Tuesday, March 27, 2012

URGENT APPEAL – Sign the e-petition for the return of SHAKER AAMER to the UK – 100,000 signatures needed by 14 May


February 14th marked the tenth anniversary of the detention without charge or trial of Shaker Aamer, the last Londoner held in Guantánamo Bay. To mark this anniversary, Shaker’s family and solicitor, Gareth Peirce, launched an e-petition to the Foreign Office. If 100,000 signatures are collected on this e-petition by 14th May, it will trigger a debate in parliament on this issue. Please add your name to the petition and ask your friends and family to as well.

Shaker Aamer, a Saudi national, is a British resident from south London. He has a British wife and children, the youngest of whom he has never met. An aid worker in Afghanistan, he was picked up by the Americans in the country, tortured there and in Pakistan before being taken to Guantánamo Bay. He alleges that British intelligence agents were present on one occasion when he was tortured in Afghanistan; this claim is currently subject to a police investigation.

Shaker Aamer was cleared for release by the Pentagon in 2007 and his return to the UK was formally sought by the British government in August that year. Four other men whose return was sought at the same time have since returned. Both the British and American governments claim to be making their best efforts to release Mr Aamer, the most recent being during talks between William Hague and Hillary Clinton during David Cameron’s visit to the US in March. No reasons have been given, however, for why Shaker Aamer remains there. In the meantime, his health is reported to have deteriorated seriously, according to his lawyers from Reprieve, and his family continue to suffer without him in London. Ten years is enough! Please sign the petition today.

To sign, you need to be a British national or resident. Age is irrelevant so those below voting age can sign too. An e-mail address is necessary.

This action is support by the London Guantánamo Campaign, the Save Shaker Aamer Campaign and others.

For more information:
If you would like to receive flyers about the e-petition to distribute to friends, colleagues, local groups, etc., please contact the Save Shaker Aamer Campaign.

Text of the e-petition: “Shaker Aamer is a British resident with a British wife and children who has been imprisoned without trial by the US in Bagram Airforce Base and Guantanamo Bay for over ten years. The Foreign Secretary and the Foreign Office must undertake urgent new initiatives to achieve the immediate transfer of Shaker Aamer to the UK from continuing indefinite detention in Guantanamo Bay” (Saeed Siddique, Shaker Aamer’s father-in-law).

For more details, please contact the London Guantánamo Campaign: london.gtmo@gmail.com or the Save Shaker Aamer Campaign: ssac.contact@gmail.com

Monday, March 12, 2012

MEDIA RELEASE: UK Campaigners call for action over Guantánamo Bay and British residents during Cameron visit to USA

12th March 2012 – for immediate release

Human rights activists from the London Guantánamo Campaign [1] and the Save Shaker Aamer Campaign [2] call on Prime Minister David Cameron to raise the closure of Guantánamo Bay and the return of British residents Shaker Aamer [3] and Ahmed Belbacha [4] to the UK during his official visit to the USA on 13-14 March.

Mr Cameron will be accompanied by Foreign Secretary William Hague, who is reported to have sought the return of British resident Shaker Aamer recently with his American counterpart. Mr Cameron claimed in parliament on the tenth anniversary of the illegal prison facility that Mr Hague “is working very hard with the United States to try and secure this issue and to bring this chapter to a close.” [5] Campaigners demand that Mr Cameron seek Mr Aamer’s return through his personal intervention at the highest level, and press President Obama, during this American presidential year, to take practical and immediate measures to close Guantánamo Bay.

To mark this visit by the British Prime Minister, Joy Hurcombe, chair of the Save Shaker Aamer Campaign, sent a letter, on 9th March, to David Cameron and Barack Obama, stating, “Reluctantly, we must conclude that the Government assurances appear to disguise the truth. It would appear that the Government is not pressing the US hard enough for Shaker’s release and/or the Government would rather Shaker remained in Guantanamo in order to silence him.” [6]

Aisha Maniar, a spokesperson from the London Guantánamo Campaign, said: "Photo ops, sporting events and a chance to cement the special relationship aside, both premiers must seize the opportunity presented by this second official meeting in under a year to secure the release and return of British residents to the UK, seek the return of Bagram prisoner Yunus Rahmatullah to British custody [7], and the ultimate closure of Guantánamo Bay.

“Four years ago, a presidential candidate called Barack Obama sang from a very different hymn sheet on Guantánamo Bay and it now time for both men to demonstrate that they recognise there is a difference between words and actions.”



1. The London Guantánamo Campaign campaigns for justice for all prisoners at Guantánamo Bay, for the closure of this and other secret prisons, and an end to the practice of extraordinary rendition. http://londonguantanamocampaign.blogspot.com
2. www.saveshaker.org
3. Shaker Aamer was cleared for release by the US military in 2007. He claims to have been tortured repeatedly during his time in US custody, on one occasion in the presence of a British intelligence agent. He has a British wife and four children living in Battersea, south London. He has never met his youngest son, who is 10 years old. Former Prime Minister Gordon Brown sought his release in August 2007, along with four other residents held at Guantánamo Bay, the last of whom was released in February 2009. His lawyer, Clive Stafford-Smith, has recently expressed grave concerns for his physical and mental health due to prolonged arbitrary detention. http://www.reprieve.org.uk/cases/shakeraamer/
4. Ahmed Belbacha, an Algerian national who lived in Bournemouth from 1999 to 2001, was cleared for release by the US military in 2007. Never charged or tried, he was free to leave but has remained at Guantánamo Bay for want of a safe third country to return to. A court injunction in the USA has prevented his forced return to Algeria. http://www.reprieve.org.uk/cases/ahmedbelbacha/
5. 11 January 2011 http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/northamerica/usa/9007761/Guantanamo-Bay-10-year-anniversary-Britain-working-very-hard-with-US-to-help-close-camp.html
6. Full text of the letter sent by Joy Hurcombe, chair, Save Shaker Aamer Campaign to David Cameron and Barack Obama on 9th March 2012:
Dear Prime Minister David Cameron,

The Save Shaker Aamer Campaign calls on you to demand the release and return of British Resident Shaker Aamer to his home and family in the UK from US custody in Guantanamo. We urge you to use the occasion of your official visit to Washington on 13/14 March to gain assurances from President Obama that Shaker Aamer will be returned to his family without delay.

The UK Government has reiterated its position on many occasions in Parliament, that the Foreign Office has made requests to the US Administration for Shaker Aamer’s release to the UK. We welcome the clear responses by William Hague and Alistair Burt to questions put by Jane Ellison, MP for Shaker’s British family who live in Battersea. Also, we appreciate the public statement made this month by Foreign Secretary, William Hague, following a meeting with Jane Ellison MP, Shaker Aamer’s lawyers and family members that, “We will continue to call for Mr. Aamer to be returned to his family in the UK.”

Yet, Shaker is still incarcerated in Guantanamo in the harshest of conditions despite having been cleared for release by the US Administration in 2007 and in 2010. Reluctantly, we must conclude that the Government assurances appear to disguise the truth. It would appear that the Government is not pressing the US hard enough for Shaker’s release and/or the Government would rather Shaker remained in Guantanamo in order to silence him. Shaker Aamer has alleged that he was tortured in Afghanistan in the presence of UK M15/M16 officials. When he is released, his evidence of UK’s complicity in torture will shame those who authorised this policy and those who put it into practice. Is the UK Government dragging its feet to stop the truth being told?

We have received a recent shocking report that Shaker Aamer has, once again, been visited in his cell by Saudi officials who have tried to coerce him to sign documents agreeing to his transfer to Saudi Arabia, a country from which he fled over 28 years ago. Shaker refused to sign. Shaker’s lawyers state that this visit could not have taken place without the consent of the UK Government. Is this the meaning behind the somewhat disconcerting statement by William Hague following the meeting referred to above that, “I have personally raised his case with Secretary Clinton on a number of occasions and we will continue to engage with the US on this issue until a solution is reached.”

There is no difficulty in finding a solution. We call on your Government to respect Shaker Aamer’s wish to return to his family, all of whom are British citizens, honour his long-term right of return and indefinite leave to remain and act on your public statements that you are committed to Shaker Aamer’s release and return to the UK. If Shaker is forcibly transferred to Saudi Arabia, he will face certain persecution and permanent separation from his British wife and children. World opinion would castigate the UK for allowing further injustice to a man who has suffered abduction, rendition, torture, abuse, years of solitary confinement and medical neglect in absolute denial of all his human rights.

Prime Minister, as you renew the UK/US special relationship, in your meetings with President Obama, we urge you to secure a date for Shaker’s immediate return to the UK.

We welcome the January 11th statement by Jay Carney, the White House spokes-person that, “President Obama remains committed to closing the Guantanamo facility... The President’s commitment hasn’t changed at all.”

President Obama should act in accordance with amendment 1028 of the US National Defence Authorisation Act in which a waiver can be used to enable the transfer from Guantanamo of the 89 detainees, who have been cleared for release, without further reference to the US Congress. Shaker Aamer could come home today. He could get his life back. He could be restored to his home and family. Shaker Aamer’s health is failing. His lawyer, Clive Stafford Smith wrote to William Hague immediately after his visit in November to Guantanamo to see Shaker. He stated that Shaker is gradually dying in Guantanamo. Please do not allow this to happen. Bring Shaker Aamer home now.

Yours sincerely, Joy Hurcombe
7 http://www.reprieve.org.uk/cases/yunusrahmatullah/

Friday, March 02, 2012

LGC Newsletter - February 2012

British Residents:
On 14 February, the last British resident, recognised as such by the government, marked his tenth anniversary of detention without charge or trial at Guantánamo Bay. Shaker Aamer’s return to the UK was sought officially with that of four other British residents in August 2007; they have all since returned. In spite of alleged ongoing efforts between the US and the UK to release Shaker Aamer, who is a Saudi national with a British family, including recent talks between William Hague and Hillary Clinton, no reasons have been given for why he remains there or what the potential block may be; both sides blame each other for the delay. His British lawyer, Gareth Peirce, wrote the following in the Guardian on the anniversary date:
The Save Shaker Aamer Campaign also held two events to mark Shaker Aamer’s tenth inexplicable year of detention: a demonstration and public meeting in Battersea on 11 February and a protest demonstration outside the US Embassy on 14 February, during which a letter was delivered to the Embassy.
To mark the anniversary, Shaker Aamer’s family and lawyers put together the following e-petition to the government: http://epetitions.direct.gov.uk/petitions/29410 100,000 signatures are needed on the petition by 14 May for a debate to be held in parliament on this issue. Please add your name to the petition and ask friends and family to add theirs too.

On 9 February, British resident Ahmed Belbacha, who has not been recognised as such by the British government, which considers him a failed asylum seeker as he was in Bagram when his asylum appeal was held in 2001, marked his tenth anniversary of detention without charge or trial at Guantánamo Bay. Like Shaker Aamer, he was cleared for release by the Pentagon in 2007 and neither man is deemed to pose a threat. Although he can return to his native Algeria, due to fear of further abuse there, as has happened to other prisoners who have returned there, and for lack of another country to accept him, he has remained at Guantánamo Bay for the past five years as a hostage of the international community. The London Guantánamo Campaign believes that after 10 years of such detention and treatment Mr Belbacha’s current or past residency status in the UK is an irrelevant consideration and the UK should allow him to return to this country, where he worked and resided for at least eighteen months, on humanitarian grounds, as other EU states have done with other prisoners.

Guantánamo Bay:
Later this year, American voters will go to the polls to elect a new president. Back in 2008, Barack Obama, who will seek re-election to a second term of office as president, made the closure of Guantánamo Bay (but not an end to extraordinary rendition) one of his main campaigning policies. One of the first things he did as president was sign a decree ordering the closure of Guantánamo Bay by early 2010, within the first year of his presidency, and ending the use of military commissions. Instead, as he heads towards his second election campaign, he has chosen to perpetuate and add a legal gloss to the regime at Guantánamo Bay by signing the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA 2012) into law and has resumed military commissions. Guantánamo Bay will not feature as an issue in this year’s election campaign.
Instead, a recent official report in the US has again claimed that over a quarter of prisoners freed from Guantánamo Bay have resumed hostilities against the US: http://www.google.com/hostednews/ap/article/ALeqM5gPyoxa_dqaV1fJ5C_dOPCyqvJ0mw?docId=1e26ff302e794305ad04c5f096c52cd0 and a recent survey claimed that the majority of Americans are satisfied with Obama’s foreign policy:
http://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/poll-finds-broad-support-for-obamas-counterterrorism-policies/2012/02/07/gIQAFrSEyQ_story.html including failing to close Guantánamo Bay and his open use of unmanned drone attacks all over the world to deal with alleged opponents of his regime, an extralegal method this Nobel Peace Prize-winning lawyer and US president has chosen to make his weapon of choice, as opposed to illegal detention.

Majid Khan, 32, a Pakistani prisoner, who had previously resided in the US, was charged earlier this month with war crimes, including murder and attempted murder. Regarded as a “high-value” prisoner, rather than having to wait months for an actual trial, he was arraigned almost immediately and reached a plea bargain whereby he pleaded guilty to charges against him in return for a reduced sentence, of no more than 25 years, by agreeing to testify against other high-value prisoners, such as Khaled Sheikh Mohamed. His actual sentencing will be deferred until 2016, for four whole years, to ensure he keeps up this part of the bargain. Majid Khan “disappeared” in 2003 into the CIA’s network of secret torture prisons around the world and re-emerged at Guantánamo Bay in 2006. What happened to Khan during those three years was not of concern during his hearing. This case is expected to speed up other outstanding prosecution cases at Guantánamo but does little to address the fundamental issues, such as the use of torture to obtain evidence, over a decade in delay in actual prosecution, etc. or the defendant’s right to a basic fair trial.

Extraordinary rendition:
Yunus Rahmatullah, a Pakistani national who was handed over to the US authorities by the British army in Iraq in 2004, was later transferred to Bagram in Afghanistan where he has been held without charge or trial and largely without contact with the outside world since. Following a High Court ruling in December last year, the British government was ordered to secure his release from the Americans or otherwise find itself in breach of international criminal law and at risk of prosecution for the conditions under which Mr Rahmatullah was handed over to the US. The court gave the government until 19 February to do this. Unfortunately, the British government, in spite of its “special relationship” with the US, failed to secure his freedom and consequently the legal charity, Reprieve, which represents him handed over the issue to the police to bring the relevant prosecutions against those individuals and officials responsible for his ordeal: http://www.reprieve.org.uk/press/2012_02_21_yunus_habeas_decision/ The court accepted the government’s reasons for why it was unable to secure his release; nonetheless, the court and both the US and UK governments agree that war crimes were committed against Mr Rahmatullah.

LGC Activities:
The LGC marked the fifth anniversary of its regular “Shut Down Guantánamo!” demonstrations outside the US Embassy on 3 February. In sub-zero temperatures, around 25 activists joined a special candlelight vigil which included special performances by Actors for Human Rights http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8deBsuyd95A&context=C3df4f6aADOEgsToPDskIRUIygGP084r018I8uMCmu
and poet Sergio Amigo http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QCDC81P5i58&feature=context&context=C3df4f6aADOEgsToPDskIRUIygGP084r018I8uMCmu
The March demonstration, held on 1st March, was attended by 5 people.