Shaker Aamer’s children tell Senate of loneliness growing up without father

July 25, 2013

The children of Guantanamo detainee and British resident Shaker Aamer have submitted statements to a US Senate hearing on the closure of the prison, describing life without their father.

Yesterday the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights, and Human Rights – Chaired by Senator Richard Durbin – held a hearing on closing the prison at Guantanamo Bay. It was the first hearing of its kind since 2009.

In a statement put on the record at the hearing, Shaker’s son Michael wrote: “Since I have grown up I find it very difficult without my dad. I can feel how hard it is for my mum. Even though he has been cleared for release, he has been tortured.”

Shaker’s daughter Johina, wrote: “Why is there such injustice? Please Senators, I ask you to do something about it. We are a big family and we do our best to live a normal life, but without dad back home with us, it will never be possible.”

Shaker has been cleared for release from the US prison camp since 2007. Prime Minister David Cameron has made it clear that the UK want Shaker returned to his British wife and four children – the youngest of whom, Faris, he has never met – in London. The statements by Shaker’s children were among those submitted by family members of eight detainees, clients of the human rights charity Reprieve, describing life without their loved ones.

Senator Richard Durbin said at the hearing: “It’s time to lift these restrictions and move forward with shutting down Guantánamo prison.” The hearing was held amid an escalating crisis at the prison for President Obama – who re-iterated his 2009 promise to close the prison in a major defence policy speech earlier this year. Over half the detainees are on hunger strike and at least 45 are being force-fed, a practice Senator Dianne Fenistein said at the hearing: “violates international norms and medical ethics. And at Guantanamo, it happens day after day and week after week.”

Reprieve’s Director and Shaker’s lawyer, Clive Stafford Smith, said: “As these statements show, while Shaker has been tortured in Guantanamo, his family have been tortured with his absence, children living for 11 years without ever touching their father, a wife driven to nervous breakdown by what has been done to them all. US officials say they can’t find ‘stable countries’ to send detainees home to – does that mean they consider the UK, whose Prime Minister has asked to have Shaker back, to be ‘unstable?’ Senator Durbin is bang on the money – President Obama must close Guantanamo immediately and send Shaker back to London where he is desperately wanted by those who love him.”


Notes to editors

1. For further information, please contact Clemency Wells in Reprieve’s press office: +44 (0) 207 553 8161 /66 / +44(0) 7739 188 097

2. For all the family statements in full, see: