During the official visit by the British Prime Minister, David Cameron, to the United States in mid-March, Foreign Secretary William Hague raised the case of Shaker Aamer with his counterpart Hilary Clinton. In response to a question put to him in the House of Commons by Caroline Lucas MP on 15 March, Mr Hague said he had raised the issue with Mrs Clinton, as he had done on several other occasions. Continuing the use of the language used by the Coalition government in recent months in respect to Mr Aamer’s case, William Hague said that Britain and the US would continue “to engage […] on this issue until a solution is reached”. The British government’s language and position on Mr Aamer’s return to the UK remain ambiguous and suggest that such a “solution” could involve Shaker Aamer’s return to Saudi Arabia or a third country rather than to his family in the UK.
The British government has not sought to clarify what it means in this respect. Consequently, we urge you to add your name to the e-petition to the Foreign Office on the return of Shaker Aamer to the UK, which could prompt a serious debate on the issue in the House of Commons, if at least 100,000 signatures are added: http://epetitions.direct.gov.uk/petitions/29410
Canadian prisoner Omar Khadr may return to Canada by the end of May with his transfer likely to be approved by the US in early April. Approval is then only needed by the Canadian government. He was convicted in late 2010 in the first military trial for war crimes committed as a minor since World War II. Arrested in 2002 in Afghanistan, Omar Khadr was 15 at the time of his stated offences. He has spent almost a whole decade in Guantánamo Bay. Although the repatriation process, commenced by his lawyers over a year ago, does not usually take so long, the Canadian government has dragged its heels over allowing him to return to the country. Under a secret plea bargain in his case, leading to his conviction, Omar Khadr would spend one further year (now over 18 months) in Guantánamo and then serve the remainder of his eight-year sentence in Canada. His lawyers report that Mr Khadr is becoming increasingly “frustrated” with the constant delays.
Talks have been on-going in March over the release of five Taleban leaders held at Guantánamo which is likely to take place soon. Rather than return the men to Afghanistan, negotiations include the Qatari government for them to be sent to that state, which they will not be allowed to leave. The release of these five men is part of broader negotiations between the US and Afghan governments, in which the prisoners are being used as bargaining chips, clearly demonstrating that there are few serious impediments to the US releasing prisoners when it is in their interest and regardless of their alleged or actual status.
A former head of the intelligence services in Poland was arrested on 27 March for allegedly helping to set up secret CIA detention facilities in the country in the early 2000s. The charges include unlawful deprivation of liberty, unlawful failure to provide access to a neutral tribunal, abuse of office by a public official and using “corporal punishment” against a prisoner. Confirmation of such sites has been provided by other officials in the intelligence services as part of Poland’s on-going investigation into its role in extraordinary rendition started in 2008. Mr Zbigniew Siemiatkowski has refused to comment on the charges brought against him but has not denied the reports. The location of one such prison, alleged to have been operative in 2002-2003 is near a small village in a remote part of the country. Human rights NGOs claim that up to at least 8 individuals may have been held illegally and tortured in Poland. This follows confirmation of such sites by the Lithuanian authorities and a media report on an illegal CIA prison in Bucharest, Romania last year.
Earlier in March, Amnesty International urged all EU state to reinvestigate “torture” flights passing through their territory and refuelling at European airports. The organisation accused EU states of “an appalling lack of political will to secure the truth”. The Council of Europe claims that over a 1000 such flights passed through Europe in 2002-2009. The European Parliament is set to revisit a 2005 investigation into complicity in the CIA extraordinary rendition programme.
The March “Shut Down Guantánamo!” demonstration was held on 1st March and was attended by 5 people. The April demonstration is on Thursday 5 April at 12-1pm outside the US Embassy and 1.15-2.15pm at Marble Arch: http://www.facebook.com/events/415414361808344/
The Save Shaker Aamer Campaign (SSAC) is organising a protest in Parliament Square on Monday 16 April at 1-3pm. This is the day that parliament reconvenes after the Easter break. Please join the protest if you can.