The urgent campaign to free Shaker Aamer from Guantanamo
Shaker Aamer is a resident of Battersea, just south of the Thames in London. He has not lived there for a long while, but his wife, who is a British citizen, and four children still live there. His youngest son has never seen him. For over 8 years he has been locked away in Guantanamo Bay, and is the last remaining resident of Britain still incarcerated in that notorious United States torture ‘facility’.
He has never been tried; he has never even been accused of anything specific. He cannot prepare any detailed defence, he has nothing concrete to answer.
All the other British residents who were imprisoned and tortured in Guantanamo have now been released and returned to Britain, but Shaker Aamer is still there. His US lawyer, Brent Mikum, has stated, “Shaker is still being tortured down there. … undergoing regular torture from beating to food and sleep deprivation. There isn’t a shred of evidence against him.”
Shaker Aamer was born on 12 December 1968 in Saudi Arabia. Having travelled, he was granted legal right to remain in the UK and worked as a translator for a firm of solicitors. He applied for British citizenship, and while it was being processed visited Afghanistan with his wife and young children to work on charitable projects, in particular a girls school and digging wells. He stayed in Kabul with his friend Moazzam Begg.
To escape the US and UK bombing of Afghanistan which followed 9/11 he sent his family to safety, and while following them was captured by the Northern Alliance and sold to the US for a bounty of $5,000. He was taken to the “dark” prison in Kabul, where he suffered unspeakable torture, then transferred to Begram and Kandahar for further torture.
In February 2002 he was among the first to be transported to Guantanamo – in orange suits, chains, ear muffs, shackles, blindfolds and nappies. His has continued to suffer torture. Following his role in a hunger strike in June/July 2005, he organised a Prisoners’ Council. All its requests were denied and he was subjected to solitary confinement in a six foot by eight foot windowless cell for the following five years.
On 11 December 2010, a special day for Shaker Aamer was held in Battersea, organised by the Save Shaker Aamer Campaign. A march from the site of the planned new US embassy ended with a rally and film in the large hall at the Battersea Arts Centre.
One of the speakers was the solicitor Gareth Peirce, who has championed so many people victimised by the so-called justice system. She emphasised that the campaign was an urgent one: “There isn’t time because he is a British resident, his wife is British, his children are British and he is a Saudi national, and America does not want him to come here. America wants him to go to a Saudi ‘re-education programme’. If he went he would be there for years in unlawful, arbitrary detention for ever…he probably would never ever see his family again. He has held out against being put on a plane to Saudi, he has held out against it. He is determined to be with his family again.”
The Chair, Victoria Brittain, introducing Jane Ellison, the new conservative MP for Battersea, Balham and Wandsworth, said that she [Ellison] had taken up the case in Parliament and raised its profile in a way that her Labour predecessor had been unable to do. Jane Ellison said that she was involved for two reasons; the first was that “at the heart of this is a human tragedy” that was in her constituency; the second was that “the right to justice, the right to not to be detained for years without charge or trial, is something which all democratic parliamentarians should be able to unite behind”.
It was Yvonne Ridley, the broadcast journalist of Press TV, who said: “I never thought I would see the day where I would share a platform with a Tory politician and be in agreement with everything that she had to say … I salute her for the work that she has done for Shaker Aamer. This cuts right to the heart of justice and justice is for everyone.”
It is no use expecting Labour MPs to be any better – Jane Ellison’s recent record on this is indeed an example to them! The truth is that Tory, Labour, Lib-Dem MPs, whatever small stand they may make on occasion, all ultimately fall in behind their parties, which in turn fall in behind, and indeed carry out, the interests of British imperialism.
Gareth Pierce, referring to the then Labour government, said: “He [Shaker Aamer] was transferred unlawfully and with the knowledge and complicity of our government … to Guantanamo Bay. At the time that he was transferred to Guantanamo Bay emails were being sent by No 10, by the foreign secretary, by the home secretary – emails we have now seen saying: let them go to Guantanamo, the longer they are there the better, we’re not going to get them back…We did not just let them go we wanted them to go – our government is responsible for them going.”
There are possible reasons why Shaker Aamer is the only British resident remaining in Guantanamo. One is that on the 9 June 2006 three Guantanamo detainees were said to have committed suicide, but there are claims that they were suffocated. Shaker has stated that on that day he was beaten for over two hours and half suffocated with rags stuffed in his mouth. He may have witness torture that led to death. Another is that he claims MI5 or MI6 agents were present during occasions of his torture. As Gareth Peirce said, with others there are accusations that Britain was complicit in torture, that it knew it was going on, but “with Shaker there was a man in the room from here. Is that why he can’t come back? Is that why everyone else has come back? He would be a prime witness in the ongoing inquiry into complicity; he would be a prime witness in the up and coming inquiry into torture.”
The truth is that Shaker Aamer is an embarrassment for British imperialism, as are others who were detained in Guantanamo, like Moazzam Begg, who also spoke at the rally in Battersea. The US and Britain try to pretend that they are conducting a “war on terror” against a few people. At one time it was just one man, Osama bin Laden. The propaganda is that if only they were captured or killed then the world would be safe! So it was ‘justified’ to lock up, rendition, torture people.
The real terror that the world is experiencing is the terror of rapacious imperialism trampling over the people of the globe in its ever intensifying striving for hegemony that will give it control over resources and bring in super-profits. And it is the most savage and ruthless terror, sparing no-one in it way. It is small wonder that it breeds resistance, for it is intolerable. That resistance is the resistance of peoples rising up against oppression, and they are winning – as in Iraq and Afghanistan; they are unbowed as in Palestine.
That is why there are so many arbitrary, random arrests. Anyone will do, because anyone is a symbol of the masses of people rising in revolt. And anyone can be tortured because the aim is to intimidate the masses of oppressed people, men women and children, who are already subject to the horrors of war and occupation. Guantanamo, Begram, al Graib are intended as an additional lesson for them, and those who stand in solidarity with them.
The campaign for the release of Shaker Aamer is urgent, as Gareth Peirce said, “The one thing that got everyone out from Guantanamo is public pressure – it was not lawyers, it was not politicians.” That pressure, she said “is very late in coming for Shaker…this is the moment…this is not a long term campaign, it is a short term emergency campaign – he has to come out.”
It is not just a matter of human tragedy, or of human rights and justice, important as they are. It is part of the fight to free all the political prisoners of imperialism; it is part of the fight to free the oppressed peoples of the world from imperialist exploitation, oppression, brutal warmongering and occupation. And that is all an integral and necessary part of the struggle of the proletariat in the imperialist countries to achieve emancipation by overthrowing imperialism and establishing socialism; unless it fulfils its internationalist duty the proletariat will be incapable of achieving anything.
It is important that we stand up and uphold the right of the oppressed peoples of the world to resist the onslaughts of imperialism, and indeed we hail each victory of theirs as a victory in the struggle that faces us. And we cannot stand by while people like Shaker Aamer are victimised, locked away and brutally tortured in the interests of imperialist plunder.
More information can be obtained from the Save Shaker Aamer Campaign: ssac.Contact @googlemail.com.