesty International USA

As U.S. detentions at Guantánamo enter their 13th year, we need to take President Obama and Congress to task for their delay in closing the detention facility.

It’s been twelve years too many. The time for action is now. President Obama must transfer cleared detainees, including Shaker Aamer. There are no excuses, especially now that he has greater flexibility from Congress to do just that.


Guantanamo Bay: When Will We Wake Up?

Demonstrators take part in a rally to call for the closing of the Guantanamo Bay detention center (Photo Credit: Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images).

Demonstrators take part in a rally to call for the closing of the Guantanamo Bay detention center (Photo Credit: Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images).

By Saira Khan, Intern at Amnesty International USA’s Security & Human Rights Program

I was born and raised in New York. My mother is originally from Pakistan and my father is from India. My parents and I are Muslim. From a young age, I had the impression that most Americans did not know much about my culture or religion.

During the September 11 attacks, I was in fifth grade. I can distinctly remember a classmate calling me a terrorist in the following days. While I knew that he did not realize the gravity of his accusations, I also understood that his words represented a new perspective held by many Americans regarding Muslims. As I have gotten older, this stereotypical outlook has been reinforced through my personal experiences.

Many Americans assume that all of the prisoners at Guantanamo must be guilty of something, and therefore are deserving of the conditions in which they live. The reality is that most detainees in Guantanamo Bay detention facility have never been charged, and none fairly tried. Yet they are all still being punished. I’m concerned that the passive acceptance of Guantanamo in our country is a manifestation of latent discrimination toward Muslims. This is a travesty, especially for America, the supposed “land of the free.”


Good News: U.K. Prime Minister Cameron Raises Shaker Aamer With President Obama

Shaker Aamer (Photo Credit: Department of Defense/MCT via Getty Images)

Shaker Aamer (Photo Credit: Department of Defense/MCT via Getty Images)

Shaker Aamer is a U.K. resident who has been held in U.S. custody since 2001 – originally detained in notorious detention facilities at the Bagram and Kandahar Air Force bases in Afghanistan before being transferred in February 2002 to Guantanamo Bay. He was allegedly tortured – both in Afghanistan and during his time at Guantanamo – and has now been on hunger strike for more than 120 days, joining more than 100 other detainees at the facility who are also on strike.

In a recent op-ed in the Guardian, Shaker stated that every day at Guantanamo is torture. He finished the piece with this poignant point: “I hope I do not die in this awful place. I want to hug my children and watch them as they grow. But if it is God’s will that I should die here, I want to die with dignity. I hope, if the worst comes to the worst, that my children will understand that I cared for the rights of those suffering around me almost as much as I care for them.”


5 Points President Obama Should Make in Thursday’s National Security Speech

America shouldn't stand for GuantanamoThis Thursday at 1:30p.m. eastern, President Obama will deliver a widely anticipated speech at National Defense University that is expected to address closing Guantanamo, drones and US counterterrorism policy.

If President Obama is serious about ending human rights violations by the US government in the name national security, he should use the speech to announce, among other points, that:

1)  Forced feeding will stop and the transfer of detainees cleared to leave will resume.  There are dozens cleared by the administration to leave the detention facility. Even under current Congressional conditions on transfers, these men can and must be transferred out where there are  countries to take them that will respect their human rights.

One example is Shaker Aamer. He has been cleared for transfer under the Bush and Obama administrations, and the British government says he should be free with his wife and children in London. Why has he not been transferred there? Instead of brutal force feeding of detainees, it’s time to fulfill human rights.


5 Ways President Obama Can End the Hunger Strike & Close Guantánamo

UPDATE: On 4/30 President Obama again vowed to close Guantanamo. While we welcome this call words must be followed up by action, such as the steps below.

gitmo shaker finalSign our new petition telling President Obama and Congress that you support closing Guantanamo.

Imagine you’re Shaker Aamer, locked up without charge for 11 years, thousands of miles from home, despite being cleared, for years, to leave. The UK government has repeatedly intervened on your behalf in an effort to reunite you with your wife and children in London. But you’re still held. You go on hunger strike in an attempt to draw attention to your plight. You have told your lawyers that you and your fellow inmates are being beaten, deprived of sleep and punished just for protesting. And all this is being done by the United States government, whose president promised four years and three months ago to shut Guantánamo for good. Just imagine.

Two months into the most recent hunger strike at Guantánamo and over three years after the deadline for closing the facility, President Obama has barely said a peep about his broken promise. But ignoring the problem at Guantánamo is simply unacceptable. The US government is obligated under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, as well as other treaties and binding laws, to respect, protect and fulfill human rights. That’s a point made last week by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, in this strong statement.

As High Commissioner Pillay points out, yes, those responsible for the September 11 attacks must be brought to justice, and the government has a duty and responsibility to ensure safety. But the US can’t exempt itself from its human rights obligations in doing either of these things. That’s why instead of Guantánamo, the criminal justice and law enforcement systems in the US – available from day one –  should be used. These systems are far from perfect and must themselves be reformed, but they are quipped to ensure justice for the 9/11 attacks and address any security risks posed by those held at Guantánamo.


Dispatch from Guantanamo: Military Commissions, in Fits and Starts

Camp Justice, Guantanamo Bay, Cuba

This assignment was supposed to fulfill a career-long dream. In the ten years I have been employed by Amnesty International USA in research, the opportunity to travel to Guantánamo Bay, Cuba to observe military commission proceedings against the detainees charged with leading involvement in the September 11th terrorist attacks was something I always wanted to experience firsthand.

I flew down to this US Naval station on the southeast edge of Cuba and I arrived Sunday evening just in time to gain my first experience of the ever-changing world of military commission justice when the press briefing rules were amended at the last minute to prevent observers from attending the opening press briefing by the defense and prosecution counsels.

As a human rights researcher, I somewhat knew what to expect. However as an attorney, this morning threw me a relative curveball, even from a military commission process which is now in its third incarnation with multiple legal challenges and stoppages in the past 12 years.  SEE THE REST OF THIS POST