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Shaker Aamer: Held in a Gulag for Over 11-years


Madness would surely engulf most of us long before we had endured more than a decade of torture and false imprisonment. Never see your family, over a 1000 days in solitary confinement and over 11 years in a Gulag – regular torture sessions included.

But Shaker Aamer has endured, he has prevailed against the most barbaric State condoned War Crimes ever committed since medieval times. The ‘rack’ and ‘head crusher’ have been replaced by smashing your head against a wall, water torture, beatings and sleep deprivation, to name a few.

Aamer’s ordeal began with a good deed and a twist of fate which landed him in the wrong place at the worse time. Aamer moved his family temporarily from England to Afghanistan in July 2001 to help a charity build a girls school in a culture that is dismissive of educating woman.

After 9/11 American forces, desperate for any information about the 9/11 attacks, would pay criminal gangs in Afghanistan to bring them anyone that maybe affiliated with Al-Qaeda. These gangs simply began rounding up anyone they thought could be sold to the Americans. Aamer got his family out of Afghanistan, but he was kidnapped by one of the gangs and eventually sold to the Americans. He was transported to to Bagram Prison run by the US in Afghanistan.

Aamer recalls being relieved that he was being handed over to the Americans. But this was short lived as his captors began accusing him of being affiliated with Al-Qaeda.

It was while at Bagram that Aamer tells of his first torture sessions, which included frostbite induced cold water torture, hog tying and sleep deprivation.

After weeks of this Aamer was taken to a room where he says a British intelligence officer was present with about ten other US interrogators. Aamer’s head was bounced off a wall while the men shouted at him that he’d better confess or they would kill him. No surprise then that Aamer falsely confessed to whatever they wanted.

Aamer states that there were at least two British intelligence officers at Bagram. The fact that a British agent was actively participating in Aamer’s torture is probably one of the reasons he still sits in Guantanamo. As Aamer states, ‘British intelligence officers were complicit in my torture’.

According to Aamer, another reason for his continued forced imprisonment maybe the fact that he witnessed the torture of Ibn Shaikh al-Libi in Bagram. Al-Libi gave false information to the CIA about Iraq supposedly training Al-Qaeda in how to use chemical weapons. This was used by George Bush and Colin Powell to justify invading Iraq.

Aamer is supported by several other torture victims who state that British intelligence officers were colluding with the US while they were being tortured. One of the most well known is that of British Resident Binyam Mohamed. Whilst being tortured by the Americans in Pakistan in May 2002, Mohamed says he was visited by a British MI5 agent. He also states that British intelligence was supplying his torturers in Morocco with information about his time in England.

In a judicial review (July 2008) of Mohamed’s case, Lord Justice Thomas and Mr. Justice Lloyd Jones ruled that, “by seeking to interview BM in the circumstances found and supplying information and questions for his interviews, the relationship between the United Kingdom Government and the United States authorities went far beyond that of a bystander or witness to the alleged wrongdoing.”

Aamer has been cleared twice for release, in 2007 and 2009, but still he is kept in Guantanamo. His lawyer Stafford Smith, head of the legal charity Reprieve, said: “It seems highly probable that the British security services are in bed with the Americans on trying to keep Shaker from coming back to the UK, since Shaker is such an important witness against them for their complicity in torture.”

In an unforeseen way, Aamer has done us a great service. When an innocent man is continually tortured and imprisoned many years after being cleared of any crime, and kept there to cover up State War Crimes, we know our government has become criminalized.

England is a country that prides itself on the rule of law, but whose government participates in torturing innocent men to illicit false confessions, that is a government without any law. The only question that remains is, just how far down the abyss of ethical bankruptcy is it willing to go? Or has it already bottomed out?

The Tony Blair and Gordon Brown governments did nothing to free Aamer. Cameron has carried on this debauched tradition with aplomb. Oh, he can mouth platitudes with the worst of them. In response to a letter to him from Johina Aamer , one of Aamer’s four children, Cameron writes (June 2013),

“Despite efforts to secure his release, it remains the case that he has been cleared for transfer but not for release.

“It also remains the case that any decision regarding your father’s release remains ultimately in the hands of the US Government.”

Cameron gives us the most nauseating boilerplate excuse. There are many ways that he could put pressure on the US to release Aamer. But Cameron has neither the inclination nor the fortitude to make a stand against Washington’s worst human rights abuses. He has proven that, like Blair and Brown, he is Washington’s obedient serf.(read the recent story of the illegal arrest of David Miranda at Heathrow airport, no doubt on Washington’s orders).

Cameron is hoping you will forget about Aamer. It is up to us to hold him accountable for the office that he holds and maintain the rule of law.

Aamer’s wife and children have not seen him for over 11-years. His youngest child Faris, has never seen his father. Aamer needs our help and support to set him free. With your help, we will see that justice is done.

Gavin Phillips can be reached at

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