Tag Archives: Shaker Aamer

Tell Cameron and Obama to let Shaker Aamer home to his family

Shaker AI
If you, the wonderful reader of Hynd’s Blog, have a spare 30 seconds I would urge you to support an issue close to my heart. Click here to sign the Amnesty International petition calling for the release or trial of Shaker Aamer, the one remaining British resident in Guantanamo Bay.

The petition simply calls for Obama and Cameron to:

  • Secure the release of Shaker Aamer and return him to the UK without delay, if he is not to be charged and brought to fair trial
  • Give Shaker Aamer immediate and regular access to independent medical assessments and care
  • Immediately investigate all allegations that Shaker Aamer has been subjected to torture and other ill-treatment and ensure that anyone found responsible is brought to justice

I, alongside 12,860 people have already signed this petition. Please join us. Then please do also encourage friends and family to do the same.

Together we can raise a voice loud enough that will force the authorities to listen.

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Read Stroud MP’s copy and pasted response to constituents concerns

As British resident Shaker Aamer remains being held, without charge or trial, in Guantanamo Bay I decided to do what I could to increase the pressure on the US authorities to ensure his release.

In a personal plea to my local Conservative MP Neil Carmichael I wrote:

“At this point I ask for your empathy to spur action – imagine that this was your own father or brother being held without reason in such barbaric conditions and then remember that you have the power to bring about change on this issue!

The status quo will remain so only for as long as we collectively remain silent. I am asking you to speak out, loudly and with passion.”

Just under two weeks later I received a response from his office saying:

“I share your concern about Mr Aamer’s continued detention in Guantanamo”

It went on to assure me that:

“Securing Mr Aamer’s release is a high priority for the Government and I understand that it has been using all diplomatic channels available to communicate this.”  

I wrote back naively thinking that these words were at best his own genuine heartfelt views but that at worst, they might be those of his caseworker who would be employed to write such responses on his behalf.

Sadly not, they appear to not even be his caseworker’s words.

Today someone on twitter shared with me this response to their letter to their own local Conservative MP, Sajid Javid.

Javid Aamer letter
A word for word match to the response Neil Carmichael sent to me.

Now I personally find this insulting and misleading. I would have been disappointed to receive a cut and paste response if it had been made clear it was such, but to try and pretend it represents some original thoughts on the subject is, in my mind, reprehensible.

If I had wanted the views of the whips office I would have asked my MP to relay to me the views of the whips office. I didn’t. I waned his own views on the continued barbaric incarceration of a British resident in Guantanamo Bay.

To respond to a matter of, quite literally life and death, in such a glib institutional way is a damning reflection on the seriousness in which he takes his job. Following up and acting on the concerns of constituents is one of the cornerstones of being a MP.

On this occasion my local MP Neil Carmichael has utterly failed.

I hope he makes an effort to amend for this but I suspect stony silence is more likely. It has been a month now since I wrote back to him and I am still awaiting a response.

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A follow up letter to Neil Carmichael MP on the detention of Shaker Aamer

This is a copy of a follow up letter sent to my local Conservative MP, Neil Carmichael, in response to his response to my original inquiry:

Dear Neil,

Thank you for your prompt reply to my letter regarding the ongoing detention without charge or trial of British resident Shaker Aamer.

It is heartening to note from your reply the seriousness with which both yourself and purportedly the British government takes this issue. However I note that your otherwise positive response failed to take note of, or respond to, my request for you to take two actions to help secure Shaker’s release or trial.

I write to you now therefore to reiterate those requests to:

  • To make urgent representations for a full debate in the House of Commons for the release and return of British resident Shaker Aamer to the UK in accordance with the e-petition process (1).
  • To write to the Foreign Secretary outlining that your constituents will not settle for anything short of an agreed and fixed timeline for either the trial or release of Shaker Aamer.

Without actions your supportive words are left as nothing more than well intentioned words.

I understand that ultimately Shaker’s future rests in the hands of the American government but I urge you to do what you can, at this time, to ensure that he doesn’t have to endure one more day in this inhumane legal limbo.

I once again look forward to a timely response by email.

Steve Hynd

  1. The Government e-petition requesting “new initiatives to achieve the immediate transfer of Shaker Aamer to the UK from continuing detention in Guantanamo Bay” has so far obtained at least 117,442 signatures. An adjournment debate was held in Westminster Hall on 24th April but this did not lead to immediate action for Shaker’s return.

You can read my original letter to Neil here and you can read a copy of Neil’s response to my original letter below:

Thank you for contacting me about the detention of Shaker Aamer.

I share your concern about Mr Aamer’s continued detention in Guantanamo Bay. I believe it is vital that he is released as soon as possible and returned to the UK so he can be reunited with his family.

The Prime Minister personally raised Mr Aamer’s case with President Obama at the G8 summit in Northern Ireland and later wrote to the President reaffirming the importance the UK places on the request for Mr Aamer’s release. The Former Foreign Secretary, William Hague, also raised the case with the US Secretary of State, John Kerry, in June this year.

Securing Mr Aamer’s release is a high priority for the Government and I understand that it has been using all diplomatic channels available to communicate this.  Foreign Office Ministers have often reiterated that the British Government’s policy is unchanged – that it will support efforts in the United States to close Guantanamo Bay and to seek the return of UK residents and nationals.

While any decision about Mr Aamer’s release ultimately remains in the hands of the United States Government, please rest assured that I will support the UK Government’s efforts as it does all in its power to seek his return.

Thank you again for taking the time to contact me.

Neil Carmichael

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A letter to Neil Carmichael MP on the detention of Shaker Aamer

This is a copy of a letter sent to my local Conservative MP, Neil Carmichael:

Dear Neil,

I am writing to you once again about the case of the British resident still held in Guantanamo Bay, Shaker Aamer. I am writing again because there have been no significant movements towards either his release or trial since our last correspondence.

Days, weeks, months and even years have slipped by for both of us since our last correspondence on this issue but I am sure you appreciate the same sense of time sliding by will not be shared by Shaker who remains being held in the most awful of conditions within Guantanamo Bay.

At this point I ask for your empathy to spur action – imagine that this was your own father or brother being held without reason in such barbaric conditions and then remember that you have the power to bring about change on this issue!

The status quo will remain so only for as long as we collectively remain silent. I am asking you to speak out, loudly and with passion.

Why now?

In August of this year yet more troubling evidence (1) has emerged that Shaker has faced further beatings at the hands of those who hold him without charge or trial.

Years have passed for Shaker inside Guantanamo but I ask you to do what you can to ensure that not another single day goes past in the same way.

As such, as a matter of urgency, I am writing to you to ask you to undertake the following actions:

  • To make urgent representations for a full debate in the House of Commons for the release and return of British resident Shaker Aamer to the UK in accordance with the e-petition process (2).
  • To write to the Foreign Secretary outlining that your constituents will not settle for anything short of an agreed and fixed timeline for either the trial or release of Shaker Aamer.

I look forward to your response on this issue. Please respond by email rather than through HoC paper.

With optimism,

Steve Hynd

Sources:

  • (1) http://www.reprieve.org.uk/press/2014_08_27_PUB_Shaker_Aamer_beaten_Guantanamo/
  • (2) The Government e-petition requesting “new initiatives to achieve the immediate transfer of Shaker Aamer to the UK from continuing detention in Guantanamo Bay” has so far obtained at least 117,442 signatures. An adjournment debate was held in Westminster Hall on 24th April but this did not lead to immediate action for Shaker’s return.

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“We have been unspeakably cruel to our prisoners in the post war period and that includes Iraq and Afghanistan”

These are the words of Reverend Mercer. They were sent to Shaker Aamer, the last remaining Brit in Guantanamo Bay. As soon as Shaker read them he wrote back to his lawyer saying:

“I want to make sure that my brothers and sisters see that the struggles we face here in Guantánamo are universal and not just about Muslims. Guantánamo is an issue of justice for human beings and nothing shows that more than Rev. Mercer’s sermon.”

So, in respect of Shaker and his on-going struggle in Guantanamo I urge you to spend 5 minutes reading the Reverend Mercer’s words:

Salisbury Cathedral 17th October 2013 – Amnesty International ServiceThe Reverend Lieutenant Colonel N J Mercer

Two weeks ago in our Benefice we had a week of fasting for “Stand Fast For Justice”. Stand Fast for Justice is a campaign which is currently being sponsored by the Charity Reprieve. In this week of Benefice Fasting, parishioners – aged 12 to 90 – fasted in sympathy with the prisoners at Guantanamo who are currently on hunger strike and being force fed. In particular we remembered Shaker Aamer. Shaker Aamer is British and has been cleared twice by the Guantanamo authorities for release. Once by George Bush and once by Barack Obama.

Yet he remains in custody.

It appears that he is nothing more than an innocent bystander, caught up in the fog of war for which he has lost eleven years of his life. Most alarming – is his claim that he was tortured at Bagram Airbase and at Guantanamo – and that MI5 have been complicit in his torture.

The reason for his delay, some allege, is that if he is released he will reveal details of his treatment. The authorities want him sent back to Saudi Arabia even though he is British Resident. His family live in South London and he has a son whom he has never seen.

The service this evening is the Amnesty International Service which remembers, in particular, prisoners of conscience. These are individuals who are held in prison for their conscientiously held beliefs and lose their liberty for no other reason than holding the wrong beliefs or opinions. They are wholly innocent of any crime and this category of wholly innocent prisoner is my own nexus for me being asked to preach this evening, for there is another category of wholly innocent prisoner, and that is the prisoner of war.

As their title suggests, these individuals are imprisoned for no other reason that they were on the opposing side in armed conflict. As the Geneva Conventions state, they become prisoners of war when they fall “into the power of the enemy” and for no other reason (Art 5 1949 GCIII).

Some of you may know my background, but I was the senior legal adviser in Theatre for the Iraq War in 2003. I had legal responsibility for all operations in the field and this included the difficult issue of prisoners of war. I became embroiled with this issue arose quite by chance whilst visiting the Prisoner of War camp in Um Qsar in March 2003. I went down to visit the camp – on a totally unrelated matter – and, as I entered the facility, I glanced down a hessian corridor at the entrance.

Unknowingly I was looking at the Joint Force Interrogation Unit and to my horror, I saw about thirty – forty Iraqi prisoners, hooded and in stress positions, kneeling in the sand in 40 degree heat with a generator running outside the interrogation tent.

As a soldier, I knew exactly what was going on. The interrogators were trying to intimidate the prisoners. I intervened and demanded to know what was going on. The Officer Commanding replied that he didn’t take his orders from me but “direct from London”. I was told that such practises were “in accordance with UK doctrine”.

Needless to say, I was unable to change the situation there and then – but I reported matter to the British Commander that evening. It led to an unseemly row between lawyers/interrogators/higher Headquarters. It was only the intervention of the Red Cross which turned the tide in my favour. There was, as many have remarked, a general indifference to prisoners.

Six months later however, a prisoner called Baha Mousa was beaten to death during tactical questioning. The whole episode was examined first at Court Martial and then in the Public Inquiry that followed. It was revealed that not only were prisoners hooded and in stress positions, but were also being deprived of food and sleep and were probably being subjected to what is termed “white noise”. Indeed, one prisoner had been chained to a generator whilst it was running and belching out carbon monoxide.

These so-called Five Techniques were banned in 1978 after the United Kingdom was taken to the European Court of Human Rights (Ireland v UK) – yet somehow they had remained. This episode was to have a profound effect on my life. Like so many pivotal moments in our lives, it set me on a journey that I neither expected nor desired.

I left the Army in 2011. Not long afterwards however a book called “Cruel Britannia” dropped through my letter box. The publishers (Portobello Books) asked me to review the book and I felt flattered as I had never been asked to review a book before – but the book horrified me.

It revealed a catalogue of torture by the British from the end of the Second World War and throughout the colonial campaigns of Malaya, Kenya, Cyrpus, Aden and then onto Northern Ireland and Iraq and the episodes which I have just described.

There was one particular quote I want to share with you about the treatment of Mau Mau prisoners in Kenya:

“Men were whipped, clubbed, subjected to electric shocks, mauled by dogs and chained to vehicles before being dragged around. Some were castrated. The same instruments used to crush testicles were used to remove fingers. It was far from un-common for men to be beaten to death”.

The assistant chief of police in Kenya at that time (Duncan MacPherson) said that: “The conditions I found existing in some camps were worse, far worse, than anything I experienced in my four and a half years as a prisoner of the Japanese”.

The British narrative is that we are a people who pride themselves on decency and fair play, except it is a myth. We have been unspeakably cruel to our prisoners in the post war period and that includes Iraq and Afghanistan.

I recently spoke at a dinner hosted by the Tablet where I met a young SAS Trooper called Ben Griffin. You may or may not have heard of him, but he was first in the Parachute Regiment and then the SAS and a thoroughly decent soldier. However, he was so appalled by the treatment of prisoners in Iraq and Afghanistan that he refused to soldier on. He said that Coalition Forces were treating prisoners as “sub-humans” and that we were “accepting illegality as the norm”. Rather than Court Martial him – he was discharged – honourably – from the SAS. His Commanding Officer described him as a”balanced and honest soldier who possesses the strength and character to genuinely have the courage of his convictions”.

He now lives under a High Court injunction; Reveal what he knows about prisoners – and he goes to jail. But he is not the only one whose silence has been wrought.

Those former prisoners, like Shaker Aamer, who seek to bring a claim against the British Authorities now have to do so in a secret court where they can neither have their own lawyer, see the evidence against them, or challenge the witness/judgement against them, thanks to the “Justice and Security Act” which was skilfully managed through Parliament this year.

I recently preached on the Roman Persecutions in the Early Church where the historian Tertullian – a lawyer and a priest – wrote in his Apology (197) how the Roman Authorities similarly rigged the trials of the early Christians. Now we rig the trials of prisoners and silence those who seek to speak out on their behalf. As an Army Officer, I expected the State to behave honourably.

What I stumbled upon was what one commentator described as “Britain’s dirty little secret”,what the Telegraph journalist Peter Oborne recently described as a “ghastly cloud” which overshadows this country.

We have as a nation kidnapped innocent men and women. We have been complicit in their torture. We have covered it up. Wholly innocent prisoners – be they prisoners of war or prisoners of conscience -it amounts to the same thing.

In this service,in this beautiful Cathedral,in this rural idyll of Salisbury,most are oblivious to our own sordid history. The psalmist tells us that God “hears the groans of the prisoners” (Psalm 102:20). The United Kingdom still actively supresses those groans on threat of imprisonment or injunction. This, of course, happens all over the world, but if it can happen so easily in one of the world’s oldest democracies on our watch, just think how easily it can flourish elsewhere?

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Guantanamo Bay – it’s still a fucking* travesty!

shaker-aamer-nov-2012-1
Over 12 years ago, November 13
th 2001 to be precise, President George W Bush signed an order authorizing the detention of suspected al-Qaida members and supporters, and the creation of military commissions.

A few nights ago I was sat on top of a rock in the middle of national park drinking drams of whisky ranting to my, very lovely but unfortunately close by, American friend about how much of a travesty Guantanamo Bay is. The conversation went something like this:

Me: “it’s a fucking travesty that it still exists”

My mate: “I know man”

Me: “But don’t you get it, it’s outrageous…I mean how can it be justified”

My mate: “I know, I completely agree”

Me: “But I mean, it’s beyond words…even after so much evidence of torture, ritual humiliations…”

At this point I would like to think my mate walked off but in reality I suspect he was too nice and sat and listened to this tipsy Englishman ranting about his country’s foreign policy.

Although I may have been slurring, and the conversation might at times have slipped into more of a monologue, at least we were was talking. One of my biggest fears is that Guantanamo and all the other secret detention sites the US operates might just become a norm if people stop being outraged about them.

166 men that we know of are still held in Guantanamo. 86 have been cleared for release by an interagency Guantánamo Review Task Force established by President Obama, but are still held mainly because of Congressional opposition (see here for more on that).

These are men have all suffered enormously, their loved ones, family and friends have also all suffered enormously. They need us to be outraged…I mean really fucking* outraged!

One of these 86 men who have been cleared for release is British resident Shaker Aamer. I highlight his case over any other just because I know this blog is mainly read by Brits. Shaker was taken to Guantanamo Bay in 2002. He has been cleared for release now for over 3 years and yet he is still languishing inside this illegal detention site.

If you do one thing today make it this. Write to your MP and ask him/her to write to the FCO. By itself it might not result in change but it will help remind those in power that we have not forgotten about Shaker or the travesty which is Guantanamo.

More information and how to take action:

You can read Shaker story here.
Find out who your MP is here.
Read Shaker’s daughter’s letter to Gordon Brown and then Cameron’s response here.


*
Sorry if you take offence at my use of the word fucking…really I am. But, I would like you take a minute to put things in fucking perspective. The use of a swear word might, just might, be the lesser of two evils considering the nature and content of this blog post. Want to get angry about something? Get angry about Guantanamo, about being held without trial, about the war on terror, about systematic torture…you get my point. 

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Shaker Aamer – it is time to lobby your MP

I have blogged before about the terrible plight of Shaker Aamer, the Brit that is still in Guantanamo Bay. This blog is about taking action and making it easy, both for you and your MP. Together we can force the US to put their morals where their mouth is. I want YOU to write to your MP (you can find out who your MP is here) highlighting his case. You can use the following as a guide or you can simply cut and paste into an email. Please do let me know any response you receive

Dear [name] MP,

As you will know there is a British resident still languishing in Guantanamo Bay.  I hope you agree that Shaker Aamer’s detention without charge or trial is unacceptable.

As a result I urge you to write to Hague about this issue pushing him to go further that he already has (raising it with Clinton).

Please sign the following letter without delay.

I look forward to you taking action on this case.

[your name and address]

Rt Honourable William Hague
House of Commons,
London,

SW1A 0AA

I am writing on behalf of a number of my constituents who have expressed deep concern at the current status of Shaker Aamer, a British resident currently detained in Guantanamo Bay.  Raising this case to the US Secretary of State, Hilary Clinton is timely  and welcome.  However, a number of my constituents are concerned that the UK government is not doing enough to bring  about his release or trial.  I would therefore urge you to continue to push for his immediate release or trial and report back to Parliament on the outcome of your discussions with Secretary of State Clinton.

Shaker is a British resident who has been held in captivity for nearly nine years with no charge or trial. He has alleged numerous cases of torture and has spent much of his time in solidarity confinement on hunger strike. Guantanamo Bay remains a travesty of justice that we cannot let encroach onto our government’s time in power.  President Obama has made the commitment to fully close Guantanamo; we have to push for this promise to be fulfilled.

To bring this case to a swift resolution, I urge you to pursue the following:

  • Push for an agreed timetable with the US authorities for Shaker Aamer’s release or trial.
  • Ensure that all allegations of torture and illegal detention are fully investigated, including the possibility of any British involvement.
  • Call for the complete closure of Guantanamo Bay and the use of illegal detention.

For as long as Shaker Aamer remains in custody without charge or trial there is no possibility of our government drawing a line under these cases of alleged torture and illegal detention overseas.

I trust that you will see that action on this case is imperative for not only Shaker and his family waiting for him in the UK, but also for Britain as a whole.

I look forward to your response.  

 

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Guantanamo Bay – still there 9 years later

Re-read the title.

A Brit is still there (Shaker Aamer)

So are 146 other humans – suffering

We cannot let this continue for another year – take action

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The forgotten Brit – Shaker Aamer

Shaker Aamer and his children before his 9 years of illegal detention

There is a British resident still in Guantanamo Bay, spending time in solitary confinement and being denied his right to charge or trial.  This Brit is Shaker Aamer.

Shaker is a British resident who has been held in captivity for nearly nine years with no charge or trial. He has alleged numerous cases of torture and has spent much of his time in solidarity confinement on hunger strike.  When President Obama came to power he made a commitment to fully close Guantanamo; there are currently 147 inmates still there. We have to push for Obama to fulfil this promise.

There are signs that there is movement on this issue.  Hague recently met with the US Secretary of State, Hilary Clinton to and raised this issue specifically.  Hague however has to go a little further.  He must:

  • Push for an agreed timetable with the US authorities for Shaker Aamer’s release or trial.
  • Ensure that all allegations of torture and illegal detention are fully investigated, including the possibility of any British involvement.
  • Call for the complete closure of Guantanamo Bay and the use of illegal detention.

If, by the time you read this, he has not done any of the above, please write to your MP to get him to ask Hague to do all of the following.  I honestly believe that if we have a strong push for his release now it can be achieved.  Take action and email your MP.

For as long as Shaker Aamer remains in custody without charge or trial there is no possibility of our government drawing a line under these cases of alleged torture and illegal detention overseas.

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