Shaker Aamer’s release: What happens next?

31 October 2015 by

And so, thirteen years after his capture, eight years after the US Government cleared him for release, and seven years after President Obama’s spectacularly broken promise to shut down Guantánamo, Shaker Aamer has left the prison, as innocent as the day he went in.

Shaker Aamer

No sooner had his plane touched down at Biggin Hill, than the focus shifted from US to UK responsibility for his ordeal. What happens in the weeks and months ahead will be critical to determining the extent to which any British involvement in his case will be brought to light.

That question may be answered by whether Aamer’s allegations are examined as part of the independent, judge-led inquiry.


Shaker Aamer, 48, was born in Saudi Arabia. He moved to the United States in 1985 and worked as a translator for the US military during the Gulf War. He later came to Britain, where in 1996 he was granted leave to remain. He met his British wife, Zin Siddique, while living in London.

Their fourth child was born on the day Aamer was flown to Guantánamo Bay. Captured by bounty hunters in Afghanistan in 2001, he claimed to have been working for an aid organisation there. Initially, he was detained at Bagram air base, accused of links to al-Qaida and its leader, Osama bin Laden.

His lawyers allege that Aamer’s torture began long before his transfer to the base in Cuba, and that while at Bagram he was subjected to sleep and food deprivation, doused in freezing water and forced to stand for up to 16 hours at a time. They say that British agents were present when Aamer’s head was slammed against a wall, and when a fellow detainee was tortured into making a confession that Saddam Hussein had been training al-Qaida operatives.

Aamer was transferred to Guantánamo Bay on 14 February 2012. He became an advocate for his fellow detainees and in 2005 lost half his body weight during a hunger strike. It is alleged that he was held in solitary confinement for almost a year, was beaten, and was exposed to extremes of temperature and sleep deprivation. It is also claimed that MI5 and MI6 interrogated him despite knowledge that he was being ill-treated by his captors at the time.

In 2007, the then Foreign Secretary, David Milliband, secured an agreement whereby Aamer and four other British detainees would be released. At that point, not only had Shaker Aamer not been charged, but the US had dropped any plans to charge him. The plan was for Aamer to be returned to Saudi Arabia.

Two years later, he remained in Guantánamo despite a US tribunal deeming for a second time that he was safe for release. US authorities refused to allow him to return to the UK.

The groundswell of support for Aamer’s release grew, and in 2012 protests took place to mark the tenth anniversary of his incarceration. In January this year, David Cameron raised concerns over the case with Obama, who said he would “prioritise” Aamer’s case.

On 25 September the US informed its UK counterparts that he would be released. It finally followed through only yesterday, as Guantánamo Bay’s 113 inmates became 112.

What now?

The official response to his release has been terse:

As soon as he is returned to the UK, he is no longer in detention. He is free to be reunited with his family. The Prime Minister has been clear that the public should be reassured that everything to ensure public safety is in place.

One might have expected that after 13 years of detention during which the world’s most potent military intelligence machine failed to lay a single charge against him, an assurance as to public safety might have gone without saying. And might it suggest that even now, while Shaker Aamer may be free to be reunited with his family (including the teenage son he has never met), he remains under surveillance?

By all accounts, Aamer is committed to seeking justice for himself and others who have suffered similar experiences. In the likes of Reprieve and his solicitor, Gareth Peirce, he has some effective and long-standing supporters. As in the cases of other former Guantánamo detainees, including Moazzam Begg and Binyam Mohamed, the Government will no doubt be keen to reach a settlement sooner rather than later.

Yet, anything less than a judge-led inquiry would seem ill-equipped to press the UK’s security apparatus in the way that ensures that Aamer’s allegations of torture, complicity and unlawful imprisonment are properly ventilated. Aamer’s release might well prompt further calls for a resumption of the scrapped Detainee Inquiry, or even the establishment of an altogether new inquiry.

Equally, while many will be encouraged that the Metropolitan Police have been investigating the alleged involvement of UK officials and ministers in human rights abuses, that will no doubt be the focus of Government arguments that a no-stone-left-unturned legal process is already in full swing.

The case would appear to lie at the extremes of what even a Government intent on watering down domestic human rights protections might be prepared to accept. Thirteen years was enough time for some awkward questions to pile up, some of which will overlap with claims made in the cases of Rahmatullah v Ministry of Defence and another UKSC 2015/0002 and Belhaj and Another v Straw and others UKSC 2014/0264. A bench of seven UK Supreme Court Justices will hear those cases the week after next.

Mr Rahmatullah was transferred by British forces in Iraq to their US counterparts in 2004. He remained in US custody – again without charge – for ten years, and alleges that he was tortured during that time. He seeks damages from the UK Government, which argues that his claims are barred by operation of either the foreign act of state doctrine or the doctrine of state immunity.

His case will be heard alongside that of Abdul-Hakim Belhaj, a former opponent of Colonel Gaddafi who alleges that he and his wife were abducted in 2004 and rendered to Libya. He claims that the UK passed intelligence to the US that facilitated that process. Mr Belhaj was detained for some six years.

With the country’s highest court about to decide whether cases brought in similar factual contexts should be permitted to proceed to full trials, the timing of Shaker Aamer’s release adds to the pressure upon the Government to face up to allegations of complicity.

How it does so might tell us a great deal about the degree to which it repudiates the approach to human rights adopted by the United States in the wake of 9/11.


  1. […] Duffy, Shaker Aamer’s release: What happens next?, UK Human Rights […]

  2. daveyone1 says:

    Reblogged this on World Peace Forum.

Comments are closed.

Welcome to the UKHRB

This blog is run by 1 Crown Office Row barristers' chambers. Subscribe for free updates here. The blog's editorial team is:
Commissioning Editor: Jonathan Metzer
Editorial Team: Rosalind English
Angus McCullough QC David Hart QC
Martin Downs
Jim Duffy

Free email updates

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog for free and receive weekly notifications of new posts by email.




Aarhus Abortion Abu Qatada Abuse Access to justice adoption AI air pollution air travel ALBA Allergy Al Qaeda Amnesty International animal rights Animals anonymity Article 1 Protocol 1 Article 2 article 3 Article 4 article 5 Article 6 Article 8 Article 9 article 10 Article 11 article 13 Article 14 article 263 TFEU Artificial Intelligence Asbestos Assange assisted suicide asylum asylum seekers Australia autism badgers benefits Bill of Rights biotechnology blogging Bloody Sunday brexit Bribery British Waterways Board Catholic Church Catholicism Chagos Islanders Charter of Fundamental Rights child protection Children children's rights China christianity citizenship civil liberties campaigners civil partnerships climate change clinical negligence closed material procedure Coercion Commission on a Bill of Rights common law communications competition confidentiality consent conservation constitution contact order contact tracing contempt of court Control orders Copyright coronavirus coronavirus act 2020 costs costs budgets Court of Protection covid crime criminal law Cybersecurity Damages data protection death penalty defamation DEFRA deportation deprivation of liberty derogations Detention Dignitas diplomacy disability disclosure Discrimination disease divorce DNA domestic violence duty of care ECHR ECtHR Education election Employment Environment Equality Act Equality Act 2010 Ethiopia EU EU Charter of Fundamental Rights EU costs EU law European Convention on Human Rights European Court of Human Rights European Court of Justice evidence extradition extraordinary rendition Facebook Facial Recognition Family Fatal Accidents Fertility FGM Finance foreign criminals foreign office foreign policy France freedom of assembly Freedom of Expression freedom of information freedom of speech Gay marriage gay rights Gaza Gender genetics Germany Google Grenfell Gun Control Health HIV home office Housing HRLA human rights Human Rights Act human rights news Human Rights Watch Huntington's Disease immigration India Indonesia injunction Inquests insurance international law internet inuit Iran Iraq Ireland islam Israel Italy IVF ivory ban Japan joint enterprise judaism judicial review Judicial Review reform Julian Assange jury trial JUSTICE Justice and Security Bill Law Pod UK legal aid legal aid cuts Leveson Inquiry lgbtq liability Libel Liberty Libya lisbon treaty Lithuania local authorities marriage Media and Censorship mental capacity Mental Capacity Act Mental Health military Ministry of Justice modern slavery morocco murder music Muslim nationality national security naturism neuroscience NHS Northern Ireland nuclear challenges nuisance Obituary ouster clauses parental rights parliamentary expenses scandal patents Pensions Personal Injury physician assisted death Piracy Plagiarism planning planning system Poland Police Politics Pope press prison Prisoners prisoner votes Prisons privacy Professional Discipline Property proportionality prosecutions Protection of Freedoms Bill Protest Public/Private public access public authorities public inquiries quarantine Radicalisation rehabilitation Reith Lectures Religion RightsInfo right to die right to family life Right to Privacy right to swim riots Roma Romania round-up Round Up Royals Russia saudi arabia Scotland secrecy secret justice Secret trials sexual offence shamima begum Sikhism Smoking social media social workers South Africa Spain special advocates Sports Standing starvation statelessness stem cells stop and search Strasbourg super injunctions Supreme Court Supreme Court of Canada surrogacy surveillance sweatshops Syria Tax technology Terrorism tort Torture travel treason treaty accession trial by jury TTIP Turkey Twitter UK Ukraine universal credit universal jurisdiction unlawful detention USA US Supreme Court vicarious liability Wales War Crimes Wars Welfare Western Sahara Whistleblowing Wikileaks wildlife wind farms WomenInLaw Worboys wrongful birth YearInReview Zimbabwe


This blog is maintained for information purposes only. It is not intended to be a source of legal advice and must not be relied upon as such. Blog posts reflect the views and opinions of their individual authors, not of chambers as a whole.

Our privacy policy can be found on our ‘subscribe’ page or by clicking here.

%d bloggers like this: