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.

Background

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.

2 comments


  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.

Subscribe

Categories


Tags


7/7 Bombings 9/11 A1P1 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 birds directive 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 circumcision citizenship civil liberties campaigners civil partnerships climate change clinical negligence closed material procedure Coercion Cologne Commission on a Bill of Rights common buzzard common law communications competition confidentiality confiscation order conscientious objection consent conservation constitution contact order contempt of court Control orders Copyright coronavirus costs costs budgets Court of Protection crime criminal law Criminal Legal Aid criminal records Cybersecurity Damages data protection death penalty declaration of incompatibility defamation DEFRA Democracy village deportation deprivation of liberty derogations Detention devolution Dignitas dignity Dignity in Dying diplomacy director of public prosecutions disability Disability-related harassment disciplinary hearing disclosure Discrimination Discrimination law disease divorce DNA doctors does it matter? domestic violence Dominic Grieve don't ask don't ask don't tell don't tell Doogan and Wood double conviction DPP guidelines drones duty of care ECHR economic and social rights economic loss ECtHR Education election Employment Environment environmental information Equality Act Equality Act 2010 ethics 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 european disability forum European Sanctions Blog Eurozone euthanasia evidence Exclusion extra-jurisdictional reach of ECHR extra-territoriality extradition extradition act extradition procedures extradition review extraordinary rendition Facebook Facebook contempt facial recognition fair procedures Fair Trial faith courts fake news Family family courts family law family legal aid Family life fatal accidents act Fertility fertility treatment FGM fisheries fishing rights foreign criminals foreign office foreign policy France freedom of assembly Freedom of Association Freedom of Expression freedom of information Freedom of Information Act 2000 freedom of movement freedom of speech free speech game birds gangbo gang injunctions Garry Mann gary dobson Gary McFarlane gay discrimination Gay marriage gay rights gay soldiers Gaza Gaza conflict Gender General Dental Council General Election General Medical Council genetic discrimination genetic engineering genetic information genetics genetic testing Google government Grenfell grooming Gun Control gwyneth paltrow gypsies habitats habitats protection Halsbury's Law Exchange hammerton v uk happy new year harassment Hardeep Singh Haringey Council Harkins and Edwards Health healthcare health insurance Heathrow heist heightened scrutiny Henry VII Henry VIII herd immunity hereditary disorder High Court of Justiciary Hirst v UK HIV HJ Iran HM (Iraq) v The Secretary of state for the home department [2010] EWCA Civ 1322 Holder holkham beach holocaust homelessness Home Office Home Office v Tariq homeopathy hooding Hounslow v Powell House of Commons Housing housing benefits Howard League for Penal Reform how judges decide cases hra damages claim Hrant Dink HRLA HS2 hs2 challenge hts http://ukhumanrightsblog.com/2011/04/11/us-state-department-reports-on-uk-human-rights/ Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority human genome human rights Human Rights Act Human Rights Act 1998 human rights advocacy Human rights and the UK constitution human rights commission human rights conventions human rights damages Human Rights Day human rights decisions Human Rights Information Project human rights news Human Rights Watch human right to education human trafficking hunting Huntington's Disease HXA hyper injunctions Igor Sutyagin illegality defence immigration Immigration/Extradition Immigration Act 2014 immigration appeals immigration detention immigration judge immigration rules immunity increase of sanction India Indonesia Infrastructure Planning Committee inherent jurisdiction inherited disease Inhuman and degrading treatment injunction Inquest Inquests insult insurance insurmountable obstacles intelligence services act intercept evidence interception interests of the child interim remedies international international conflict international criminal court international humanitarian law international human rights international human rights law international law international treaty obligations internet internet service providers internment internship inuit investigation investigative duty in vitro fertilisation Iran iranian bank sanctions Iranian nuclear program Iraq Iraqi asylum seeker Iraq War Ireland irrationality islam Israel Italy iTunes IVF ivory ban jackson reforms Janowiec and Others v Russia ( Japan Jason Smith Jeet Singh Jefferies Jeremy Corbyn jeremy hunt job Jogee John Hemming John Terry joint enterprise joint tenancy Jon Guant Joseph v Spiller journalism judaism judges Judges and Juries judging Judicial activism judicial brevity judicial deference judicial review Judicial Review reform judiciary Julian Assange jurisdiction jury trial JUSTICE Justice and Security Act Justice and Security Bill Justice and Security Green Paper Justice Human Rights Awards JUSTICE Human Rights Awards 2010 just satisfaction Katyn Massacre Kay v Lambeth Kay v UK Ken Clarke Ken Pease Kerry McCarthy Kettling Kings College Klimas koran burning Labour Lady Hale lansley NHS reforms LASPO Law Commission Law Pod UK Law Society Law Society of Scotland leave to enter leave to remain legal aid legal aid cuts Legal Aid desert Legal Aid Reforms legal blogs Legal Certainty legal naughty step Legal Ombudsman legal representation legitimate expectation let as a dwelling Leveson Inquiry Levi Bellfield lewisham hospital closure lgbtq liability Libel libel reform Liberal Democrat Conference Liberty libraries closure library closures Libya licence conditions licence to shoot life insurance life sentence life support limestone pavements limitation lisbon treaty Lithuania Litigation litvinenko live exports local authorities locked in syndrome london borough of merton London Legal Walk London Probation Trust Lord Bingham Lord Bingham of Cornhill Lord Blair Lord Goldsmith lord irvine Lord Judge speech Lord Kerr Lord Lester Lord Neuberger Lord Phillips Lord Rodger Lord Sumption Lord Taylor LSC tender luftur rahman machine learning MAGA Magna Carta mail on sunday Majority Verdict Malcolm Kennedy malice Margaret Thatcher Margin of Appreciation margin of discretion Maria Gallastegui marriage material support maternity pay Matthew Woods Mattu v The University Hospitals of Coventry and Warwickshire NHS Trust [2011] EWHC 2068 (QB) Maya the Cat Mba v London Borough Of Merton McKenzie friend Media and Censorship Medical medical liability medical negligence medical qualifications medical records medicine mental capacity Mental Capacity Act Mental Capacity Act 2005 Mental Health mental health act mental health advocacy mental health awareness Mental Health Courts Mental illness merits review MGN v UK michael gove Midwives migrant crisis Milly Dowler Ministerial Code Ministry of Justice Ministry of Justice cuts misfeasance in public office modern slavery morality morocco mortuaries motherhood Motor Neurone disease Moulton Mousa MP expenses Mr Gul Mr Justice Eady MS (Palestinian Territories) (FC) (Appellant) v Secretary of State for the Home Department murder murder reform Musician's Union Muslim NADA v. SWITZERLAND - 10593/08 - HEJUD [2012] ECHR 1691 naked rambler Naomi Campbell nationality National Pro Bono Week national security Natural England nature conservation naturism Nazi negligence Neuberger neuroscience Newcastle university news News of the World new Supreme Court President NHS NHS Risk Register Nick Clegg Nicklinson Niqaab Noise Regulations 2005 Northern Ireland nuclear challenges nuisance nursing nursing home Obituary Occupy London offensive jokes Offensive Speech offensive t shirt oil spill olympics open justice oppress OPQ v BJM orchestra Osama Bin Laden Oxford University paramountcy principle parental rights parenthood parking spaces parliamentary expenses parliamentary expenses scandal Parliamentary sovereignty Parliament square parole board passive smoking pastor Terry Jones patents Pathway Students Patrick Quinn murder Pensions persecution personal data Personal Injury personality rights perversity Peter and Hazelmary Bull PF and EF v UK Phil Woolas phone hacking phone taps physical and mental disabilities physician assisted death Pinnock Piracy Plagiarism planning planning human rights planning system plebgate POCA podcast points Poland Police police investigations police liability police misconduct police powers police surveillance Policy Exchange report political judges Politics Politics/Public Order poor reporting Pope Pope's visit Pope Benedict portal possession proceedings power of attorney PoW letters to ministers pre-nup pre-nuptial Pre-trial detention predator control pregnancy press press briefing press freedom Prince Charles prince of wales princess caroline of monaco principle of subsidiarity prior restraint prison Prisoners prisoners rights prisoners voting prisoner vote prisoner votes prisoner voting prison numbers Prisons prison vote privacy privacy injunction privacy law through the front door Private life private nuisance private use proceeds of crime Professional Discipline Property proportionality prosecution Protection of Freedoms Act Protection of Freedoms Bill Protest protest camp protest rights Protocol 15 psychiatric hospitals Public/Private public access publication public authorities Public Bodies Bill public inquiries public interest public interest environmental litigation public interest immunity Public Order Public Sector Equality Duty putting the past behind quango quantum quarantine Queen's Speech queer in the 21st century R (on the application of) v Secretary of State for the Home Department & Ors [2011] EWCA Civ 895 R (on the application of) v The General Medical Council [2013] EWHC 2839 (Admin) R (on the application of EH) v Secretary of State for the Home Department [2012] EWHC 2569 (Admin) R (on the application of G) v The Governors of X School Rabone and another v Pennine Care NHS Foundation Trust [2012] UKSC 2 race relations Rachel Corrie Radmacher Raed Salah Mahajna Raed Saleh Ramsgate raptors rehabilitation Reith Lectures Religion resuscitation RightsInfo right to die right to family life right to life Right to Privacy right to swim riots Roma Romania Round Up Royals Russia saudi arabia Scotland secrecy secret justice Secret trials security services sexual offence Sikhism Smoking social media social workers South Africa south african constitution Spain special advocates spending cuts Standing starvation statelessness stem cells stop and search Strasbourg super injunctions Supreme Court Supreme Court of Canada surrogacy surveillance swine flu Syria Tax Taxi technology Terrorism terrorism act tort Torture travel treason treaty accession trial by jury TTIP Turkey Twitter UK Ukraine unfair consultation universal jurisdiction unlawful detention USA US Supreme Court vaccination vicarious liability Wales War Crimes Wars Welfare Western Sahara Whistleblowing Wikileaks wildlife wind farms WomenInLaw Worboys wrongful birth YearInReview Zimbabwe

Disclaimer


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: