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Guantanamo 'Built on How to Destroy a Human Being': Shaker Aamer Speaks For the First Time

The last British detainee to be released from Guantanamo says British officers witnessed him being tortured by American interrogators and did nothing — but he doesn't want to take legal action.
December 14, 2015, 11:55am
Photo via Reprieve

Shaker Aamer, the last British resident to be held at Guantanamo Bay, has said British security officers saw him being tortured by American soldiers in Afghanistan and knew about subsequent torture in Cuba — but he does not want to sue the British government.

Speaking to the media for the first time since his release in October, the former US translator said Guantanamo was "built on how to destroy a human being totally," but he did not believe bringing a case to court would being justice for "what happened in the past."

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The Saudi national, who is married to a British woman with whom he has four children — one of whom was born the day he arrived at Guantanamo Bay — was seized by bounty hunters in Afghanistan after the US invasion in 2001. He was transferred to Guantanamo in 2002 and was held on suspicion of being an al Qaeda operative. He was never charged with any crime and he was cleared for transfer out of Guantanamo in 2007.

Related: Shaker Aamer, the Last Remaining UK Guantanamo Detainee, Has Been Released

In interviews with the Mail on Sunday, ITV News and the BBC's Victoria Derbyshire programme, Aamer described brutal treatment by American interrogators at the Bagram air base in Afghanistan.

They kept him in a cage, beat him, forced him to stay awake for nine days and poured freezing water on him in winter he said, while accusing him of fighting with Osama Bin Laden and being a "terrorist recruiter."

"This American guy grabs me by the head, and he slams it backwards against the wall," he told the Mail on Sunday. "In my mind I think I must try to save my head so I tried to bring it forwards, but as soon as I do he grabs it again and bashes it."

Aamer said a British officer, who he believed arrived at the base on a plane with then Prime Minister Tony Blair, was present in the room during the interrogation and did not intervene.

One interrogator threatened to sexually assault his then five-year-old daughter, he told the BBC.

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"That was the hardest thing, the hardest thing that I ever hear. If you don't start talking, we will rape your daughter and you will hear her crying 'daddy, daddy,'" he said. That was completely inhumane. It was worse than the beating as well, worse than everything, just thinking of my daughter and I just sat there silent completely."

Related: Obama Will 'Prioritize' the Case of Shaker Aamer, the Last British Detainee at Guantanamo

He told ITV News that in Guantanamo he was subjected to regular "forced cell extractions" — where up to 20 guards armed with shields would enter his 6ft by 4ft cell to remove him and terrorize him.

He said mental torture was far worse than the physical.

"Physical pain goes away. Once you get beaten up, once you get hanged, all these hog ties and all these things … first day, second day, you get used to it.

"But when they try to play with you mentally and psychologically all kind of manipulation you feel like every time they find something new to do.

"Guantanamo is built on how to destroy a human being totally, how to damage him mentally, physically, spiritually … it's a programme that's been designed by psychologists."

Aamer said those running the prison camp would "prepare the scenery" if anybody outside was coming to visit.

"It's a play — they show them what they want to show them. They prepare before anybody comes, they prepare the scenery so you guys feel like everything is nice. Everything is smooth," he said.

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"But the truth is [it is] not. They are doing what I told you before - they are destroying human beings. Humiliation, humiliation after humiliation, and that has to stop."

Related: This Detainee Has Been Held at Guantanamo for 13 Years Because of a Mistaken Identity

Despite having "no doubt" that an English officer was present when his head was slammed into a wall, and claiming other British officers acknowledged they knew he was being seriously mistreated in Guantanamo, Aamer said he was not intending to take legal action.

"I don't believe the court will bring justice because of what happened in the past," he told the BBC. "The only thing I really would like to happen is for Tony Blair and for whoever in the government at that time is to tell the truth, just like I'm telling the truth to the world. The only goal I have at this time is to stop what is happening, which is still happening, which is Guantanamo."

He also said he could not talk about compensation "for many reasons", but added that it was "beside the point".

A spokeswoman for the British government said on Sunday it did not participate in or condone torture. "Neither does the UK make use of any so-called enhanced interrogation techniques," she said. "We have consistently made clear our absolute opposition to such behaviour and our determination to combat it wherever and whenever it occurs."

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