Shaker Aamer Transferred to U.K.
Washington, D.C.—Human Rights First today praised the transfer of Guantanamo Bay detainee Shaker Aamer to the United Kingdom, but notes that the pace of transfers must increase if the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay is to close by the end of President Obama’s term in office.
Today’s transfer comes just one week after President Obama vetoed the 2016 defense authorization bill over provisions that would severely hamper his ability to close Guantanamo Bay.
“Closing Guantanamo remains one of the most important pieces of unfinished business that President Obama needs to take care of before he leaves office,” said Human Rights First’s Raha Wala. “The president needs to stand firm on his veto and not sign any legislation that would stand in the way of this goal. At the same time, his administration should be stepping up its efforts to transfer all detainees who have been unanimously cleared by relevant national security agencies.”
Aamer, a Saudi-born 48-year-old has been imprisoned at the U.S. detention center in Cuba for the past 13 years. In July, more than 90 British politicians, celebrities, and activists signed an open letter to President Obama seeking the return of the former British resident. British Prime Minister David Cameron had requested Aamer’s release, as did a March parliamentary motion supported by the British government. A cross-party delegation of ministers of parliament also visited Washington, D.C., in May to establish a timeline for Aamer’s transfer.
There are 112 detainees at the detention facility in Guantanamo Bay. Military leaders and national security experts agree that the facility harms national security and should be closed. Fifty-two of the remaining detainees are cleared for transfer, and another 47 are eligible for Periodic Review Board (PRB) hearings.
“Our nation’s top military experts have said repeatedly that Guantanamo Bay harms our national security,” said Wala. “While today’s transfer of Aamer is good news, it is unacceptable that the administration continues to drag its feet on transferring cleared detainees.”
Human Rights First notes that PRB reviews should have been completed for every eligible detainee over three years ago. Detainees who are not cleared for transfer, or who will face prosecution, will likely need to be transferred to the United States in order to close Guantanamo.
Human Rights First’s plan to close Guantanamo is outlined in its latest Blueprint: How to Close Guantanamo.