Guantanamo prisoner still held despite agreement with UK

UK permanent resident Shaker Aamer still held in Guantanamo Bay Prison, despite UK demands his return

Courtesy of: Reprieve
Courtesy of: Reprieve

Guantanamo prisoner Shaker Aamer, a UK permanent resident

Updated Aug 15, 2015

The Pentagon blocks the transfer of Guantanamo prisoner Shaker Aamer, a UK permanent resident, despite an agreement reached with UK diplomats, the Guardian reported on Thursday.

In the aftermath of 9/11 attacks, Shaker Aamer was seized by bounty hunters in Afghanistan, then handed over to US forces in 2001. Two months later, he was taken to Guantanamo Bay Prison in Cuba, and has been detained there without a trial for more than 13 years now.

In 2013, American and the UK diplomats reached an agreement for the return of Aamer, who has been cleared for release both under George W. Bush and Barack Obama administrations, however he is still been held in the controversial prison.

Forty-nine-year-old Aamer moved to London 20 years ago and got married to a British citizen. He arrived in Guantanamo on Feb. 14, 2002, on the birthday of his youngest son, whom he has never seen.

Hopes that he will return to his family, his wife and four children in the UK were raised when in January David Cameron issued a personal plea that led the White House to make Aamer’s case priority.

However, US Defense Secretary Ashton Carter who has the last say in the approval of the detainee transfers has not taken action yet.

By law, the defense secretary is in charge of assuring that there is no risk of recidivism after the detainee transfer is completed. The detainee transfers occur 30 days after he signs his approval.

Aamer’s case is of great interest to the British government that has been calling for his release since 2007.

Guantanamo authorities claimed that Shaker was a key aide of former Al Qaeda leader Osama Bin Laden, however his lawyers say he is completely innocent.

Aamer’s father-in-law, Saaed Ahmed Siddique, said: "All of these claims have no basis. If any of this was true he would be in a court now."

In the Guantanamo Bay Prison, the legal proceedings is only carried out by military commissions, since Congress blocked federal prosecutions for the detainees.

Designations for transfer are mainly carried out by Periodic Review Boards, however it takes years to finalise a detainee case. Because of the backlog in the system, some detainees are claimed to plead guilty in military commissions although they are innocent, in order to start legal proceedings against them and have a fixed date for their release.

Never a big fan of the prison, US President Obama during his presidential campaign and throughout his term in office has vowed several times to close the Guantanamo Bay prison. However, starting in 2009, Congress has used its power over spending to block efforts to close Guantanamo.

The president blamed the Congress for violating constitutional separation of powers several times and has threatened to veto the acts that are hindering him to achieve his promise, but he has not done so.

Critics of Obama’s Guantanamo policy argue that the White House is not pressuring Congress and Pentagon enough, therefore it is unlikely for Obama to close the prison before his presidency ends.

There are 116 prisoners held in the Guantanamo, and 52 of them are already cleared for release by the government’s review task force in 2010.

A campaign named “We Stand With Shaker” demands Shaker’s release since Nov. 24, 2014. The campaign video starts with Shaker’s own words demanding authorities to release the prisoners, who have been held more than a decade without any legal proceedings.

TRTWorld and agencies