Battersea man joins mass hunger strike as part of escalating crisis at Guantanamo Bay


Shaker Aamer, 46, from Battersea is one of 166 indefinitely detained at the centre


By David Horsfall

The last Briton detained in Guantanamo Bay (Gitmo), has joined a mass hunger strike in an escalating crisis at the controversial detention centre.

Shaker Aamer, 46, from Battersea, said the hunger strike began on February 7 2013 and told his lawyer Clive A. Stafford Smith, of Reprieve, that as of March 29 he had lost 32 lbs.

Lawyers for the men estimate that of the 166 still indefinitely detained at Gitmo, nearly all are on hunger strike, including Mr Aamer.

Reprieve Director, Clive Stafford Smith, said that the ongoing detention of the men was an affront to basic principles of justice.

“Shaker has a wife and four British kids – one of whom he’s never met – in London. The UK just accepts routine assurances from the US that all is well, when all is rotten in Guantanamo Bay,” he said.

“Does the UK really take the position that there is nothing more that can be done if a close ally is committing the on-going torture of Shaker Aamer?”

The strikes were prompted in large part by the fact that despite the majority of prisoners having been cleared for release, attempts to transfer men out have been abandoned by the Obama administration.

According to a sworn declaration of Mr Stafford Smith, Mr Aamer has been badly punished for joining the hunger strike. He has been denied various items that were ordered for medical reason including his back brace and was denied a toothbrush for 10 days.

Mr Aamer has reported that between 6-10 detainees are falling down every day and if this happens, they are being strapped to boards and told they have to take a mixture of honey and water. They may be left on a board for several hours until they agree to take the mixture.

Reprieve is openly critical of the UK Government for the handling of the Gitmo crisis and argues that the failure of the British Government to act could amount to a war crime.

Transferring prisoners to another country and failing to release a prisoner when they have been declared not to be that are both grave breaches of the Geneva Convention according to Reprieve.

A recent UK Supreme Court ruling confirmed that the Geneva Conventions (any breach of which amounts to a war crime) applies to all those detained in the Iraq and Afghan war.

According to documents published in the Guantanamo Bay files leak, the US military Joint Task Force Guantanamo believed in November 2007 that Mr Aamer led a unit of fighters in Afghanistan, including the Battle of Tora Bora, while his family was paid a stipend by Osama bin Laden. The file asserts past associations with Richard Reid and Zacarias Moussaoui.

It appears despite the valiant attempts by Reprieve through the legal minefield of the global justice system, the legal conundrum remains of finding a legal route to force the UK/US to release Gitmo prisoners.

No application appears to have made to the UN Security Council or the International Criminal Court on the Gitmo issue.

In an unprecedented legal move, Reprieve has written a Pre Action Protocol letter claiming defamation by MI5/MI6 of Shaker Aamer, alleging that the security services have made false statements which are being used to keep him in Gitmo.

It is appears that this is a tactical litigation suit to bring pressure on the UK Government to continue its efforts to seek the release of Mr Aamer.

Cori Crider, Legal Director of Reprieve and lawyer for several of the men, said: “Some of my clients have actually read ‘Dreams From my Father’, so excited were they by the election of President Obama after his campaign promises.

“But by refusing to go to bat for his policy and keep his pledge to close Guantánamo, Obama dashed the men’s hopes almost as soon as he built them.

“This wasn’t intentional – but it was cruel. Hunger strikes are about the only option these men have left to protest indefinite detention. It’s time for the President to show some spine, and appoint a White House official to get cleared men home.”

Photo courtesy of TheDailyReminder via YouTube, with thanks.

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