Last week, I drew readers’ attention to the urgent and ongoing e-petition on the British government’s website designed to secure the release from Guantánamo of Shaker Aamer, the last British resident in the prison. Leaflets to publicize this petition will be back from the printer’s this week, and will be used across the UK to encourage people to sign the petition, to secure 100,000 signatures by May 14, triggering a Parliamentary debate about why Shaker is still held, despite the fact that the US government doesn’t want to continue holding him. In the meantime, however, I want to make sure that readers from anywhere in the world are aware that another petition for Shaker has been launched on the influential Care 2 Petition Site.
Shaker, who has a British wife and four British children, was seized by bounty hunters in Afghanistan, where he had traveled with his family to undertake humanitarian aid, in November 2001, and was then sold to US forces. He arrived at Guantánamo on February 14, 2002, on the same day that his youngest son was born, and he continues to be held, even though the Bush administration cleared him for release in 2007, and President Obama’s Guantánamo Review Task Force cleared him for release in 2009, and even though successive British governments have been asking for him to be returned to the UK since August 2007.
Shaker’s continued detention is, therefore, thoroughly unacceptable, and no excuses can be made by either the Obama administration or the coalition government in the UK to justify his continued imprisonment. As a result, campaigners on both sides of the Atlantic — and around the world — are encouraged to call for his release through these two petitions.
The e-petition is for UK citizens and residents only (although it should be noted that there are no age restrictions, so children can sign it as well as adults), but Shaker’s case is also of interest to US citizens and to other concerned individuals around the world, and, as a result, at the instigation of Waris Ali, an activist here in the UK, I also became involved last week in establishing an international petition on the Care 2 Petition Site, which can be signed by anyone anywhere in the world (including the UK). This petition is aiming to secure 10,000 signatures, and will be delivered to US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and the British foreign secretary William Hague.
Please publicize this petition widely, and, if you wish, use the promotional image above to encourage people to sign. The image was designed by Josh King-Farlow, who also designed the flyer for the e-petition, and the “Close Guantánamo” website. This can be added to your website, or used on your Facebook page, or printed and made available on leaflets or posters — and please note that a short URL (www.tinyurl.com/shakeraamer) has also been created for this petition, which is easy to remember and to tell other people.
I am delighted to be involved in promoting these petitions, because Shaker’s case is not only significant in the UK, but also in the US and internationally, as he is the best candidate for release from the prison, able to break a deadlock which, for the last 14 months, has prevented the release of a single prisoner from Guantánamo.
This deadlock came about because of severe restrictions on releasing prisoners that were imposed by Congress, making security demands that were impossible for the administration to meet, and although these restrictions still exist in the latest legislation involving Guantánamo (the National Defense Authorization Act, signed into law by President Obama on December 31), the new legislation also contains a waiver, allowing the administration to bypass the Congressional restrictions if they regard it as being safe and in the interests of national security.
Help us persuade President Obama that releasing Shaker Aamer is the best way to break the deadlock at Guantánamo, and to show the world that he is no longer prepared to tolerate a situation in which, although this own Guantánamo Review Task Force recommended that 89 of the remaining 171 prisoners in Guantanamo should not be tried or held indefinitely, they are all still held.
And help us also persuade the British government that the Prime Minister and the foreign secretary must insist on Shaker Aamer’s release, and that no more excuses are acceptable.
This article is adapted from an article I wrote for the “Close Guantánamo” website.
Source: Andy Worthington