In the wake of a new report on US abuses post-9/11, calls have been renewed for the return of a British resident held without charge or trial at Guantanamo Bay for the past 13 years.
Shaker Aamer, a Londoner with a British wife and four British children, was captured and tortured by US forces in Afghanistan in 2001 before his rendition to Guantanamo Bay in 2002. His ordeal has included a litany of abuses similar to those described in the US Senate report on CIA torture, a portion of which was released this week. The details of CIA torture revealed in the report have provoked widespread condemnation.
As one of the first five prisoners taken to Bagram Air Force Base in late December 2001, Mr Aamer was forced to stay awake for nine days, beaten, denied food, and tied up in such a way as to risk strangling himself if he moved. Other times, he was forced to stand up for over 16 hours a day.
During his 13 years at Guantanamo Bay, Mr Aamer has been repeatedly subjected to physical violence – including regular beatings and “forcible cell extractions” (FCEs), at times as often as eight per day. He has also been forced into prolonged periods of solitary confinement, protracted sleep deprivation, manipulation of the temperature around him, and humiliating ‘genital searches.’
Earlier this year, Mr Aamer said: “The worst thing about torture is that you don’t know how to think, what to do, how to feel. You know you have your mind, but you don’t know how to react, which is horrible because you feel vulnerable. It’s terrible.”
The UK government has repeatedly stated that it wants Mr Aamer released from Guantanamo and returned to his family in London. Mr Aamer’s lawyer, Reprieve director Clive Stafford Smith believes that he is still imprisoned because of the evidence he might give around UK complicity in torture. He has said: “It is deeply suspicious that the UK won’t say why their friends in the US refuse to transfer Shaker home to London.”
Did Theresa May lobby Senate Committee on CIA report?
Home Secretary Theresa May was one of several UK officials who met with the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence (SSCI) ahead of the publication of its report on torture by the US and its allies, it’s emerged.
Documents unearthed by legal charity Reprieve reveal that from 2009, 24 meetings were held between UK Government officials or ministers and SSCI members. The Home Secretary met with the Committee in 2011 “in her capacity as Home Secretary”, while other UK Government visitors to the SSCI included former and current UK ambassadors to the US.
The SSCI began its formal inquiry into the CIA torture programme in 2009, and the timing of the UK meetings with the Committee have raised concerns that the UK may have attempted to influence the contents of the report.
Yesterday, Downing Street admitted that redactions were requested by the UK on “national security grounds” – an apparent shift from a claim made earlier this week, when the Prime Minister’s spokesman said there had been no such UK requests made.