Shaker Aamer

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Person.png Shaker Aamer  Rdf-entity.pngRdf-icon.png
Medina, Saudi Arabia
SpouseZin Siddique
Victim of • torture
• indefinite detention
The last UK national to be released from Guantanamo Bay, where he was held for 13 years and subjected to torture after refusing to spy for MI5.

Shaker Aamer (also known as Shaker Abdur-Raheem Aamer) is a Saudi Arabian citizen and, until October 2015, was the last UK resident to be held in the Guantanamo Bay torture/detention camp.


Aamer moved to the United Kingdom in 1996. He married a British woman and has four British children.[1] Aamer is a British resident and was applying for citizenship.

At the outbreak of the Invasion of Afghanistan Aamer was working for a Saudi charity in Afghanistan.

Aamer says that interrogators in Afghanistan, who represented themselves as MI5 officers, told him he had two choices: (1) agree to spy on suspected jihadists in the United Kingdom; or (2) remain in US custody.[2]


Aamer was arrested in Afghanistan in January 2002, participated in two hunger strikes and spent much of his time held in solitary confinement.[3]

In December 2015, Aamer told Channel 4 News being reunited with his wife Zinneera "washed away the pain of 14 years":

"It washed away the tiredness, the agony, the stress. It was like it no longer existed. I hugged her, she hugged me, and we just wept."

But he said it will take time to forge a bond with his children, the youngest of whom 13-year-old son Faris was born on the day he arrived at Guantanamo in 2002.

SNP foreign affairs spokesman Alex Salmond said the allegation that former Prime Minister Tony Blair and former Foreign Secretary Jack Straw knew about his "illegal abduction" and "torture" was "not unreasonable". He told the BBC's Andrew Marr Show:

"As in so many things Messrs Blair and Straw have a great deal to answer for. They have to be asked a straight question - how could they possibly not have known about the fate that had befallen a British citizen?"

Salmond said few people would doubt that Aamer had been held "illegally and improperly" and remained in Guantanamo "long after everyone knew he had no connection with terrorism whatsoever".[4]

Aamer is represented by Clive Stafford Smith and Zachary Katznelson. He participated in the prison hunger strike that started in June and ended on July 28, 2005. Shaker says he helped negotiate the end to the summer's first extensive hunger strike. According to Shaker, the terms Colonel Michael Baumgartner agreed to, included treating the detainees in a manner consistent with the Geneva Convention, allowing the detainees to form a grievance committee.

Stafford Smith said the grievance committee was formed, but that the camp authorities disbanded it after a few days. American spokesmen Major Jeffrey Weir denied that the Americans had ever agreed to any conditions.

Given the time involved, the lengthy spells in solitary confinement and the torture allegedly used against him, Shaker Aamer's plight has been one of the worst of all the detainees held at Guantanamo.

—Amnesty International[5]

On September 18, 2006, Aamer's attorneys filed a 16 page motion arguing for his removal from isolation in Guantanamo Bay prison.[6] The motion alleges that Aamer had been held in solitary confinement for 360 days at the time of filing, and was tortured by beatings, exposure to temperature extremes, and sleep deprivation, which together caused him to suffer to the point of becoming mentally unbalanced, according to his lawyer, Zachary Katznelson. Aamer's case continues with him still in isolation.

On August 7, 2006, he was one of five Guantanamo detainees that British Foreign Secretary David Miliband requested be freed, citing the fact they had all been granted refugee status, or similar leave, to remain in Britain prior to their capture by US forces.[7]

Hunger strike

After Shaker Aamer had been on a hunger strike since late 2006, and lost half his body weight, Zachary Katznelson filed a motion to enforce the Geneva Conventions on his behalf on 19 September 2006.[8]

On March 16, 2007 the Department of Defense published records of the detainees' height and weights.[9]

Release negotiation

On August 7, 2007 the United Kingdom government requested the release of Shaker Aamer and four other men who had been legal British residents without being British citizens.[10] The UK government warned that the negotiations might take months.

The Scotsman speculated that the USA was insisting the UK government put the five men under a lifetime of house arrest.[11]

No charges were ever made against Shaker Aamer and, Pentagon chief Ashton Carter and other officials tried to block his release, although the US Department of State had "completed diplomatic deals to transfer home".[12][13]

Three of the remaining UK residents were released in December 2007.[14]

Binyam Mohamed was repatriated in February 2009.[15] On a visit to the United States on March 13, 2009, when asked about Guantanamo captives, Home Secretary Jacqui Smith said:

There is one outstanding (prisoner) that we would want returned to the U.K. We understand that his particular circumstances are being looked at at the moment, and that the U.S. administration has said they don't want to return him to the UK.

Calls for his release

  • August, 2010, protesters disrupted a meeting that discussed plans to create a US Embassy near Battersea, the home of Mr Aamer.[16]
  • On December 11, 2010 hundreds took to the streets in London near the US embassy to demand Aamer's release.[17]
  • In February 2011 Amnesty international calls Aamers ongoing incarceration a "mockery of justice" and denounced the "cruel limbo" he has been left in.[18] At the same time The Guardian reported that people had sent 12.000 emails to US Secretary of State Hilary Clinton and UK MP's in support of Aamer.[19]
  • In her 2011 album In The Current Climate singer-songwriter Sarah Gillespie sings an imaginary first person song of Aamer entitled How The West Was Won. Gillespie devoted the track to Aamer in the CD booklet.[20]
  • In May 2011 Students of University of St Andrews protest for the release of Aamer.[21]

Johina Aamer's letter to David Cameron

On 19 April 2013, Aamer's 15-year-old daughter Johina sent the following letter to David Cameron: [22]

My name is Johina Aamer, and I am the daughter of the last British resident in Guantánamo Bay, Shaker Aamer. To be honest, it is a little tiring writing that introduction, as the fact that I need to introduce myself highlights the extent to which I feel my family and I have been betrayed by our own country for the last 11 years.

I had just turned four when my family was deprived of a father and husband. He has been in Guantánamo Bay for more than 11 years while the British government allowed him to be tortured, causing both physical and mental scars. His petition has now surpassed the 100,000 signatures mark meaning his case will now be discussed in parliament next week, on Wednesday 24th April 2013 [see the transcripts of the debate in Westminster Hall here and here]. I question, however, whether this parliamentary discussion will be enough to bring my father home — if you felt the compassion that the signatories feel for my father, you would not have allowed him to remain in Guantánamo Bay for this long.

Like the public you are most likely to be knowledgeable of the fact that my father has been cleared for release many times in the past, which leads me to question why is he still in prison? I am also wondering how many times it will take for me to say “My name is Johina Aamer, I am 15 years old and my dad is in prison” until someone from the government takes our plight seriously, and actually does something to help? My father is now one of the many Guantánamo detainees who are on hunger strike: exhausted by our government’s neglect of his situation, he is starving himself out of protest. My father has been on hunger strike many times in the past but now his lawyer has attested to the fact he is genuinely frightened for his survival this time. Do you have any concept of what it is like for me, my brothers and my mother to hear this news?

I am writing to you to ask — please explain to me what you have been doing to secure my father’s release? I previously wrote to the former Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, but he did not consider my family’s difficult situation important enough to reply — I hope that you will not be so inconsiderate.

Although I am young, I have come to understand that maybe you are delaying my father’s return due to the Justice and Security Bill I keep on reading about. I would like to say that I would want to add my name to all those who have opposed this bill, including the 702 lawyers who have signed the petition [actually a letter] in opposition to it. The reason for this is that my family has felt the impact of secret evidence more than most — we have a personal experience of how damaging it can be to be left in the dark about allegations and not to have the opportunity to defend yourself.

The closed material procedure is fundamentally immoral and takes away yet another basic human right. I know that the British Government is using this law to escape anything in court that may cause humiliation. However adopting the bill will just cause a greater state of shame in addition to giving the government a bad reputation for not being able to confess to their involvement in torture.

I see the injustice of the Justice and Security Bill on my father’s release. I clearly recognise that the British government is not willing to take any action until the law gets passed because my father’s return to Britain will cause additional disgrace upon the British government, especially after the case of Binyam Mohamed. This is also being shown by how fast the government have rushed the bill through parliament. Even though it is wrong and instead of finding ways to stop the country’s involvement in human rights abuses, it is supporting torture and rendition by allowing it to be covered up.

If the Justice and Security Bill is an imperative for my father’s release, then I strongly suggest that you continue your inaction against him. My father would not under any condition buy his freedom at the price of injustice.

While I am not confident that you will, if you conclude that you are willing to write back, then I would like the answers to my questions and for you to allow me to acquire your exact accomplishments that are beneficial to my father’s case.

Yours sincerely

Johina Aamer
15 years old
The daughter of Shaker Aamer

Cameron replied to the letter with the weasel words typical of an embarrassed establishment that has little of substance to say on the matter other than to repeat what it has been saying for years.

Legal action

On 14 December 2015, the BBC reported that Aamer has no plans to sue the British Government over its alleged complicity in his mistreatment.[23]

Habeas corpus petition

Shaker Aamer had a writ of habeas corpus petition filed on his behalf.[24]


In July 2008, Zachary Katznelson filed a "Status Report" with regard to Shaker Aamer and Jihad Dhiab, before Judge Gladys Kessler. In September 2009, Katznelson made what The Guardian characterised as "extraordinary claims" on behalf of his client Shaker Aamer, who told him of severe beatings in the Bagram Theater Internment Facility. Aamer told him that close to a dozen men had beaten him, including interrogators who represented themselves as officers of MI5, the United Kingdom's internal counter-terrorism agency. Aamer described being terrified following one severe beating, when he recovered from being stunned by the beating he found all his interrogators had left the room and had left a pistol on the table. He said he didn't know if the pistol was loaded. He said it occurred to him that it had been left so he could kill himself. He said it occurred to him that it had been left so that if he picked it up, he could be shot and killed on the excuse he was trying to shoot them.

Alleged cover-up of deaths

The US/Department/Defense reported three detainees killed themselves, on June 10, 2006.[25] However a team of independent pathologists, led by Dr Patrice Mangin, were unable to confirm the military's claim the deaths were suicide. The military returned the bodies to the families for burial missing key parts essential for Mangin's team to confirm the cause of death.

On January 18, 2010, attorney and journalist Scott Horton published an article in Harpers magazine asserting that the men did not hang themselves in their cells, but rather died during their interrogations at "Camp No".[26] Horton wrote that Shaker Aamer had also been brought to a secret interrogation site, about one kilometre from Camp Delta, with the other three men, and subjected to interrogation methods that included asphyxiation. Horton wrote that Aamer's repatriation was being delayed so he could not testify about the use of this technique upon his return to the United Kingdom.

Colonel Michael Baumgartner, named in Horton's article as being present during the interrogations, and of taking a lead role in the cover-up, denied Horton's claims.[27]


A Document by Shaker Aamer

TitleDocument typePublication dateSubject(s)Description
Document:Two letters from Guantanamoletter14 February 2014Torture
Guantanamo Bay detention camp
Two letters from Shaker Aamer and Emad Hassan sent on the ocassion of the 12th anniversary of the establishment of America's extra-judicial hell-hole at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba..


  1. "Calls to free Guantanamo father" BBC, February 8, 2005
  4. "Shaker Aamer: extremists should "get the hell out" of UK"
  6. Lawyers: Gitmo solitary wrecks captive's mind, CNN. September 18, 2006
  8. quote=Judge Kennedy has already recognized in several other cases that Hamdan warrants lifting the stays in pending habeas petitions, and this court should do the same. See Order Lifting the Stay, Al-Asadi v. Bush, Civil Action No. 05-2197-HHK (September 11, 2006) [Dkt. No. 35]
  9. mirror
  12. "Pentagon blocking transfer of Shaker Aamer
  20. Peter Baker, In The Current Climate review, The Jazz Breakfast - 25 January 2010
  22. “I Wish I Was Dead,” Shaker Aamer Says from Guantánamo, as David Cameron Writes to His Daughter Andy Worthington We site 24 June 2013
  23. "Shaker Aamer: 'No plans to sue' over Guantanamo"

External links