UK government pursuing freedom for Gitmo hunger striker

Shaker Aemer, held 11 years without charge, is among over 100 strikers and has lost a quarter of his body weight

By Natasha Lennard
Published May 13, 2013 11:18PM (UTC)
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Despite claims from the Pentagon that the British government is in "no rush" to free detainee Shaker Aemer, a U.K. resident, from Guantánamo Bay, British officials insist they are "actively" pursuing the release of the hunger striker, who has lost nearly a quarter of his body weight in his 60-plus days strike. Aemer has been held at the camp for 11 years with no charges. Via the Guardian:

The issue of his continued incarceration has seemingly become a sore point between the U.K. and U.S. governments. The British government maintains it is committed to getting Aamer out of Guantánamo. Over the last two weeks, foreign secretary William Hague and defence secretary Philip Hammond have lobbied their U.S. counterparts – secretary of state John Kerry and defense secretary Chuck Hagel – over Aamer, a Foreign Office spokeswoman said.

... Aamer's lawyer, Clive Stafford Smith, said that claims of a lack of urgency in seeking his client's release were "very worrying". On Friday, he wrote to Hague, urging him to issue a "suitably robust response" to the US over the allegation that the British government was not "in a rush" to see the last remaining Briton being held in Guantánamo Bay released.

"We need to be 'in a rush to get him', as Shaker Aamer is being horribly abused even as I write this, after 11 years of prior mistreatment," Stafford Smith wrote.

Through his lawyers, Aemer has spoken publicly about his conditions striking at the camp. According to official figures, which detainees' attorneys claim are low, there are now 100 hunger-striking detainees, of whom 29 are being force-fed and five need hospital assistance. Aemer wrote:


I barely notice all of my medical ailments any more – the back pain from the beatings I have taken, the rheumatism from the frigid air conditioning, the asthma exacerbated by the toxic sprays they use to abuse us. There is an endless list. And now, 24/7 (as the Americans say), I have the ache of hunger."He added: "I hope I do not die in this awful place. I want to hug my children and watch them grow. But if it is God's will that I should die here, I want to die with dignity. I hope, if the worst comes to the worst, that my children will understand that I care for the rights of those suffering around me almost as much as I care for them.


Natasha Lennard

Natasha Lennard is an assistant news editor at Salon, covering non-electoral politics, general news and rabble-rousing. Follow her on Twitter @natashalennard, email

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Britain Force-feeding Gitmo Guantanamo Bay Guantanamo Hunger Strike Shaker Aemer United Kingdom