UK minister refuses to say why Shaker Aamer remains in Guantanamo

April 24, 2013

A British government minister today admitted he has a “supposition” as to why the US continues to hold the last British resident in Guantanamo Bay but refused to tell a group of MPs what it is.

During the Parliamentary debate held at Westminster Hall, Foreign Office Minister Alistair Burt responded to MP’s questions about why Shaker Aamer continues to be held at the US prison by saying, “I have a supposition [of why the US is continuing to hold Shaker Aamer] but it’s not a detail I can go in to.”  

Mr Burt also said that while it is UK policy for Mr Aamer to be returned home to his family in London, he understands that Shaker has been cleared for transfer only to Saudi Arabia. This is in direct contradiction to the clearance document given to Shaker Aamer, which nowhere stipulates that he has been transferred for release to only one country. The clearance document handed to Shaker says that, “your transfer…will require negotiation with countries where you could be possibly transferred…The United States Government intends to transfer you as soon as appropriate arrangements can be made.”   Shaker has never been told that his clearance for transfer was limited to Saudi Arabia. He has explicitly stated that he wants to return to the UK to be with his British wife and four British children.

On the transfer document given to Mr Aamer, he has written; “get me out of here before it is too late.”

Shaker has been cleared for release under both the Bush and the Obama administrations, yet he remains detained without charge or trial. Human rights charity Reprieve recently revealed that Shaker has now joined the wide-spread hunger strike at Guantanamo Bay. On April 11th Shaker spoke with his lawyer, Clive Stafford Smith, and described the treatment to which he has been subjected since deciding to strike. He said, “They are killing us, so it is hard to keep calm…in reality I am dying inside.”

Clive Stafford Smith, said: “It is deeply suspicious that the UK won’t say why their friends in the US refuse to transfer Shaker home to London. The US and UK intelligence services appear to be working together to ensure Shaker stays where he is or gets shipped off to Saudi Arabia. Shaker knows too much. Given that he could appear as a witness against the perpetrators of some the UK’s dirtiest secrets over their role in the ‘war on terror’, it is far better for the intelligence services if he is sent away to another prison in Saudi Arabia. We don’t doubt William Hague’s sincerity when he says that he wants Shaker released. Mr Hague needs to get assurances from his own security service that they haven’t provided information to be used to keep Shaker in arbitrary detention, and that any falsehood they have told to the CIA have been corrected. National embarrassment isn’t a reason to keep a man who has been cleared for release locked away in prison. Shaker must be returned to his family in London at once.”