Guantanamo Detainee Asks Not for Prosecution, but Truth

By Sameer Rao Dec 14, 2015

Shaker Aamer, upon his release from American custody at Guantanamo Bay, was the last British resident to be imprisoned at the U.S.’s infamous detention center (aka prison) in Cuba. Both the BBC and The Daily Mail published interviews with Aamer this weekend, in which the former detainee spoke on his alleged torture, why he doesn’t want to sue the British government and the reasons for extremism. 

Aamer was initially apprehended in Afghanistan by bounty hunters in 2001, who turned him over to U.S. custody; he was then transferred to Guantanamo in 2002, beginning a detainment without trial of nearly 14 years, which ended with his return to London this October. U.S. authorities suspected him of working with Osama Bin Laden, which the Saudi-born Aamer denies. 

Both interviews are worth reading and seeing in full, but a few bits offer insight into his detainment and current viewpoints on the alleged use of torture by U.K. and U.S. officials. He told the BBC that he was tortured during various stages of his detainment:

Mr Aamer said that on one occasion, he believed a British intelligence officer was present when an American interrogator was beating the detainee’s head against a wall. 

"I felt my head—boom, boom, boom—banging the wall. And all I remember [is] that my head just keep banging the wall, back and forth, back and forth, back and forth," he said.

Asked if he was certain a British intelligence officer was present, he replied: "I would say 80, 90%.

"I have no doubt he is an Englishman, because of the way he spoke, the way he is very careful, the way he was sitting far away, looking at me." 

He also told the BBC that he does not wish to sue the UK government, just that ex-Prime Minister Tony Blair and others come forward about the abuse he sustained—abuse that Blair and other national security leaders of both countries still deny:

Mr. Aamer also called for then-Prime Minister Tony Blair to "tell the truth", adding that the former PM and those in government at the time of his imprisonment "know what they were doing".

Aamer described similar incidents to The Daily Mail, including being tied up in a painful position by interrogators and not being allowed to speak to his wife for nearly seven years. He also criticized people like Donald Trump who fan the flames of Islamophobia:

"It worries me," he said, explaining it is what extremists want. "It helps their cause… if you keep looking at people like they are terrorists before they do anything, then you will push them towards violence."

Check out Aamer’s interviews with both the BBC and The Daily Mail.