For Immediate Release
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UK Must Ensure Londoner Shaker Aamer is Next on the List for Transfer Out of Guantanamo
WASHINGTON - Following the announcement by the US Government that it intends to restart transfers out of Guantanamo, lawyers for Shaker Aamer, a British resident still held in the prison, have called for the UK Government to ensure that he is next in line for release.
Mr Aamer has long been cleared for release by the US Government, and the Prime Minister asked President Obama to allow him to come home during talks at this year’s G8 Summit. However, despite this request the US has so far only announced that two Algerians will be released from the prison.
The announcement – made in a press release last week – made no mention of any plans to return detainees to Britain, despite David Cameron’s recent request. It has increased concerns that the Obama administration intends to send Mr Aamer to Saudi Arabia, where he can be more easily silenced, rather than back home to his British wife and children in South London.
This fear has been strengthened by recent statements from the US Government. Lawyers for Mr Aamer at human rights charity Reprieve wrote to the Prime Minister last week after an article in The Nation revealed that his family had recently received a call from a Saudi lawyer asking if he could represent them. A statement made by an anonymous State Department official added that:
“It would be unfortunate if a detainee didn’t consent to a transfer to his home country, but that in and of itself wouldn’t prevent such a transfer from happening…The department isn’t a travel agency.”
Clive Stafford Smith, Director of Reprieve and Mr Aamer’s US lawyer, wrote to David Cameron:
“Mr Aamer and I would both like to thank you for your previous efforts on his behalf, but this makes it clear that we must all redouble the battle to get justice for him, his wife and their four children…If the US does try to send Mr Aamer to Saudi Arabia against his will, my client stated when last I talked to him that his “screams will be heard in London…”
Shaker Aamer has been held in Guantanamo since 2002. He has twice been cleared for release – first under George W Bush and later under Barack Obama. He has always maintained that he does not want to go back to Saudi Arabia, and the British Government has consistently said that it wants him returned to his family in London.
Clive Stafford Smith, said: “Sad to say, the US has been a travel agent for Shaker, albeit an unwanted one. The US rendition planes took him to torture, and to 11 years of arbitrary detention without charges. Now he is cleared for release, surely the US cannot think they can render him involuntarily for further abuse in Saudi Arabia, never to see his British wife and kids, and never to give evidence against his torturers in the on-going criminal investigation by the Met police? The Prime Minister must strain every sinew to ensure that Shaker returns to his family in London as soon as possible.”
Notes to editors
Reprieve is a UK-based human rights organization that uses the law to enforce the human rights of prisoners, from death row to Guantánamo Bay.