This Saturday, December 10, which is UN Human Rights Day, I’ll be attending a vigil for Shaker Aamer, the last British resident in Guantánamo, outside Downing Street. The event, arranged by the Save Shaker Aamer Campaign, runs from 12 noon to 3 pm, and at 1 pm speakers — myself included — will be reading out the 30 articles of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, on the 63rd anniversary of its adoption by the United Nations. If you’re not familiar with the UDHR, I recommend reading them, as the 30 articles of the UDHR represent a concerted effort, after the horrors of the Second World War, to create guidelines for how to create a better world. Alarmingly, in Guantánamo — and elsewhere in the “war on terror” — the Bush administration trampled on the UDHR, and its guidelines — its important aspirations — have not been adequately reinstated by Barack Obama.
Jeremy Corbyn MP (Lab, Islington North)
Jane Ellison MP (Con, Battersea — and Shaker’s MP)
Imam Suliman Gani (Tooting Mosque)
Lindsey German (Stop the War Coalition National Convenor)
Kate Hudson (Chair, CND)
Joy Hurcombe (Chair, Save Shaker Aamer Campaign)
Sabah Jawad (Iraqi Democrats Against Occupation)
Jean Lambert MEP
Bruce McKenzie (Wandsworth Green Party)
Carol Turner (Afghan Withdrawal Group Convenor)
Walter Wolfgang (Labour CND)
Andy Worthington (Journalist, author of “The Guantánamo Files”)
I’ve been asked to read out Articles 9 and 10 of the UDHR, both of which are particularly appropriate for Shaker’s case.
No one shall be subjected to arbitrary arrest, detention or exile.
Everyone is entitled in full equality to a fair and public hearing by an independent and impartial tribunal, in the determination of his rights and obligations and of any criminal charge against him.
The time is ripe for a major push on the British government to secure the return of Shaker Aamer, a charismatic and eloquent man who has always resisted American and British injustice and has persistently demanded rights for the prisoners seized in the “war on terror,” and who, as a result, has been repeatedly punished for it — through brutal treatment, and long years in isolation.
Not only has Shaker been held without charge or trial for over ten years (he was sold to US forces in Afghanistan on November 24, 2001), but, as I explained in an article last week, “British MPs Write to Congress to Complain About Guantánamo and to Demand the Release of Shaker Aamer,” it was revealed for the first time, in a letter to Congress from four British MPs, that Shaker Aamer was officially cleared for release from Guantánamo by President Obama’s Guantánamo Review Task Force, an interagency review team that issued its recommendations nearly two years ago, in a report submitted to the President in January 2010.
To reiterate: The fact that Shaker was cleared for release by President Obama’s advisors was revealed for the first time in the MPs’ letter last week, and, as a result, it is completely inexcusable that he is still being held, and that, 18 months since ministers in the Tory-led government first heard from former Guantánamo prisoners about how important Shaker was to them, and promised to work hard to secure his release, nothing has been done.
Despite their fine words, ministers in the Tory-led coalition government have proved to be as indifferent — or quietly hostile — to the fate of Shaker as their predecessors (and the US authorities), and the only reason that I can infer from this is that all of them would prefer to keep him unjustifiably detained — forever, if possible — to prevent him from exposing terrible truths about the torture and abuse that has permeated the regime at Guantánamo, and, previously, in Afghanistan.
After the readings, there will be a photo shoot at 2 pm, with short speeches beginning at 2.15 pm. A SSAC letter and petition will be handed in to Prime Minister David Cameron at 2.30 pm.
For further information, please email the Save Shaker Aamer Campaign, or phone 07756 493877.