Obama's U-turn on Guantanamo seals fate of lone Briton

After 10 years, Shaker Aamer can see no hope of release as US President reneges on 2009 pledge

The family of the last Briton held in Guantanamo Bay, the extra-judicial US interrogation centre on Cuba, have spoken this weekend of their decade of torment as President Barack Obama appears set to perform "the biggest U-turn of his presidency" by keeping the prison open and signing indefinite detention without trial into law.

The family of Shaker Aamer – speaking as the 10th anniversary of the prison next week is expected to prompt worldwide protests – said his unlawful imprisonment had destroyed him and his family.

As a US presidential election year begins, President Obama is expected to renege on a 2009 promise to shut Guantanamo. Instead, he appears to be planning to keep it open permanently.

Mr Aamer, who has four children with his British wife, the youngest of whom he has never met, was captured by the US in Afghanistan in December 2001 and claims he was tortured before and during his time in Guantanamo. He said he was helping to build a school when he was seized; the US said he was fighting with al-Qa'ida.

Despite never being charged with any offence and being cleared by a military commission in 2007, Mr Aamer, now 45, remains locked up and with little prospect of returning home soon to his family in London.

"In the 10 years Shaker has been there he has become old," Saeed Siddique, his father-in-law, said yesterday. "His hair has turned white and he is very ill.

"His children are growing now and it is difficult for them. The youngest one is nine and has never met his dad. He doesn't know why, and he tells his mum, 'My father doesn't love me because he never sees me'."

Mr Siddique, 69, added: "Since Shaker has gone, my daughter has become very ill. She has been treated for depression and hearing voices. When she is very bad, I have to look after her and the children for weeks. It is very hard for her and all the children.

"When he was captured, Shaker offered to let my daughter divorce him, but she said, 'No, I will wait for you'. She is still waiting."

Within days, President Obama is expected to sign the 2012 National Defence Authorisation Act, which gives money to the military annually. This year, it includes an amendment allowing the indefinite detention of anyone, including US citizens, who were "part of or substantially supported al-Qa'ida, the Taliban, or associated forces, under the law of war until the end of hostilities".

Tom Parker, Amnesty International's US policy director on terrorism, counter-terrorism and human rights, said: "The implications for Guantanamo are quite simple: it is staying open now. This effectively enshrines indefinite detention in American law permanently, or at least as long as any group vaguely connected with al-Qa'ida continues, which basically means any Islamic group.

"That is huge. That is not what democratic governments do... you could call this the biggest U-turn of his [Barack Obama's] presidency."

Tom Malinowski, a Human Rights Watch spokesman, said: "It's something so radical that it would have been considered crazy had it been pushed by the Bush administration."

The mood was different on 22 January 2009, when, two days after his inauguration, President Obama fulfilled a pre-election pledge by signing his first executive order that Guantanamo should be shut within a year.

A report by Amnesty International has shown that, while more than 750 detainees have been sent to Guantanamo, only one has been tried under the federal court system.

The Amnesty report – Guantanamo: A Decade of Damage to Human Rights – highlights the duplicitous nature of America's stance on human rights internationally. It shows that at least 32 of the 171 detainees still held in Guantanamo today were transferred there before 22 January 2002. At least nine of those detainees were never charged with an offence.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
News
US comedian Bill Mahr
people
Voices
Winston Churchill, then prime minister, outside No 10 in June 1943
voicesA C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
Sport
football
News
Rob Lowe
peopleRob Lowe hits out at Obama's snub of Benjamin Netanyahu
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
News
Davies (let) says: 'Everybody thought we were having an affair. It was never true!'
people'Our friendship flourished online. You can share some very revelatory moments at four in the morning…'
Arts and Entertainment
Over their 20 years, the band has built a community of dedicated followers the world over
music
News
Staff assemble outside the old City Road offices in London
mediaThe stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century at Britain's youngest paper
Life and Style
The Oliver twins, Philip and Andrew, at work creating the 'Dizzy' arcade-adventure games in 1988
techDocumentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
Arts and Entertainment
Krall says: 'My hero player-singer is Elton John I used to listen to him as a child, every single record
music
News
Friends for life … some professionals think loneliness is more worrying than obesity
scienceSocial contact is good for our sense of wellbeing - but it's a myth that loneliness kills, say researchers
Arts and Entertainment
The Wu-Tang Clan will sell only one copy of their album Once Upon A Time In Shaolin
musicWu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own only copies of their latest albums
News
i100
Environment
Number so freshwater mussels in Cumbria have plummeted from up to three million in the 20th century to 500,000
environment
Life and Style
Models – and musicians – on the catwalk in Dior Homme for the men’s 2015/16 fashion show in Paris
fashionAt this season's Paris shows, various labels played with the city boys' favourite
News
i100
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 Consultant - Solar Energy - OTE £50,000

£15000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Fantastic opportunities are ava...

Recruitment Genius: Compute Engineer

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Compute Engineer is required to join a globa...

Ashdown Group: PHP Web Developer / Website Coordinator (PHP, JavaScript)

£25000 - £28000 per annum + 25 days holidays & pension: Ashdown Group: PHP Web...

Recruitment Genius: Estates Projects & Resources Manager

£35000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Based in London, Manchester, Br...

Day In a Page

Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

What the six wise men told Tony Blair

Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

25 years of The Independent on Sunday

The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

Homeless Veterans appeal

As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

Smash hit go under the hammer

It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

The geeks who rocked the world

A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea
America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

These days in the US things are pretty much stuck where they are, both in politics and society at large, says Rupert Cornwell
A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A veteran of the Fifties campaigns is inspiring a new generation of activists
Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

A C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
Growing mussels: Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project

Growing mussels

Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project
Diana Krall: The jazz singer on being friends with Elton John, outer space and skiing in Dubai

Diana Krall interview

The jazz singer on being friends with Elton John, outer space and skiing in Dubai
Pinstriped for action: A glimpse of what the very rich man will be wearing this winter

Pinstriped for action

A glimpse of what the very rich man will be wearing this winter
Russell T Davies & Ben Cook: 'Our friendship flourished online. You can share some very revelatory moments at four in the morning…'

Russell T Davies & Ben Cook: How we met

'Our friendship flourished online. You can share some very revelatory moments at four in the morning…'
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef serves up his favourite Japanese dishes

Bill Granger's Japanese recipes

Stock up on mirin, soy and miso and you have the makings of everyday Japanese cuisine
Michael Calvin: How we need more Eric Cantonas to knock some sense into us

Michael Calvin's Last Word

How we need more Eric Cantonas to knock some sense into us