Where is Shaker’s right to rehabilitation, R2R after torture? (Image Andy Worthington)
Today, 26th June 2015 is United Nations International Day in Support of Victims of Torture which takes place ever year “to stand united and remind the world that torture is a cruel violation of human rights.” This year the theme is Right to Rehabilitation (R2R) and as the International Rehabilitation Council for Torture Victims (IRCT) is highlighting, the importance of ensuring that “as many torture survivors as possible have access to the rehabilitation they need and have a right to”.
To that end I am once again highlighting the case of Shaker Aamer (age 48) who has now been detained in Guantanamo for 13 years without charge. Shaker who was born in Saudi Arabia relocated to London 20 years ago where he married. He then moved to Kabul where he was working as a volunteer for an Islamic charity when the events of 9/11 unfolded in 2001. Shaker was detained in Kabul and later ended up in the hands of the US military in exchange for money, a lucrative business at that time. He was detained and subjected to physical and psychological torture at a secret ‘black site’ prison. Shaker confessed to being a jihadist during the terrifying torture process which he said almost destroyed him and was later transferred to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. He was never charged or tried and has been cleared for release not once but twice in recent years. As Professor Sten Jacobssen (Swedish expert on torture) poignantly stated in 2014 in relation to Shaker,
“imagine that you are imprisoned for 13 years, physically and mentally abused. You are never charged, never tried, you are in fact cleared for release but remain a prisoner, separated from your family and friends…Could there be a much worse case of psychological torture, think for a moment on what such a cruel and unjust situation does to the mind. On the one hand you are being repeatedly told that you are theoretically “free” but in reality you are confined to a cell with no forseeable date of release. This is the existence of Shaker Aamer, I hestitate to call it a life, as it is no life!”
As Save Shaker Aamer reported, a House of Commons debate was held after an Amnesty International petition collected more than 32,000 signatures demanding the release of Mr Aamer which was then delivered to the Prime Minister at Downing Street. Conservative former cabinet minister Andrew Mitchell stated, “justice is colour blind, it is creed blind, it should apply to everyone – universal justice – and it is not applying to Shaker Aamer and it is up to the House of Commons to give voice to this view.” There is concern from Shaker’s lawyers that his period of detention is being extended due to claims that he was tortured in the presence of British soldiers and MI5 agents and fear of what he might reveal.
Recently a group of MPs flew to the US for meetings to try to secure Shaker’s release and an open letter was drafted to President Obama and defense secretary Ashton Carter. Thirteen rights groups, “called for the release of 57 men from Guantánamo (out of the 122 men still in the prison), who are still held despite being approved for release, the majority for over five years” (see following article from Andy Worthington)
“MPs Visit US to Discuss the Release of Shaker Aamer from Guantánamo with John McCain and Dianne Feinstein”
Shaker’s family are also suffering, his youngest son has never even seen his father in person and his wife is deprived of a husband and provider. As IRCT explain,
“this trauma reaches far beyond the direct victims and in some instances, where torture has been used in a systematic and widespread manner, whole societies are affected. Providing holistic rehabilitation and redress to survivors of torture and trauma can help heal the effects of torture and therefore help reconstruct broken societies. The aim of rehabilitation is to empower torture survivors to rebuild their life. This is why the R2R is more important than ever.
This 26 June, we are calling on all rehabilitation centres to make R2R the focal point of their activities, to promote the vital work they do in providing rehabilitation, and to pressure governments into meeting their responsibility to make R2R a reality in their country.”
To this end, campaigners call on the US government (which has yet to hold the CIA accountable for torture) to acknowledge its responsibility to set free those in Guantanamo cleared for release. Shaker is now in a poor state of health both physically and mentally and must be returned to the UK as a matter of urgency so that the long road to rehabilitation can begin.
Carol Anne Grayson is an independent writer/researcher on global health/human rights/WOT and is Executive Producer of the Oscar nominated, Incident in New Baghdad. She is a Registered Mental Nurse with a Masters in Gender Culture and Development. Carol was awarded the ESRC, Michael Young Prize for Research 2009, and the COTT ‘Action = Life’ Human Rights Award’ for “upholding truth and justice”. She is also a survivor of US “collateral damage”.