Foreign Secretary ignores concerns over Guantanamo Brit abuse

Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond has dismissed concerns over the abuse of British cleared detainee Shaker Aamer, in a letter to his lawyer at human rights charity Reprieve.

In August 2014 Clive Stafford Smith wrote to the Foreign Secretary after a fellow detainee had described what he called a new ‘standard procedure’ of abuses at the prison. Yemeni Emad Hassan, cleared for release and detained without charge since 2002, wrote that “an FCE [Forcible Cell Extraction, where a team of guards in riot gear manhandle a detainee] team has been brought in to beat the detainees […] On Sunday, Shaker ISN 239 was beaten when the medical people wanted to draw blood.”

Mr Hammond, in a letter dated October 7th, responded that “we made enquiries with US Government officials who assured us that the report of an incident, relayed to you by another detainee, is not accurate.”

Yet similar descriptions of escalating punitive abuse at Guantanamo, which would appear to corroborate Mr Hassan’s allegations, have for some time been emerging from the prison. In a letter to William Hague in May of this year, Mr Stafford Smith sent testimony from Mr Aamer that he is sometimes FCEd up to eight times a day. He also included an excerpt from a recent letter of Mr Aamer’s, which said, “Last night, as I came back from my legal call, I was FCEd in much the same way I always am, as I peacefully refused to cooperate with them again. This time they did not just force me down on the floor of the room. They apparently decided that they had to get me dirty, so they threw me down in the passage way […]”

A recent trial in Washington D.C, to assess the legality of force-feeding and FCE methods used at Guantanamo, in the case of cleared Syrian Abu Wa’el Dhiab, revealed further levels of abuse. Giving evidence in court, Dr Steven Miles, a bioethicist, decried the use of Olive Oil to force-feed prisoners and said that “it’s a form of punishment that is wrapped around the business” of force feeding the detainee.

Prior to the trial, Judge Gladys Kessler ordered the US Government to release video footage showing force-feedings and FCEs being carried out against Syrian detainee Abu Wa’el. Lawyers at Reprieve wrote to then-Foreign Secretary William Hague in May asking that the British government request any video footage that the US may hold of Mr Aamer being FCEd, but Mr Hague responded that: “we do not view that it is necessary for the UK Government to ask the US Government to release ccrv footage from Guantanamo Bay.”

Mr Aamer, whose British wife and their four children live in South London, has been cleared for release from Guantanamo since 2007. It has long been stated British policy that Mr Aamer should be returned to his family in the UK.

Clive Stafford Smith, Reprieve Director and one of Mr Aamer’s lawyers, said: “The US military is not telling Mr Hammond the truth about the abuse of Mr Aamer,  any more than they did to Judge Kessler, who had the good sense  to demand to see the video footage. I have just returned from a visit and the brutal nature of the FCEing — to which Shaker is subjected probably more than any other prisoner – is only getting worse. Mr Hammond says that the UK is doing all it can to help Shaker but if it were his son or brother being beaten up every day, he would show a little more interest in evidence, and a little less in bland and false denials. It is far past time that Shaker was home with his wife and children.”