Guards are sexually assaulting me, says the last Briton in Guantanamo Bay

Shaker Aamer, who is on hunger strike after being detained by US for 11 years, tells of brutal daily cell searches

The last British resident in Guantanamo Bay claims he is being assaulted, sometimes sexually, during prison searches as he continues a hunger strike against his unlawful detention.

In a declassified phone call with his lawyer last week, Shaker Aamer, who has been held in the Cuban prison for more than 11 years without being charged with any offence, said he still faces “forced cell extractions” on a daily basis.

“They flip me over for the search. Mostly, that’s just an assault, sometimes a sexual assault. We call it the Gitmo massage,” Mr 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. Now they carry me like a sack of potatoes, which is really painful for me.”

Along with scores of other detainees, Mr Aamer, who is 46, has been on hunger strike since January over conditions at the camp and a lack of progress on individual cases. The comedian Frankie Boyle recently went on a week’s sympathy hunger strike to draw attention to Mr Aamer’s plight.

The latest developments come barely six weeks after David Cameron, said he had raised Mr Aamer’s case with US President Barack Obama during the G8 conference amid concerns that the US is trying to render the man known as prisoner 239 to Saudi Arabia.

A British resident, Mr Aamer was born in Saudi Arabia but has a wife and four children in London. He had indefinite leave to remain in the UK when he was arrested in Afghanistan in 2001. He claims he was doing charity work; the US claims he was assisting  the Taliban.

Earlier this month, the US announced two Algerians detainees would be released from the prison but said there were no plans to return detainees to Britain. Mr Aamer’s lawyers said this could be because the US wanted to send him to Saudi Arabia where he could be silenced from speaking out about the torture and rendition, including sometimes in the presence of UK secret service agents, he said.

Prisoners in a holding area at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba Prisoners in a holding area at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba

 

Mr Aamer’s lawyer in the US, Clive Stafford Smith, said: “Surely the US cannot think they can render him involuntarily for further abuse in Saudi Arabia, never to see his British wife and kids, and never to give evidence against his torturers in the ongoing criminal investigation by the Met Police?” 

“They flip me over for  the search. Mostly, that’s just an assault, sometimes a sexual assault”

We call the searches the ‘Gitmo Massage’

The FCE (Forcible Cell Extraction team) are still using the Darth Vader uniforms after all these years. They use some female FCE members now. They bear down on my cell – stomp! Stomp! STOMP!

“239!” shouts the WC [Watch Commander]. I have heard these words in my sleep. “239! Lay down on your stomach! Your hands behind your back! Cross your legs! DO NOT RESIST THE TEAM!”

Then comes the translator. He says the same in Arabic, in a thin, reedy, whiny voice. Then comes the front guy in the FCE team, shouting. “I see the detainee! He’s laying on his back! He’s in the middle of the pen! He doesn’t have a weapon! The floor is dry! The detainee is dry!” Always the same words, rote.

On this occasion, it is about my  on-going protest. I won’t come in from the rec cage without being forced to. I have said what I want to do: just sit there for a week, doing nothing, just sitting. It’s about as non-violent, non-problematic protest as you could imagine, but they won’t let me do it.

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.

I refuse to do what they tell me, even though I know I am about to get beaten up. Sometimes, you just have to make a stand, however pointless that stand might seem to be.

The front guard is called FCE-1. Vooom! He runs at my head. FCE-2 through FCE-5 take their position, one on each arm, one on each leg. FCE-6 is back up.

The “Head” guy is the worst. He is meant to “protect” your head, but actually he is grabbing pressure points to subdue you.

If I shout, he pushes the pressure points to shut me up.

They pin me down.

“Leg FCE!” comes the shout and they shackle my legs.

“Arm FCE!” and they shackle my arms. They might use steel or plastic shackles, though it’s mostly plastic.

Sometimes they get the shackles  on backwards. 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.

“Team! Prepare to search!” They flip me over for the search. Mostly, that’s just an assault, sometimes a sexual assault. We call it the Gitmo massage. 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. Now they carry me like a sack of potatoes, which is much harder on the guards, and really painful for me.

“Team!” shouts FCE-6. “Push the detainee towards me!” They push me like a potato sack.

Pat! Pat! Pat! More Gitmo massage.

“Team! Prepare to lift!” They are meant to do a fireman’s lift, but they actually seize an arm or a leg and just yank. 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. 

FCE-6 has my head now. He is walking backwards, directing the others. “Watch the stairs! Step! Step! Step!” Up six steps; down six steps; through ten doors. 

“Watch Commander! Watch Commander!” I shout. “Look at my hand! It’s going to be broken!”

If I try to move my hand, it’s “Stop Resisting! Stop Resisting!”

They get me to my cell. It’s been 150 metres. There’s a rec cage three metres from my cell, but they don’t let me use that one. They know then I would make them FCE me every time, as it wouldn’t hurt so much. So they take me 150 metres, through ten doors.

“Team! Halt!”

“Team! Prepare to lower! Team! Lower!” They are all in touching distance of each other, but they have to shout. They put me on the cold concrete floor on my face.

“Key in!” says FCE-6.

“Leg’s unsecure!”

“Key to Hands!”

“Key in!”

“Hands unsecure!”

“Key out! Leg shackles out! Hand shackles out!”

I am on my stomach. The Pig has his hands pushing down on my back. My legs are crossed and pressed up towards my lower back.

The Pig is 270lb, and there are 600 more pounds shoving him from behind, doggy style.

“239! Stay on the floor! DO NOT GET UP! Do not resist the Team! Stay down until we close the door!”

They go out one at a time. One of them falls over backwards. It seems rather comical. I lie still on the floor, because I know what is coming next. If you stay still, they come back in.

“239! Do you need medical attention! Do you need Tylenol?”

“You fool!” I reply. “You were meant to prevent me from getting hurt. And now you’re telling me I can have a Tylenol.”

“239 seems responsive!” he says.

Then I start singing. Today, it will be “Get up! Stand up!” by Bob Marley. Last time it was “Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This)” by Eurythmics.

Shaker Aamer, July 26, 2013

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator - Spanish Speaking

£17000 - £21000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator - German Speaking

£17000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator - Japanese Speaking

£17000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: If you are fluent in Japanese a...

Recruitment Genius: Graphic Designer - Immediate Start

£16000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Day In a Page

Is this the future of flying: battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks?

Is this the future of flying?

Battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks
Isis are barbarians – but the Caliphate is a dream at the heart of all Muslim traditions

Isis are barbarians

but the Caliphate is an ancient Muslim ideal
The Brink's-Mat curse strikes again: three tons of stolen gold that brought only grief

Curse of Brink's Mat strikes again

Death of John 'Goldfinger' Palmer the latest killing related to 1983 heist
Greece debt crisis: 'The ministers talk to us about miracles' – why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum

'The ministers talk to us about miracles'

Why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum
Call of the wild: How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate

Call of the wild

How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate
Greece debt crisis: What happened to democracy when it’s a case of 'Vote Yes or else'?

'The economic collapse has happened. What is at risk now is democracy...'

If it doesn’t work in Europe, how is it supposed to work in India or the Middle East, asks Robert Fisk
The science of swearing: What lies behind the use of four-letter words?

The science of swearing

What lies behind the use of four-letter words?
The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won't have him back

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won’t have him back
Africa on the menu: Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the continent

Africa on the menu

Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the hot new continent
Donna Karan is stepping down after 30 years - so who will fill the DKNY creator's boots?

Who will fill Donna Karan's boots?

The designer is stepping down as Chief Designer of DKNY after 30 years. Alexander Fury looks back at the career of 'America's Chanel'
10 best statement lightbulbs

10 best statement lightbulbs

Dare to bare with some out-of-the-ordinary illumination
Wimbledon 2015: Heather Watson - 'I had Serena's poster on my wall – now I'm playing her'

Heather Watson: 'I had Serena's poster on my wall – now I'm playing her'

Briton pumped up for dream meeting with world No 1
Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - It's time for big John Isner to produce the goods to go with his thumping serve

Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon Files

It's time for big John Isner to produce the goods to go with his thumping serve
Dustin Brown: Who is the tennis player who knocked Rafael Nadal out of Wimbeldon 2015?

Dustin Brown

Who is the German player that knocked Nadal out of Wimbeldon 2015?
Ashes 2015: Damien Martyn - 'England are fired up again, just like in 2005...'

Damien Martyn: 'England are fired up again, just like in 2005...'

Australian veteran of that Ashes series, believes the hosts' may become unstoppable if they win the first Test