Obama urged to close Guantanamo, 6 years on from promise

January 21, 2015

President Obama has been urged to do more to close Guantanamo Bay, six years after he vowed to do so within one year.

An Executive Order from the White House, signed by the President on January 22nd 2009, set out plans to close the prison within a year. Today, however, a total of 122 men are still held at Guantanamo Bay without charge or trial. Fifty-four of them have been cleared for release, a process involving unanimous agreement by six US federal agencies that a detainee poses no threat to the United States.

Among the cleared men is British resident Shaker Aamer, from London. Mr Aamer, who has a British wife and four British children, has been held at the prison without charge or trial for nearly 14 years, despite being cleared for release twice – once in 2007, and again in 2009. The UK government has repeatedly said that Mr Aamer should be returned to the UK.

Last week, following a meeting between President Obama and Prime Minister David Cameron, the White House said the President would ‘prioritise’ Mr Aamer’s case, as he “understands why this case is of great interest to the Prime Minister and the British people.”

A recent wave of releases from Guantanamo has seen several prisoners transferred to countries including Uruguay, Estonia and Slovenia.

Clive Stafford Smith, Mr Aamer’s lawyer and the director of legal charity Reprieve, said:

“It is hard to believe that, six years on from Obama’s promise, we are no closer to seeing freedom for Shaker and many others at Guantanamo – prisoners who have never been charged or tried with a crime, and who have long been cleared for release. If there is to be any justice, the UK and the US must bring Shaker home to London before my next visit with him on the 30th – and Obama must make good on his promise, and close the prison once and for all.”

ENDS

Notes to editors:

1. For further information, please contact Reprieve’s press office: alice [DOT] gillham [AT] reprieve [DOT] org [DOT] uk / +44 (0) 207 553 8160

2. President Obama’s Executive Order for the closure of Guantanamo Bay prison was signed on 22 January 2009. It can be read here.