Shaker Aamer, the last British resident imprisoned in Guantanamo Bay, says he suffers from regular assaults, including those of a sexual nature, from the guards. He has spent more than 11 years at the US detention facility without charge.
Aamer, who was arrested in Afghanistan’s Jalalabad in November 2001, has been cleared for release by both Bush and Obama administrations, yet he remains incarcerated at Guantanamo.
Aamer has described mistreatment he receives by Forcible Cell Extraction (FCE) teams at Gitmo in a declassified phone call with his lawyer last week.
“I refuse to do what they tell me, even though I know I am about to get beaten up,” Aamer said in the phone call, which was published Thursday by British newspaper The Independent. “Sometimes, you just have to make a stand, however pointless that stand might seem to be.”
The episode described happened when Aamer refused to leave his cell and was staging a non-violent, sitdown protest.
“Ultimately, it’s all about control, and if they feel they are not always in control, then that’s a threat to national security, a threat to the thousands of soldiers with their M16s at Guantánamo,” he said.
Aamer is among the Guantanamo detainees who have been staging a
hunger strike over conditions there. The prison administration
force-feeds people in their custody who refuse to take food and
lose too much body mass, even though this practice had been
slammed as degrading by a number of human
The Deputy Joint Task Force Public Affairs Officer declined to comment, insisting that "we don't comment on any detainee allegations made through their defense attorneys regardless of how ridiculous and absurd the allegations might be."
However, a British Foreign and Commonwealth Office spokesperson told RT that Aamer's release and return to the UK was a "matter of urgency," and that the department is continuing to liase with the US over the matter.
"We take any allegations of Mr Aamer’s mistreatment seriously.
We continue to monitor Mr Aamer’s health and welfare through
liaison with our US counterparts," he said.
Yet Aamer’s lawyer Clive Stafford Smith told RT that his client
will most likely be sent to Saudi Arabia by the US, because in
Britain he is a crucial witness in a criminal investigation that
authorities would allegedly like to disappear.
“The metropolitan police have already interviewed him in Guantanamo Bay to testify against British intelligence and its involvement in his torture. But of course they can only prosecute someone if they have a real live witness, and if he is sent away to Saudi Arabia then he won’t be available to be a witness,” Smith explained.
But the prisoner wishes to return to his family in Britain. Guantanamo has "no travel agency" to send him back home, but has “been a travel agency for torture in the last 10 years,” Smith argued. "And the very least they owe to Shaker Aamer is to send him back to his wife and children.”
Saudi Arabia-born Aamer, 46, left his homeland at the age of 17 and worked as a translator for the US Army in the first Gulf War. In 1996 he moved to the UK, where he has a wife and four children. Aamer says that at the time of his arrest in Afghanistan he was doing charity work. The US suspects him of assisting the Taliban.
Aamer also described the techniques Gitmo guards use in violent searches.
“Mostly, that’s just an assault, sometimes a sexual assault. We call it the Gitmo massage,” Aamer said. “There is meant to be a board, like a wooden stretcher, and they are meant to roll me on. But now they don’t have them.”
Former Gitmo prisoners and human rights activists claim that guards have many chances to inflict pain on prisoners they handle with force at the facility, for instance when FCE teams are carrying them.
“They are meant to do a fireman’s lift, but they actually seize an arm or a leg and just yank,” Aamer said in the phone call with his lawyer. “You are on your side, so one of them tends to be doing a half-nelson on me, in handcuffs. It’s like the Spanish Inquisition torture Strappado – you feel as if your shoulder is being dislocated.”
There are other violent techniques to assert control over the prisoners, Aamer said.
“Sometimes they put the shackles on backwards,” Aamer said. “I shout at the Watch Commander and the Corpsman, who are observing all this, as it’s painful. The head man squeezes my neck. ‘Stop resisting!’ he shouts.”
Gitmo prisoner support groups have criticized successive British governments for not doing enough to free Aamer. The latest wave of calls for his release came over concerns that the US was seeking ways to render him to Saudi Arabia, a move that he has pledged to resist “every step of the way.”