High Court hears the case of Shaker Aamer, the last recognized British resident in Guantánamo Bay, as Government demands secrecy

December 8, 2009

Image of Shaker Aamer waving to the camera

The British Government today called for closed hearings in the case of Londoner Shaker Aamer – once again at the request of the Americans.

The High Court heard Mr Aamer’s claim that, because once again the British government has been mixed up in the wrongdoing, the Government should reveal evidence that would help him prove that he has been tortured.

The government began the hearing by asking, once again, for a closed hearing because the United States wished to have materials kept from the British public. The judges complied with the request, since otherwise they too would be denied access to the American documents. Media representatives asserted the public’s right to know what was going on behind closed doors.

In the public proceedings that followed, it was undisputed that the UK has relevant materials that would assist Mr Aamer with demonstrating his innocence, and with his proof of torture. At 3.31pm, the Government announced for the first time in open court that some of the documents identified in the materials submitted to the US are (like Binyam’s case) documents received by the UK from the Americans – apparently, then, we are dealing with materials held by the UK that would reveal American abuse of Shaker Aamer.

The court heard today that UK has passed such materials to the United States with the extraordinary proviso that it should not be shared with Mr Aamer’s American counsel, notwithstanding the fact that US counsel have security clearances, and would review the materials in secret. This is therefore quite different from the case of Binyam Mohamed where the UK explicitly demanded that such documents should be shared with Mr Mohamed’s American counsel, to help establish his innocence.

Mr Aamer was cleared for release by the U.S. military under the Bush Administration, although the US authorities did not bother to inform his lawyers of this. The US has not made any public statement concerning whether Mr Aamer has again been cleared for release by the Obama Inter-Agency Review Team (IART). No public indication has been given since President Obama took office as to why Mr Aamer has not been released after almost eight years of detention without charges.

Reprieve’s director Clive Stafford Smith, who has represented Mr Aamer in the U.S. courts for almost five years, said: 

“Why is the British government willing to share materials that would help prove Mr Aamer’s innocence with the American authorities, and yet refuse to allow anyone who actually has Mr Aamer’s interests at heart to see them? With respect, reasonable observers must conclude that these materials must be extraordinarily embarrassing, and that the Government wants to avoid any risk that the evidence of criminal misconduct might one day come to light.” “Many months before President Obama came to office, Mr Aamer was cleared for release by the U.S. military. It is difficult to understand why he continues to suffer in Guantánamo Bay, rather than coming home to England and his wife and children. Rather than try to cover up its wrongdoing in court, the British government should come clean, and focus its energy on securing his release.”

For more information please contact Katherine O’Shea at Reprieve’s Press Office katherine.oshea@reprieve.org.uk 020 7427 1099/ 07931592674. 

Notes for Editors:

Reprieve, a legal action charity, uses the law to enforce the human rights of prisoners, from death row to Guantánamo Bay. Reprieve investigates, litigates and educates, working on the frontline, to provide legal support to prisoners unable to pay for it themselves. Reprieve promotes the rule of law around the world, securing each person’s right to a fair trial and saving lives. Clive Stafford Smith is the founder of Reprieve and has spent 25 years working on behalf of people facing the death penalty in the USA. Reprieve’s current casework involves representing more than 30 prisoners in the US prison at Guantánamo Bay, working on behalf of prisoners facing the death penalty, and conducting ongoing investigations into the rendition and the secret detention of ‘ghost prisoners’ in the so-called ‘war on terror.’

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