October 21, 2014
In disappointing but predictable news, the British foreign secretary Philip Hammond, who replaced William Hague on July 15 this year, has "dismissed concerns over the abuse" of Shaker Aamer, the last British prisoner in Guantánamo, in a letter to his lawyer Clive Stafford Smith, the founder and director of the legal action charity Reprieve, as described by the charity in a press release.
In August, as I explained at the time, Clive Stafford Smith wrote to Philip Hammond after he had "received a series of unclassified letters from various detainees who we represent in Guantánamo Bay," which told "a disturbingly consistent story" — of "a new 'standard procedure’" whereby the FCE team (the armored guards responsible for violently removing prisoners from their cells through "forcible cell extractions") was being "used to abuse the prisoners with particular severity because of the on-going non-violent hunger strike protest against their unconscionable treatment."
Stafford Smith also explained how one of Shaker Aamer’s fellow prisoners, Emad Hassan, a Yemeni who, like Shaker, has long been cleared for release, described how, on the Sunday before he wrote his letter, "Shaker ISN 239 was beaten when the medical people wanted to draw blood."
In a letter dated October 7, Philip Hammond told Stafford Smith in a letter that "we made enquiries with US Government officials who assured us that the report of an incident, relayed to you by another detainee, is not accurate." As the Guardian described it, Philip Hammond also insisted that Shaker Aamer’s release "remains a high priority for the government." and "said UK officials have no access to the British resident and are solely reliant on US sources for information."
It is, of course, 100% predictable that the US authorities would deny allegations of abuse at Guantánamo — although that is not to say that all allegations made by prisoners are necessarily credible. However, as Stafford Smith explained, "similar descriptions of escalating punitive abuse at Guantánamo, which would appear to corroborate Mr. Hassan’s allegations, have for some time been emerging from the prison."
He proceeded to explain how, in a letter to William Hague in May, he included testimony from Mr. Aamer, in which he stated that "he is sometimes FCEd up to eight times a day," and included an excerpt from a recent letter of from Shaker Aamer, in which he stated, "Last night, as I came back from my legal call, I was FCEd in much the same way I always am, as I peacefully refused to cooperate with them again. This time they did not just force me down on the floor of the room. They apparently decided that they had to get me dirty, so they threw me down in the passage way."
Responding to the letter from Philip Hammond, Clive Stafford Smith said, "The US military is not telling Mr. Hammond the truth about the abuse of Mr. Aamer, any more than they did to Judge Kessler, who had the good sense to demand to see the video footage" — a reference to the ongoing case of Abu Wa’el Dhiab, a Syrian prisoner, also long cleared for release, who had the release of videotapes to his lawyers showing his force-feeding and "forcible cell extractions" ordered by District Judge Gladys Kessler in May this year.
Stafford Smith added, "I have just returned from a visit and the brutal nature of the FCEing — to which Shaker is subjected probably more than any other prisoner — is only getting worse. Mr. Hammond says that the UK is doing all it can to help Shaker but if it were his son or brother being beaten up every day, he would show a little more interest in evidence, and a little less in bland and false denials. It is far past time that Shaker was home with his wife and children."
What you can do now
To call for the British government to do more to secure Shaker Aamer’s release, please contact Philip Hammond, the foreign secretary, and ask him to take urgent action on Shaker’s behalf. You can email him here via his Private Office at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO). A general phone number for the FCO is 020 7008 1500.
If you’re in the US, you can call the White House on 202-456-1111 or 202-456-1414 or submit a comment online.
Andy Worthington is a freelance investigative journalist, activist, author, photographer and film-maker. He is the co-founder of the "Close Guantánamo" campaign, and the author of The Guantánamo Files: The Stories of the 774 Detainees in America’s Illegal Prison (published by Pluto Press, distributed by Macmillan in the US, and available from Amazon — click on the following for the US and the UK) and of two other books: Stonehenge: Celebration and Subversion and The Battle of the Beanfield. He is also the co-director (with Polly Nash) of the documentary film, "Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo" (available on DVD here — or here for the US).
To receive new articles in your inbox, please subscribe to Andy’s RSS feed — and he can also be found on Facebook (and here), Twitter, Flickr and YouTube. Also see the six-part definitive Guantánamo prisoner list, and "The Complete Guantánamo Files," an ongoing, 70-part, million-word series drawing on files released by WikiLeaks in April 2011. Also see the definitive Guantánamo habeas list, the full military commissions list, and the chronological list of all Andy’s articles.
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