UK Celebrities & Politicians Publish Open Letter Calling for Shaker Aamer's Release from Guantanamo

Debra Sweet | July 6, 2015

There is a substantial outcry coming from the UK because the Obama administration — despite promises to close down Guantanamo, and let those designated for release leave — still refuses to release Shaker Aamer.  He's been cleared for release since 2008.  So during the whole presidency of Nobel Peace Prize winner Barack Obama, his life, his family and supporters wishes, have meant nothing at all.

It's good to see so many celebrities, including Roger Waters, Russell Brand and Peter Gabriel, as well as politicians, calling for his release.  With their Open Letter going to Washington on July 4, perhaps hopes were raised that the United States actually stands for freedom. Apparently it stands for continued, indefinite detention, without charges.

Dear President Obama,

On the day that the United States celebrates its independence, we the undersigned ask you to facilitate the transfer from Guantánamo of Shaker Aamer, the last British resident in the prison, and his return to his family in the UK – his British wife and his four British children.

The majority of us are British citizens, and it has not escaped our notice that, while the US is celebrating its freedom, and its foundation under the rule of law, the continuing detention of men at Guantánamo – largely without charge or trial – continues to undermine America’s notion of itself and its international standing.

The US authorities have given no indication over the years that they have any intention to charge Shaker Aamer with any criminal offence. Indeed, he is one of 51 men still held who have long been approved for release from Guantánamo after interagency reviews. In his case, he has twice been approved for release from the base – in 2007, under President Bush, and again, in 2010, by your Guantánamo review task force.

We note that the British prime minister, David Cameron, has asked you to release him, that the British government supported a parliamentary motion calling for his release in March, and that a cross-party delegation of MPs visited Washington, DC in May to seek to establish a timeline for his release. Although they met senators, and the envoys for Guantánamo closure, no one was able to tell them when Mr Aamer would be released.

We cannot understand the difficulty involved in releasing him to the UK, a close ally of the US, including on counter-terrorism. The MPs noted in an op-ed in the New York Times on 8 June: “There is simply no reason, domestic or international, for the United States to keep Mr Aamer in custody.”

The MPs also stated: “It is difficult for us to shake off the depressing notion that the Obama administration is indifferent to the repeated requests of the British government. It is a slap in the face for America’s staunchest friend.”

Just three weeks ago, the US attorney general, Loretta Lynch, visited the UK to take part in a ceremony marking the 800th anniversary of the signing of the Magna Carta, the document that introduced habeas corpus to the world. The right not to be imprisoned without a fair trial has become the centrepiece of respect for the rule of law all around the world, and yet, when Ms Lynch stated at Runnymede that the fundamental principles of the Magna Carta have “given hopes to those who face oppression” and have “given a voice to those yearning for the redress of wrongs,” it was impossible not to think of Shaker Aamer, and others in Guantánamo, also “yearning for the redress of wrongs,” but finding that yearning repeatedly unfulfilled.

As we congratulate you on the celebration of your country’s independence, we also urge you to address the ongoing and unjustifiable detention of Shaker Aamer without further delay.

Signers include: Sir Patrick Stewart OBE, Ralph Fiennes, Russell Brand, Roger Waters, Peter Gabriel, Sting, Richard E. Grant, Mark Rylance, Juliet Stevenson, David Morrissey, Frankie Boyle, Ken Loach, Mike Leigh and Michael Brearley.

Read the letter and the full list of signatories on Andy Worthington's website.

Read the letter and signatories on The Guardian UK.

Main Torture UK Celebrities & Politicians Publish Open Letter Calling for Shaker Aamer's Release from Guantanamo


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