Archive for October, 2009

Six Uighurs Go To Palau; Seven Remain In Guantánamo

Koror, PalauAs first reported by the Associated Press, six of the remaining 13 Uighurs in Guantánamo have just arrived on the Pacific island of Palau, where they have been given new homes. The AP’s source said that, overnight, police were guarding the house where the men will live, in the heart of the capital, Koror.

This partly solves one of President Obama’s outstanding problems at Guantánamo, as there were 17 Uighurs (Muslims from China’s Xinjiang province) at Guantánamo when Obama took office, and they had already been waiting for three and a half months to be released, after District Court Judge Ricardo Urbina ordered their release into the United States in October 2008. Judge Urbina did so because the government had failed to contest the Uighurs’ habeas corpus petition (after a devastating court defeat in June 2008), because they could not be returned to China, where they were at risk of ill-treatment or worse, because no other country had been found that would take them, and because their continued detention was unconstitutional.

The Bush administration appealed, and, when President Obama took office, he followed the same line, failing to take the opportunity to bring the Uighurs to the States, which would have demonstrated to the American people that they were not terrorists. Bringing the men to the United States would also have demonstrated that the Bush administration made some horrendous mistakes when, as with the Uighurs and countless other prisoners at Guantánamo, it offered bounty payments to its Afghan and Pakistani allies, and failed to provide any screening whatsoever for the prisoners who subsequently ended up in US custody, maintaining, instead, that they were all “enemy combatants,” because the President said they were.

Having backed down at a crucial time — allowing his right-wing detractors to seize the initiative on Guantánamo, reviving Dick Cheney’s unsubstantiated claims that all the Guantánamo prisoners were terrorists — President Obama then went fishing for other nations who were able to resist the wrath of China. In June, four of the Uighurs moved to Bermuda (which is too rich to care about China), and now another six have arrived in Palau (which, conveniently, refuses to recognize the People’s Republic of China, and has diplomatic dealings with Taiwan instead).

Any time innocent men are freed from Guantánamo, the United States claws back a little more of the luster it lost so spectacularly under the Bush administration, but this latest release still leaves seven Uighurs in Guantánamo — not to mention the 60 or so other prisoners who have been cleared for release — and amongst those seven, as the Washington Post reported On October 20, is one man that Palau refused to take. Arkin Mahmud “suffers from serious mental health issues because of his detention and lengthy periods of solitary confinement,” and his brother, Bahtiyar Mahnut, turned down Palau’s offer of a new home for himself, in order to stay with him.

This, of course, means that the two men “could remain in custody indefinitely,” a situation that the Post described as “unconscionable,” and it led to the editors proposing that, because the US “has complete control over the fate of these men and should take full responsibility in righting the situation,” the President should introduce “narrowly crafted legislation that would allow Mr. Mahmud and Mr. Mahnut into the United States, where they could remain together and Mr. Mahmud could get the medical help he needs.”

Following up on the story of the men’s release, the New York Times noted that the six men “are expected to remain [in Palau] while seeking a permanent home elsewhere.” Wells Dixon, who represents three of the men at the Center for Constitutional Rights, told the Times, “Palau is courageous to offer our Uighur clients a temporary home. We are hopeful that other countries like Australia and Germany will resettle them permanently.”

And, he could have added, the United States.

Andy Worthington is the author of The Guantánamo Files: The Stories of the 774 Detainees in America’s Illegal Prison (published by Pluto Press, distributed by Macmillan in the US, and available from Amazon — click on the following for the US and the UK). To receive new articles in your inbox, please subscribe to my RSS feed (and I can also be found on Facebook and Twitter). Also see my definitive Guantánamo prisoner list, published in March 2009, details about my film, “Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo” (co-directed by Polly Nash, and launched in October 2009), and, if you appreciate my work, feel free to make a donation.

Cross-posted on The Public Record, Common Dreams and AlterNet.

For a sequence of articles dealing with the Uighurs in Guantánamo, see: The Guantánamo whistleblower, a Libyan shopkeeper, some Chinese Muslims and a desperate government (July 2007), Guantánamo’s Uyghurs: Stranded in Albania (October 2007), Former Guantánamo detainee seeks asylum in Sweden (November 2007), A transcript of Sabin Willett’s speech in Stockholm (November 2007), Support for ex-Guantánamo detainee’s Swedish asylum claim (January 2008), A Chinese Muslim’s desperate plea from Guantánamo (March 2008), Former Guantánamo prisoner denied asylum in Sweden (June 2008), Six Years Late, Court Throws Out Guantánamo Case (June 2008), Guantánamo as Alice in Wonderland (July 2008), From Guantánamo to the United States: The Story of the Wrongly Imprisoned Uighurs (October 2008), Guantánamo Uyghurs’ resettlement prospects skewered by Justice Department lies (October 2008), A Pastor’s Plea for the Guantánamo Uyghurs (October 2008), Guantánamo: Justice Delayed or Justice Denied? (October 2008), Sabin Willett’s letter to the Justice Department (November 2008), Will Europe Take The Cleared Guantánamo Prisoners? (December 2008), A New Year Message to Barack Obama: Free the Guantánamo Uighurs (January 2009), Guantanamo’s refugees (February 2009), Bad News And Good News For The Guantánamo Uighurs (February 2009), A Letter To Barack Obama From A Guantánamo Uighur (March 2009), Obama’s First 100 Days: A Start On Guantánamo, But Not Enough (May 2009), Pain At Guantánamo And Paralysis In Government (May 2009), Guantánamo: A Prison Built On Lies (May 2009), Guantánamo: A Real Uyghur Slams Newt Gingrich’s Racist Stupidity (May 2009), Free The Guantánamo Uighurs! (May 2009), Who Are The Four Guantánamo Uighurs Sent To Bermuda? (June 2009), Guantánamo’s Uighurs In Bermuda: Interviews And New Photos (June 2009), Andy Worthington Discusses Guantánamo on Democracy Now! (June 2009), Guantánamo And The Courts (Part One): Exposing The Bush Administration’s Lies (July 2009), Is The World Ignoring A Massacre of Uighurs In China? (July 2009), Chair Of The American Conservative Union Supports The Guantánamo Uighurs (July 2009), Three Uighurs Talk About Chinese Interrogation At Guantánamo (July 2009), House Threatens Obama Over Chinese Interrogation Of Uighurs In Guantánamo (July 2009), A Profile of Rushan Abbas, The Guantánamo Uighurs’ Interpreter (August 2009), and the stories in the additional chapters of The Guantánamo Files: Website Extras 1, Website Extras 6 and Website Extras 9.

Will Guantánamo Prisoners Be Released In Georgia?

The flag of GeorgiaLast week, Molly Corso, a freelance journalist based in Tbilisi, Georgia, got in touch with me regarding rumors that the Georgian government was considering accepting a number of cleared prisoners from Guantánamo, in connection with an article that was published this week. In September, in an interview with Fox News, President Mikheil Saakashvili explained that Georgia was “absolutely” willing to host prisoners from Guantánamo. “You know, whatever we can do to help America in its war on terror, we will do,” he said.

Although officials have been cagey about the rumors — Corso reported that National Security Council Secretary Eka Tkeshelashvili stated only that negotiations were “ongoing,” and refused to elaborate — she wanted to know what I thought about the rumors. I explained, as she described it, that “Many countries are unwilling to take the dozens of prisoners cleared for release because the United States itself has refused to resettle the inmates on US soil. The restriction has sent a mixed message about the prisoners and the security risk they would pose for host countries,” and, as a result, the US government is “trying to get anybody who will promise to treat these people humanely to take them.”

This was a fair précis, and appropriate for a news article, but to provide more background I’d like to explain that I had also elaborated on the “mixed messages” provided by the US government, pointing out, as I explained in a recent article, “Finding New Homes For 44 Cleared Guantánamo Prisoners”:

Recently, for example, when Swiss officials visited Guantánamo to investigate the cases of four men cleared for release, in an attempt to work out if they would be prepared to accept any of these men, they returned, not with an honest appraisal, but with weighted conclusions that could only have been presented to them by the US military. [Officials] had, in effect, opened up their files and shown them material which purported to be evidence, but which, in other prisoners’ habeas petitions, has been demonstrated, time and again, to be nothing more than false allegations made by other prisoners (under duress or as a result of bribery) or by the prisoners themselves, multiple levels of unacceptable hearsay, and “mosaics” of intelligence that do not stand up to independent scrutiny.

According to reports in the Swiss media, the government representatives concluded that, of the four men they investigated, two Uighurs were “low-risk,” even though they are no risk at all, having persuaded the Bush administration to drop its claims that they were “enemy combatants,” and having been cleared by military review boards under the Bush administration, by a US District Court, and by the Obama administration’s Task Force, and two other men, an Uzbek and a Palestinian — also cleared by Bush-era military review boards and by Obama’s Task Force — were considered “medium-risk” and “high-risk.”

These mixed messages — involving omissions and misrepresentation — remain disturbing, and suggest that, even with just two months remaining until Obama’s deadline for closing Guantánamo, the administration is still not doing all in its power to send out a coherent message about cleared prisoners — and to explain clearly, as I also said to Molly Corso, that the men in question do not pose any kind of threat.

As a result, a significant thrust of Corso’s article — how host countries are chosen — is revealed not as involving a specific policy, but, as I stated in my interview, involves the US government “trying to get anybody who will promise to treat these people humanely to take them.” Corso noted that “US State Department officials did not respond to requests to explain the Guantánamo Bay prisoner release program,” and she also spoke to Polly Rossdale, who monitors the resettlement program for the British legal charity Reprieve, who noted that, while some countries are “definitely a no-go,” the US government’s human rights criteria for potential host countries is not “clear.”

Georgia may well prove to be amenable to accepting cleared prisoners, because, as Eka Tkeshelashvili explained, “We try to be a cooperative partner in every way that we can: we do not only ask for the help of the United States. We try to be a contributing partner.” Lincoln Mitchell, an assistant professor in international politics at New York’s Columbia University, was more forthright, explaining that he saw “the decision to take on the prisoners as a chance for [President] Saakashvili to underscore his strong relationship with the White House — a crucial part of the Georgian leader’s domestic image.” He told Corso, “If a big part of [the government’s message] is we have a special relationship with the United States, you have to be able to demonstrate that. This is one way to demonstrate it.”

It was reassuring that Eka Tkeshelashvili also stated, as Molly Corso described it, that “the Georgian government believes that housing terrorism suspects would pose no enhanced domestic security threat” — as this ought to be the crucial issue — but in fact, the dithering and double standards from the US regarding the rehousing of prisoners who have been cleared for release from Guantánamo means that, ultimately, what it comes down to is politics, and whether, as in Georgia’s case, helping the US out of a hole of its own making will enhance Georgia’s relationship with the US.

As ever with Guantánamo, it appears that the legacy of the “War on Terror” is not honesty, but expediency.

Andy Worthington is the author of The Guantánamo Files: The Stories of the 774 Detainees in America’s Illegal Prison (published by Pluto Press, distributed by Macmillan in the US, and available from Amazon — click on the following for the US and the UK). To receive new articles in your inbox, please subscribe to my RSS feed (and I can also be found on Facebook and Twitter). Also see my definitive Guantánamo prisoner list, published in March 2009, details about my film, “Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo” (co-directed by Polly Nash, and launched in October 2009), and, if you appreciate my work, feel free to make a donation.

Cross-posted on The Public Record.

83 Human Rights Groups Tell Congress, “Take Action on Torture!”

The US CongressToday, 83 human rights groups and leaders sent the following petition to Congress calling for specific actions to end torture:

A Call for US Congress to Take Action on Torture

Whereas over seven years have passed since President George W. Bush fraudulently induced the US Congress, the American people, and the world into the illegal war in Iraq,

Whereas it is nearly five years since Specialist Darby revealed the photos of Abu Ghraib that showed us torture being committed by our government in our name,

Whereas further evidence of torture remains secret and has been hidden from the public, courts, and Congress to insulate the perpetrators from appropriate criminal liability,

Whereas over the past years we have campaigned about the illegality of this war and the need to prosecute the high-level civilian and military officials who put in place the torture,

Whereas, notwithstanding all the congressional hearings and reports so far on these matters, those officials have not been brought to justice,

Whereas a prosecutor has been appointed to address only a very small number, perhaps as few as three, of the crimes committed and none of the crimes “justified” by the clearly illegal torture memos,

Whereas the Department of Justice’s limited investigation of torture threatens to invite more torture around the world by undermining the Nuremberg precedent,

Whereas the Attorney General of the United States, under the influence of the President, appears unwilling to follow the facts about the illegal war in Iraq and torture to the full extent of the law,

Whereas we as citizens of the United States do not accept the damage to our country’s honor committed by these persons, the threats to the lives and well-being of our children and fellow citizens sent to illegal wars, and the transformation of our country from a beacon of liberty to a beacon of torture,

WE NOW CALL FOR ACTION:

1. We call on Congress to start impeachment proceedings against Judge Jay Bybee of the US Circuit Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, as it is unconscionable that one who encouraged violations of such fundamental laws as those against torture and aggressive war be trusted to apply and shape the law.

2. We call on congressional committees to subpoena those responsible for aggressive war and torture, including former President Bush, Vice President Cheney, and other former senior officials complicit in war crimes; and to enforce those subpoenas through the Capitol Police, rather than the Department of Justice.

3. We call on state bar associations to begin the process of revoking the law licenses of those lawyers who put in place the legal analysis for the illegal war and the torture.

4. We call on state licensing authorities to begin the process of revoking the licenses of all other professionals who participated in the torture such as psychologists, psychiatrists and other doctors.

5. We call on the American people to contact their congressional representatives and insist that, on our watch, the high, who are the instigators of illegal wars and torture, will be brought low, and that low-level personnel will not be the only ones prosecuted for committing crimes authorized and encouraged by their superiors.

SIGNED BY:
Robert H. Jackson Steering Committee
Action Center For Justice
After Downing Street
AngryVoters.Org
Backbone Campaign
Bend-Condega Friendship Project
Benjamin G. Davis, Associate Professor of Law, University of Toledo College of Law
Berkeley Fellowship Unitarian Universalists Social Justice Committee
Bill of Rights Defense Committee
BuzzFlash.com
Campus Antiwar Network, Ole Miss
Center for Constitutional Rights
Chelsea Neighbors United to End the War, New York City
Chesapeake Citizens
Christiane Brown, The Solution Zone, KJFK
Citizens For Legitimate Government
CODE PINK: Women for Peace
Code Pink Portland
Marjorie Cohn, Professor, Thomas Jefferson School of Law
Collateral Repair Project
Consumers for Peace
Defending Dissent Foundation
Democracy for America – Tucson
Democracy for NYC
Democracy In Action (DIA)
Democrats.com
Democratic Activist blog
Docudharma
Eastside FOR
The Enviro Show, WXOJ-LP/WMCB
Global Network Against Weapons and Nuclear Power in Space
High Road for Human Rights
Humanists for Peace
IndictBushNow.org
Instruments For Peace
Jobs For Afghans
Justice Through Music
Liberty Tree Foundation
The Make America Again Project
Media With Conscience
Media Freedom Foundation/Project Censored
Meiklejohn Civil Liberties Institute
Nashville Peace Coalition
Nicole Sandler, RadioOrNot.com
NC Democrats Network
New York Metro Progressives
North Country Coalition for Justice and Peace
Northeast Impeachment Coalition
OpEdNews.com
Oregon PeaceWorks
Peace & Justice Forums, Billings, Montana
The People’s Email Network
PoetsWest (Seattle)
Progressive Democrats of America
Progressives Democrats of New York, 14th CD
Progressive Democrats of the Santa Monica Mountains
PDA/DFA Progressive Democracy South Jersey
Progressive Democrats Sonoma County
The Progressive magazine
Republicans For Impeachment
Reclaim The GOP
RiseUpTampaBay.com
Sitkans for Peace and Justice
Squadron13.com
SUV Network (Seniors United for Victory)
ThisCantBeHappening.net
Topanga Peace Alliance
Topplebush.com
Transylvanians for Peace of Brevard, NC
True Blue Network
Uncommon Thought Journal
Velvet Revolution
VeteransAgainstTorture.com
Veterans For Peace Chapter 099
Veterans For Peace Chicago Chapter 26
Voices of Conscience
Voters for Peace
War Crimes Times
War Criminals Watch
Washington for Impeachment
Hazel Weiser, Executive Director Society of American Law Teachers — SALT
Western North Carolina Stop Torture Now
Young Americans for Liberty at Ole Miss

Andy Worthington is a member of the Robert H. Jackson Steering Committee. For further information about the petition, contact David Swanson, and to sign up as a group or individual, visit the website here.

Andy Worthington is the author of The Guantánamo Files: The Stories of the 774 Detainees in America’s Illegal Prison (published by Pluto Press, distributed by Macmillan in the US, and available from Amazon — click on the following for the US and the UK). To receive new articles in your inbox, please subscribe to my RSS feed (and I can also be found on Facebook and Twitter). Also see my definitive Guantánamo prisoner list, published in March 2009, details about my film, “Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo” (co-directed with Polly Nash, and launched in October 2009), and, if you appreciate my work, feel free to make a donation.

The Guantánamo Files: Andy Worthington’s radio interview with France Kassing

Last week I recorded an hour-long interview with France Kassing, the producer and host of the public affairs show “It’s about You!” on KDVS in UC Davis, California. The show was broadcast on Monday October 26, and is available here as an MP3.

France was a great host, asking me to guide listeners through the background to my book The Guantánamo Files, and the shocking stories of incompetence, cruelty and lawlessness that I discovered along the way. I spoke at length about the background to the US-led invasion of Afghanistan in October 2001, the capture of the men who ended up in Guantánamo (many of whom were seized far from the battlefields of Afghanistan), the lack of screening that followed their capture, and why, in so many cases, it is only now that the truth about how most of Guantánamo’s prisoners were randomly seized is emerging in their habeas corpus petitions in US district courts. I had the opportunity to explain how, in the 38 cases that have so far been ruled on by judges, 30 have led to humiliation for the government, as the judges have ruled that Justice Department attorneys (pursuing worthless cases as though George W. Bush was still in power) have failed to establish that the men in question were connected to either al-Qaeda or the Taliban.

We also spoke about why no one else had undertaken the research that underpins The Guantánamo Files, the democratizing power of the Internet (France had noted that I’m in Technorati’s Top 100 World Politics Blogs), and my film “Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo” (co-directed with filmmaker Polly Nash), which I’m bringing to the States next week.

It was a great show, and I hope to have the opportunity to talk to France again sometime.

Andy Worthington is the author of The Guantánamo Files: The Stories of the 774 Detainees in America’s Illegal Prison (published by Pluto Press, distributed by Macmillan in the US, and available from Amazon — click on the following for the US and the UK). To receive new articles in your inbox, please subscribe to my RSS feed (and I can also be found on Facebook and Twitter). Also see my definitive Guantánamo prisoner list, published in March 2009, details about my film, “Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo” (co-directed with Polly Nash, and launched in October 2009), and, if you appreciate my work, feel free to make a donation.

Senate Finally Allows Guantánamo Trials In US, But Not Homes For Innocent Men

The US SenateAfter railing against Senators and Representatives for their cowardly, uninformed and unacceptable attempts to prevent President Obama from bringing any Guantánamo prisoner to the US mainland for any reason — even for trials — which I wrote about most recently in an article entitled, “On Guantánamo, Lawmakers Reveal They Are Still Dick Cheney’s Pawns,” I’m delighted to report that, last Tuesday, the Senate finally saw sense, voting, by 79 votes to 19, as part of a $42.8 billion bill for Homeland Security, to accept that the administration can bring prisoners to the US mainland to face trials.

The vote follows a similar climbdown two week ago by the House of Representatives, which had recently allowed itself to be mesmerized by a paranoid motion proposed by Rep. Hal Rogers (R-Ken.), and the bill will now be signed into law by President Obama.

However, Congress is still interfering to an unacceptable degree in the administration’s plans, insisting, as AFP described it, that the President provides lawmakers with “a detailed assessment of the possible security risk 45 days before” prisoners are brought to trial in the United States,” including “details of the dangers involved, steps to diminish the possible threat, the legal rationale for the transfer, and assurances to the governor of the receiving state that the individual poses little or no security risk.”

In addition, the bill as it was finally passed still allows lawmakers to meddle with plans to transfer prisoners to other countries, requiring as AFP put it, that prisoners “cannot be transferred to another country unless the president gives Congress the name of the detainee, the destination, a risk assessment, and the terms of a transfer.” As Lt. Col. David Frakt, the former military defense attorney for released prisoner Mohamed Jawad, explained to me recently, this is actually an example of Congress reinforcing the powers it granted itself in summer, when lawmakers insisted on being given two weeks’ notice before any prisoner — even those cleared by the courts after successful habeas corpus petitions — can be released.

In Lt. Col. Frakt’s words, what this meant was that Congress had decided that, for this two-week period, prisoners cleared by US courts can actually be held “in the status of ‘Congressional prisoner,’ a status for which there is no Constitutional authority,” and this unconstitutional power grab has not been removed in the final discussions regarding the bill.

Even so, the saddest part of the bill — which still casts the gloomiest of light on the lawmakers — is the lawmakers’ insistence that no prisoner can be released onto US soil, either on the mainland or on overseas territories like Guam or Puerto Rico. This has done nothing but alienate European countries, who are being asked to take cleared prisoners who cannot be repatriated because they face the risk of torture in their home countries, and, moreover, threatens to bring Congress into conflict with the Supreme Court.

Last Tuesday, as the Senate voted to allow prisoners to be brought to the US to face trial, the Supreme Court agreed to review the case of the Uighurs (Muslims from China’s Xinjiang province), who remain in Guantánamo, even though a District Court judge ordered their release into the United States over a year ago, after the Bush administration conceded that they had no connection with either al-Qaeda or the Taliban. The judge, Ricardo Urbina, ruled that they be brought to the United States, because no other country had been found that would accept them, and because their continued detention in Guantánamo was unconstitutional.

As I explained in an article last week, the Justice Department, under both George W. Bush and Barack Obama, disagreed, as did the Court of Appeals, which ruled that issues involving the immigration of aliens were matters for the Executive and not the courts to decide, even though the men’s lawyers pointed out that this effectively gutted habeas corpus of all meaning.

President Obama, of course, failed to rise to this challenge by bringing these men to the United States, and, ever since, his administration has scrabbled around, in a generally undignified manner, trying to find new homes for them, sending four to Bermuda in June, and hoping that the rest would be relocated to the remote Pacific island of Palau.

However, as the Washington Post noted in a principled editorial last Wednesday, the stumbling block to this otherwise workable plan to pretend that the United States has no obligations towards men it wrongly imprisoned for nearly eight years is that Palau has refused to take one of the men, Arkin Mahmud, who “suffers from serious mental health issues because of his detention and lengthy periods of solitary confinement.” As a result, his brother, Bahtiyar Mahnut, has decided to turn down Palau’s offer of a new home for himself, in order to stay with his brother. As the Post noted, “Unless another country accepts the brothers, they could remain in custody indefinitely — a prospect that is unconscionable and that no doubt informed the justices’ decision to hear the matter.”

The Post proceeded to explain that the Supreme Court was faced with a tricky legal decision, because the justices will be considering whether, in defense of habeas corpus, and in reference to the unique position in which the Guantánamo prisoners are held, they are being asked to decide whether a judge has the power to order the release of prisoners into the US, when all the precedents, as the Court of Appeals made clear, establish that the admission of foreigners in to the US is a matter for the executive and legislative branches of government.

However, as the Post also noted:

[T]he moral and ethical imperatives are clear and compelling. The Uighurs find themselves subject to detention not because they tried to enter the country illegally but because they were snatched in Pakistan and Afghanistan after the United States’ 2001 invasion of Afghanistan and forcibly taken to Guantánamo. The United States has complete control over the fate of these men and should take full responsibility in righting the situation. That should include narrowly crafted legislation that would allow Mr. Mahmud and Mr. Mahnut into the United States, where they could remain together and Mr. Mahmud could get the medical help he needs.

This is a bold move for one of the nation’s leading newspapers to take, but I unreservedly commend the Post’s editors for it, as it addresses a seemingly insoluble quandary, which, it seems to me, cannot otherwise be resolved. Whilst it is probable that a number of the remaining Uighurs will soon start a new life in Palau, the administration may want to think long and hard about what to do with Arkin Mahmud and Bahtiyar Mahnut, and to be grateful that only the Washington Post has chosen to shine a spotlight on the continued imprisonment of an innocent man whose detention has not only been regarded as unconstitutional for over a year, but who also “suffers from serious mental health issues because of his detention and lengthy periods of solitary confinement.”

Andy Worthington is the author of The Guantánamo Files: The Stories of the 774 Detainees in America’s Illegal Prison (published by Pluto Press, distributed by Macmillan in the US, and available from Amazon — click on the following for the US and the UK). To receive new articles in your inbox, please subscribe to my RSS feed (and I can also be found on Facebook and Twitter). Also see my definitive Guantánamo prisoner list, published in March 2009, details about my film, “Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo” (co-directed with Polly Nash, and launched in October 2009), and, if you appreciate my work, feel free to make a donation.

As published exclusively on the website of the Future of Freedom Foundation, as “Continued Incarceration of the Innocent.” Cross-posted on The Public Record.

For a sequence of articles dealing with the Uighurs in Guantánamo, see: The Guantánamo whistleblower, a Libyan shopkeeper, some Chinese Muslims and a desperate government (July 2007), Guantánamo’s Uyghurs: Stranded in Albania (October 2007), Former Guantánamo detainee seeks asylum in Sweden (November 2007), A transcript of Sabin Willett’s speech in Stockholm (November 2007), Support for ex-Guantánamo detainee’s Swedish asylum claim (January 2008), A Chinese Muslim’s desperate plea from Guantánamo (March 2008), Former Guantánamo prisoner denied asylum in Sweden (June 2008), Six Years Late, Court Throws Out Guantánamo Case (June 2008), Guantánamo as Alice in Wonderland (July 2008), From Guantánamo to the United States: The Story of the Wrongly Imprisoned Uighurs (October 2008), Guantánamo Uyghurs’ resettlement prospects skewered by Justice Department lies (October 2008), A Pastor’s Plea for the Guantánamo Uyghurs (October 2008), Guantánamo: Justice Delayed or Justice Denied? (October 2008), Sabin Willett’s letter to the Justice Department (November 2008), Will Europe Take The Cleared Guantánamo Prisoners? (December 2008), A New Year Message to Barack Obama: Free the Guantánamo Uighurs (January 2009), Guantanamo’s refugees (February 2009), Bad News And Good News For The Guantánamo Uighurs (February 2009), A Letter To Barack Obama From A Guantánamo Uighur (March 2009), Obama’s First 100 Days: A Start On Guantánamo, But Not Enough (May 2009), Pain At Guantánamo And Paralysis In Government (May 2009), Guantánamo: A Prison Built On Lies (May 2009), Guantánamo: A Real Uyghur Slams Newt Gingrich’s Racist Stupidity (May 2009), Free The Guantánamo Uighurs! (May 2009), Who Are The Four Guantánamo Uighurs Sent To Bermuda? (June 2009), Guantánamo’s Uighurs In Bermuda: Interviews And New Photos (June 2009), Andy Worthington Discusses Guantánamo on Democracy Now! (June 2009), Guantánamo And The Courts (Part One): Exposing The Bush Administration’s Lies (July 2009), Is The World Ignoring A Massacre of Uighurs In China? (July 2009), Chair Of The American Conservative Union Supports The Guantánamo Uighurs (July 2009), Three Uighurs Talk About Chinese Interrogation At Guantánamo (July 2009), House Threatens Obama Over Chinese Interrogation Of Uighurs In Guantánamo (July 2009), A Profile of Rushan Abbas, The Guantánamo Uighurs’ Interpreter (August 2009), and the stories in the additional chapters of The Guantánamo Files: Website Extras 1, Website Extras 6 and Website Extras 9.

Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo – Andy Worthington’s US tour dates, November 2009

Andy Worthington, author of The Guantánamo Files and co-director (with filmmaker Polly Nash) of the new Guantánamo documentary, “Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo,” will be visiting the US in November to show the film in New York, Virginia, Washington D.C., Berkeley and San Francisco. The itinerary is below. Please note that all events are free — although some require booking in advance, and not all are open to the general public.

Outside the Law: Stories from Guantanamo

For further information about this visit, for interviews, or to inquire about broadcasting, distributing or showing “Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo,” please contact Andy Worthington. For inquiries relating to my book The Guantánamo Files, and to order retail copies in the US, please contact Denise De LaRosa at Palgrave Macmillan, my US distributors.

Here’s an appraisal of the film from Debra Sweet of The World Can’t Wait, who‘s seen a review copy:

“‘Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo’ is very engaging and moving, and personal. The first film to really take you through the lives of the men through their own eyes.”
Debra Sweet, Director, The World Can’t Wait

Wednesday November 4, 7 pm: Talk – Torture and Lies: The Story Of Guantánamo. Followed by Q&A.
Talk by Andy Worthington at Revolution Books, 146 W. 26th Street, New York.

Phone: 212-691-3345 or email.
Press contact: Phone 917-449-9064 or email Connie Julian.
This event is sponsored by Revolution Books, NYC.

Thursday November 5, 9-11 pm: Film screening – Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo. Followed by Q&A.
Screening at Soho House, 29-35 Ninth Avenue, New York.

Introduced by Karen Greenberg, Director, The Center on Law and Security at NYU School of Law.
Contact: Nicole Bruno.
Please note that there is limited seating on a first come, first served basis for this screening, and if you want to attend you have to contact Nicole.
This event is sponsored by the Center on Law and Security at NYU School of Law.

Friday November 6, 8 pm: Film screening – Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo, Followed by Q&A.
Screening at Alwan for the Arts, 16 Beaver Street, 4th Floor, New York.

With special guest Tina Foster (International Justice Network, Bagram habeas litigation) and moderator Debra Sweet, Director, The World Can’t Wait.
Phone: 646-732-3261 or email.
This event is sponsored by Alwan for the Arts and The World Can’t Wait.

Saturday November 7, 4:30-6:30 pm: An Afternoon with Andy Worthington, hosted by The World Can’t Wait.
The Art Club, 100 Reade Street, Tribeca, New York.

Selections from “Outside the Law: Stories from Guantanamo” and a chance to meet Andy Worthington, and to benefit the work of The World Can’t Wait in stopping the US torture state.
Contact: Debra Sweet, Director, The World Can’t Wait (or phone: 866-973-4463).
This event is sponsored by The World Can’t Wait and Have Art Will Travel.

Sunday November 8, 5.30 to 9 pm: Film screening – Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo. With introductory talk and post-screening Q&A.
The Auld Shebeen Irish Pub, 3971 Chain Bridge Road, Fairfax, VA, 22030.

Contact: Bart Frazier.
This event is sponsored by the Future of Freedom Foundation.

Monday November 9, 4 pm: Film screening – Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo. Followed by Q&A.
New America Foundation, 1899 L St, NW Suite 400, Washington, 20036.

With special guest Tom Wilner and moderator Peter Bergen.
Phone: 202-986-2700 or email Stephanie Gunter.
This event is sponsored by the New America Foundation.

Tuesday November 10, 7 pm: Film screening – Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo. Followed by Q&A.
North Berkeley Senior Center, 1901 Hearst Avenue (at Martin Luther King Jr. Way), Berkeley, California.
Details here.
Phone: 818-480-1860 or email Curt Wechsler, The World Can’t Wait.
This event is sponsored by The World Can’t Wait and Berkeley students.

Wednesday November 11, 12 noon: Film screening – Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo. Followed by Q&A.
University of San Francisco School of Law, 2130 Fulton Street, San Francisco, CA  94117.

Contact: Elizabeth Hinchman.
Please note that this screening is for students and staff of USF School of Law.
This event is sponsored by the University of San Francisco School of Law.

Wednesday November 11, 7 pm: Talk – Torture and Lies: The Story of Guantánamo. Followed by Q&A.
Revolution Books, 2425 Channing Way, Berkeley, CA  94704.

Phone: 510-848-1196 or email Reiko Redmonde.
This event is sponsored by Revolution Books, Berkeley.

Andy’s visit to the US is sponsored by the Future of Freedom Foundation and The World Can’t Wait.

About the film

“Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo” is a new documentary film, directed by Polly Nash and Andy Worthington (and inspired by Andy’s book, The Guantánamo Files). The film tells the story of Guantánamo (and includes sections on extraordinary rendition and secret prisons) with a particular focus on how the Bush administration turned its back on domestic and international laws, how prisoners were rounded up in Afghanistan and Pakistan without adequate screening (and often for bounty payments), and why some of these men may have been in Afghanistan or Pakistan for reasons unconnected with militancy or terrorism (as missionaries or humanitarian aid workers, for example).

The film is based around interviews with former prisoners (Moazzam Begg and, in his first major interview, Omar Deghayes, who was released in December 2007), lawyers for the prisoners (Clive Stafford Smith in the UK and Tom Wilner in the US), and journalist and author Andy Worthington, and also includes appearances from Guantánamo’s former Muslim chaplain James Yee, Shakeel Begg, a London-based Imam, and the British human rights lawyer Gareth Peirce.

Focusing on the stories of three particular prisoners — Shaker Aamer (who is still held), Binyam Mohamed (who was released in February 2009) and Omar Deghayes — “Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo” provides a powerful rebuke to those who believe that Guantánamo holds “the worst of the worst” and that the Bush administration was justified in responding to the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 by holding men neither as prisoners of war, protected by the Geneva Conventions, nor as criminal suspects with habeas corpus rights, but as “illegal enemy combatants” with no rights whatsoever.

For worldwide inquiries about broadcasting, distributing or showing “Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo,” please contact Andy Worthington or Polly Nash.

“Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo” is a Spectacle Production (74 minutes, 2009).

About the directors and the production company

Andy Worthington is a journalist, and the author of three books, including The Guantánamo Files: The Stories of the 774 Detainees in America’s Illegal Prison (Pluto Press). Visit his website here.

Polly Nash is a lecturer at the London College Of Communication (LCC), part of the University of the Arts, London, and has worked in film and TV for 20 years. Core funding for the film was provided by LCC.

Spectacle is an independent television production company specializing in documentary, community-led investigative journalism and participatory media. Spectacle programs have been broadcast across Europe, Australia and Canada and have won international awards. Visit their website here.

For excerpts and extras, follow the links on the Spectacle website. A short trailer is available here, and please visit this page for photos and reviews of the UK launch on October 21, 2009.

Andy’s book The Guantánamo Files: The Stories of the 774 Detainees in America’s Illegal Prison is published by Pluto Press, distributed by Macmillan in the US, and available from Amazon — click on the following for the US and the UK. To receive new articles in your inbox, please subscribe to my RSS feed (and I can also be found on Facebook and Twitter). Also see my definitive Guantánamo prisoner list, published in March 2009, and if you appreciate my work, feel free to make a donation.

New Book: The Guantánamo Lawyers – and a talk by Jonathan Hafetz

The Guantanamo LawyersPublished on November 9 by NYU Press (and available from Amazon), The Guantánamo Lawyers: Inside a Prison, Outside the Law, is edited by Mark Denbeaux (Seton Hall Law School) and Jonathan Hafetz (ACLU) and “contains over one hundred personal narratives from attorneys who have represented detainees held at ‘GTMO’ as well as at other overseas prisons, from Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan to secret CIA jails or ‘black sites.’” A website for the book is here.

This is a powerful book, covering every facet of the Bush administration’s lawless “War on Terror,” and is essential reading for anyone who wants an insight into the stories of the men held, from the only people outside the US administration (and the International Committee of the Red Cross) who have been allowed to meet them. It is also invaluable for anyone who wants to understand the legal struggles to secure rights for these men, and to hear, from first-hand experience, the kinds of obstructions that have been raised at every step of the way between the lawyers and their clients.

As I heard when the project was first being planned in 2007, it can be seen as the third part of a trilogy of books dedicated to bringing the prisoners and their stories to life, to counter the dehumanizing and unsubstantiated rhetoric of the Bush administration. This began with Poems from Guantánamo, edited by Marc Falkoff, which brought the prisoners alive through their poetry, and continued with my book The Guantánamo Files, which told the prisoners’ stories through their own accounts, based largely on documents released by the Pentagon, press reports and interviews.

Nor is the book the only outcome of the hard work of Mark Denbeaux and Jonathan Hafetz. As the publishers also note, “An online archive, hosted by New York University Libraries, will be available at the time of publication and will contain the complete texts as well as other accounts contributed by Guantánamo lawyers. The documents will be freely available on the Internet for research, teaching, and non-commercial uses, and will be preserved indefinitely as a historical collection.”

Jonathan HafetzAs an introduction to the book, I’m cross-posting below a lecture delivered last week by Jonathan Hafetz at the Washington University School of Law, which provides an excellent introduction to the book and its themes.

“Guantánamo and the Rule of Law”
By Jonathan Hafetz
Lecture at the Harris Institute, Washington University School of Law
October 20, 2009

Forty years ago, America put the first man on the moon, a feat that remains an enduring symbol of promise and possibility. Today, after more than eight years, America cannot seem to find a solution to the fate of some 200 prisoners languishing at Guantánamo Bay that honors the most basic values of its Constitution. How can a nation capable of accomplishing so much, be incapable of so little?

Following his inauguration in January, President Obama announced that Guantánamo must be closed within a year, and that doing so was required both by America’s values and its security. Four months later, in a speech at the National Archives — the repository of the Declaration of Independence and Constitution — Obama reminded the country that “the existence of Guantánamo likely created more terrorists around the world than it ever detained.” Now, however, it is increasingly likely that the scheduled closure date will not be met, as high-level administration officials, testing the political waters for the coming let-down, have begun citing a litany of complications — some real, others imagined — for the anticipated delay.

To be sure, closing Guantánamo is not easy, particularly not with Congress intent to raise road blocks in the form of NIMBY-inspired appropriations measures that restrict the transfer of detainees to the United States, even for incarceration in existing maximum security prisons. But, let’s be perfectly clear, it’s not rocket science easier. As one European official recently said in frustration, “America seems to like its Guantánamo. Let them have it.”

Guantánamo represents all that it is wrong — legally, morally, and strategically — with the “war on terror.” It has become an icon of lawless detention, torture, and secrecy. It has also become a chilling example of how long and hard a government will fight to suppress the truth and perpetuate a lie.

What is Guantánamo really about?

Guantánamo is about people like Abdul Matin, who, along with seven other detainees, was imprisoned for years because he wore a cheap Casio digital watch. The reason: those watches, which are sold and worn by millions worldwide, happened to have been used by some terrorists in the past as timers in bomb attacks.

Guantánamo is about people like Afghan citizen Haji Bismullah, who the United States claimed was an “enemy combatant” and locked up for six years even though he had fought alongside the United States to defeat the Taliban and had served as a local official in the transitional government in Afghanistan. Bismullah had repeatedly urged the United States contact his brother to verify his story, but the US refused.

Guantánamo is about prisoners like Mohammed al-Qahtani, the Saudi citizen who became a guinea pig for the use of so-called “enhanced interrogation techniques” at Guantánamo. During a two-month period, al-Qahtani was interrogated for 18-20 hours per day and subjected to painful stress positions, forced nudity, and sleep and sensory deprivation. If al-Qahtani fell asleep, interrogators doused him with water. Military dogs were used to frighten and intimidate him. One interrogator tied a leash around al-Qahtani’s neck and made him perform a series of dog tricks. At one point during his interrogation, al-Qahtani had to be taken to the hospital and revived after his heart rate fell so low he was in danger of dying.

Guantánamo is about the Uighurs, a group of 20 plus Muslims from northwestern China sold by bounty hunters to the US military in Afghanistan and rendered half-way across the world to Guantánamo. The United States long ago realized that the Uighurs were not terrorists and presented no danger to the United States but continued to treat them as “enemy combatants” to placate the Chinese. Now, the US cannot send the Uighurs home because they will be persecuted or killed. So, it keeps them locked up year after year until it can find a country willing to take them in rather assuming responsibility for its mistake and resettling them here.

Guantánamo is about Mohammed Jawad, the Afghan youth whom I represented in his habeas corpus challenge in federal court. Jawad was arrested in Afghanistan in December 2002 for allegedly throwing a grenade that injured two US service members and their interpreter. Jawad, who was probably 14-15 years old at the time, was beaten and threatened by Afghan officials into falsely confessing then handed over to US officials who continued the abuse before rendering him to Guantánamo. There, the horrors continued: Jawad was deliberately isolated, told he would never leave, and subjected to severe sleep deprivation — known as the “frequent flyer program” — where he was moved 110 times in 14 days. Matters became so bad that Jawad, who often cried for his mother, attempted suicide by banging his head against a wall.

Guantánamo, at bottom, is about the more than 750 men from more than forty countries who have been imprisoned there since January 2002 and about the more than 220 who remain. It is a place where hundreds of human beings have each spent more than 2,000 days (and counting) behind bars, thousands of miles from home and family, without the most essential guarantee of our Constitution and legal tradition: a fair trial.

Trials, stripped to their essence, are about truth and justice. In the medieval age, trial was by ordeal — where a prisoner was required to undergo some painful task, like walking across burning coals or being submerged in water — to test his innocence. Centuries later at Guantánamo, the Bush administration came up with a new way of arriving at the truth: “Combatant Status Review Tribunals,” where prisoners seeking to test their detention were denied the right even to a lawyer, to see the evidence against them and summon witnesses in their favor, and to an impartial judge. The stakes could not have been more significant and the process more inferior — less, even, than you receive in my hometown of Brooklyn to challenge a parking ticket. The Bush administration also came up with “military commissions” — now going through their third reiteration (talk about putting lipstick on a pig) — which long allowed evidence gained by torture and other abuse and whose rules can best be described as “make them up as you go along.” The results are no less arbitrary than medieval trial by ordeal. But they are surely worse in that — now, in the twenty-first century and hundreds of years after the Enlightenment and American Revolution — we not only know better, but have the time-tested system of our ordinary criminal courts that we have shunted aside.

Guantánamo is the subject of three landmark Supreme Court decisions: Rasul v. Bush, Hamdan v. Rumsfeld, and Boumediene v. Bush, now a part of law school casebooks and curricula. It is the subject of numerous lower court rulings; of almost daily media coverage; and of hundreds of books and academic articles, with many more to come. All, in one way or another try to come to grips with Guantánamo, to understand its meaning, and to explain its significance.

If Guantánamo can be reduced to a few core propositions, these are surely among them. Guantánamo is about the terrible consequences of creating a prison beyond the law — a place where prisoners have no rights and courts have no role. Guantánamo is also about man’s humanity to man, and the ease with which even the most deeply cherished principles can be abandoned to the siren call of “national security” and “public safety.” The end of protecting the country from further attack is not wrong. But the means taken cannot justify everything done in its name. As Justice Kennedy recently reminded us, “Security subsists, too, in fidelity to freedom’s first principles,” chief among them being “freedom from arbitrary and unlawful restraint and the personal liberty that is secured by adherence to the separation of powers.” But Guantánamo is not simply about misdirected pursuit of security. In many instances the ends themselves have not been keeping the nation safe but covering up mistakes, abuses, and illegality to prevent embarrassment and avoid accountability.

That Guantánamo has remained open for so long, that prisoners have been held without charges or trial for so many years, and that this system has been propped up by so many (both inside and outside the government), is itself deeply troubling. Guantánamo’s creation may have been generated by a cabal of President Bush’s officials. But its continued existence cannot be blamed on any single person or group of persons. That Guantánamo remains, to paraphrase Hannah Arendt, is a reminder of the banality of injustice.

But caution lest we focus too narrowly on Guantánamo as a place. For Guantánamo is, and always has been, more than just a prison. Its reality lies not in brick and mortar, in steel walls and concertina wire, and its cold, forbidding, and antiseptic environment. Guantánamo is a system, one of indefinite, open-ended, and boundless detention outside the basic guarantees of our Constitution. That is why simply shutting the prison at Guantánamo, important as that is, is not enough. Guantánamo, the system, must be eradicated.

Practically speaking, that means a few things. It means that that the remaining prisoners at Guantánamo should be promptly charged and brought to trial in our federal courts or released. It means that the United States cease the claim that it may detain terrorist suspects — captured anywhere in the world — without charge or trial. It also means the United States must cease creating “new Guantánamos” as it is doing at the Bagram Theater Internment Facility in Afghanistan, where, much like Guantánamo, it is claiming the ability to detain individuals without habeas corpus review. And it must ensure not only that torture is abolished (as President Obama has taken steps to do) but that there be actions taken for past abuses, both in the form of holding those responsible accountable and ensuring the possibility of compensation for victims rather than closing the courthouse doors by classifying torture as a “state secret.”

Who can we rely on? We cannot leave it up to the executive branch, which created Guantánamo to maintain and expand its powers. And not even an executive branch, like the current one, that professes fidelity to constitutional principles, for the desire to push the boundaries of those limits will always be tested, especially in the national security context.

Not Congress, which has disappointed time and again — from twice passing legislation (the Detainee Treatment Act and Military Commissions Act) to strip detainees of any right to meaningful court review by eliminating habeas corp, to its latest efforts to treat Guantánamo as political football rather than the political disgrace that it is.

That is not to say we should give up on the political branches, which contain men and women committed to finding rights-respecting solutions to national security, including many in the military and intelligence establishments. Rather, it is to say that, even when pushed and prodded, we can hope the political branches will do the right thing (and they sometimes will) but we can never count on it.

Ending Guantánamo — not just prison, but the system — will depend ultimately on you, law students, and future members of the legal profession. It will depend on your ability to defend the Constitution, and to insist that American justice is not simply an ideal but a reality. It will depend on whatever capacity you practice, whether the public or private sector.

As lawyers, litigation will always be one of the most important tools in your tool box. Litigation is important for number of reasons but, above all, because of the possibility of challenging illegal government action in court. Thus far, the judiciary has been the one branch that has stood up in the face of Guantánamo, pushing back against government overreaching, intransigence, and secrecy. But achieving results in court is only possible through vigorous advocacy, particularly true in national security context.

For seven years, the Bush administration fought to prevent any Guantánamo detainee from getting a fair hearing: first, by claiming that the detainees had no right to habeas corpus; then, after the Supreme Court rejected that argument in Rasul, by enlisting Congress’s aid through the passage of court-stripping legislation. Finally, in June 2008, the Supreme Court ruled in Boumediene that detainees had a constitutional right to habeas corpus and ordered that they be provided what they had so far been denied — a fair hearing.

Since then hearings have started to go forward, slowly but surely in federal district court in Washington, D.C. The results have exploded forever the lie, perpetuated by Bush administration officials, that all the detainees there represent “the worst of the worst.” The habeas process that is now unfolding in Washington speaks volumes about the capacity of our system for injustice, on the one hand, and the importance of courts and dedicated advocacy to combat it, on the other.

In 30 of 38 decisions so far, judges have ruled that the detentions are illegal –that there is no basis to hold the prisoners as “enemy combatants.” The power of this statistic lies not simply in numerical significance — although that number itself is astounding if one contrasts it to the high success rate of US attorneys in obtaining convictions in criminal prosecutions (especially given the higher burden of proof and more rigorous evidentiary rules in criminal cases). The power lies also in the content of those decisions, and in what the judges are saying about the way in which the US government has imprisoned so many for so long on such scant evidence.

Take Judge Ellen Huvelle in Mohammed Jawad’s case, before ordering Jawad’s release from illegal detention: “[S]even years and your case is riddled with holes,” she said to DOJ lawyers after suppressing the government’s evidence as the product of torture and denying yet another government request for delay. “This case is an outrage.”

Or the comments of Judge Coleen Kollar-Kotelly, in ordering the release of Kuwaiti detainee Fouad Mamoud al-Rabiah after years of seven years of illegal imprisonment: “The Court is unwilling to credit confessions that the Government cannot even defend as believable.” Drilling down on the facts, Kollar-Kotelly found that al-Rabiah’s “confessions” were the result of harsh interrogation techniques, including warnings that al-Rabiah could never return to Kuwait if he did not confess, and that “no one leaves Guantánamo innocent.”

Or the comments of Judge Richard Leon, who years before had said that Guantánamo detainees did not even have the right to come to court, but who has since been bewildered by just how thin the government’s evidence actually is. Writing in a case in which the government had continued to defend the detention of a prisoner, Abdulrahim Abdul Razak Janko [aka al-Ginco], even though Janko had been tortured by al Qaeda and imprisoned by the Taliban for 18 months as a spy, Leon remarked to the government: Your position “defies common sense.”

Yet, at Guantánamo, justice is always an uphill struggle and even when you win you can lose. Many of those 30 who have won their hearings still remain at the prison because they cannot be returned home and the US insists on imprisoning them year after year rather than bringing them to this country until resettlement to a third country can be arranged. Unless the right to habeas corpus includes the right to be released from illegal detention, it becomes a dead letter.

I would like to end though on a positive note, by mentioning one possible silver lining in the black cloud of Guantánamo.

Guantánamo was predicated on the notion that the president could create a category of persons and spaces outside the law: that he could bring individuals to an off-shore island and deny them legal protections simply because those individuals were not American citizens and the territory was not formally part of the United States (even if, like Guantánamo, it was under America’s long-time, total and exclusive jurisdiction and control).

Ultimately, the Supreme Court rejected that argument. Critically, it did not simply reject the argument at Guantánamo but said that fundamental constitutional rights such as habeas corpus could extend anywhere the United States imprisoned someone. “The test for determining the scope of [the Constitution’s Suspension Clause],” Justice Kennedy said in the decision’s most important passage, “must not be subject to manipulation by those whose power it is designed to restrain.”

Intended to limit the Constitution, Guantánamo has triggered its possible reconceptualization and expansion. It had breathed new life into the idea of a transnational Constitution, capable of reaching arbitrary detentions, torture, and other illegal government action regardless of where it occurs. Premised on the idea that non-citizens lack even basic constitutional rights, Guantánamo has reinforced the proposition that habeas corpus — and a meaningful opportunity to challenge one’s imprisonment — is a right of all individuals, not just American citizens, thus bringing the US Constitution closer to the spirit and letter of human rights norms. Designed to exploit international law by selectively invoking the law of war, Guantánamo has underscored its importance as well as the hazards of ignoring America’s obligations under the Geneva Conventions.

Whether America will ultimately learn from its mistakes and make something positive out of the legal, moral, and human catastrophe of Guantánamo remains to be seen. But, one thing is for certain: for this is to happen — for America to fight terrorism while remaining true to its Constitution and its values — it will depend on the work of future lawyers to make the ideals of justice and human rights a reality.

Andy Worthington is the author of The Guantánamo Files: The Stories of the 774 Detainees in America’s Illegal Prison (published by Pluto Press, distributed by Macmillan in the US, and available from Amazon — click on the following for the US and the UK). To receive new articles in your inbox, please subscribe to my RSS feed (and I can also be found on Facebook and Twitter). Also see my definitive Guantánamo prisoner list, published in March 2009, details about my film, “Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo” (co-directed with Polly Nash, and launched in October 2009), and, if you appreciate my work, feel free to make a donation.

Nick Griffin on Question Time: Did the fascist look foolish?

Nick Griffin of the BNP on the BBC's Question Time, October 22, 2009So did he look foolish, or did he get an easy ride? I think he often looked and sounded like an idiotic contrarian, which he obviously is, as anything resembling logic eludes the BNP consistently, and, despite being extraordinarily evasive, valid points were made — either in his own words, or through the intervention of others — about his Islamophobia, Holocaust denial and fraternization with the Ku Klux Klan.

However, I have to say that what disturbed me most about the show was that, in the second half, when most of the discussions were about immigration, the gap between Griffin, mainstream politicians, and audience members of different ethnic backgrounds narrowed considerably, as Jack Straw came under attack from all sides, and it suddenly became easy to understand how the BNP is able to play on immigration fears. Because they’re mainstream and everywhere!

Not a peep about our obligations to accept refugees, just a steady stream of complaints about unfettered immigration, the government losing people in the system, and, most disturbingly, a desire to be able to “send people back” more easily — to where, exactly? Countries where they may well be killed, tortured, or subjected to arbitrary imprisonment. These were the dreaded “asylum seekers” that those seeking “immigration targets” were talking about, but the UN Convention Against Torture didn’t get a look in, and no one seemed to care how narrow was the ideological gap between those advocating the wholesale repatriation of failed asylum seekers and the BNP’s policy of enforced repatriation for everyone who cannot produce an Anglo-Saxon ID card.

We need a grown-up discussion about immigration, to bring our responsibility to accept refugees back into the equation, to focus on how a “Fortress Europe” or “Fortress Britain” mentality openly supports xenophobia and racism, and to be honest enough to campaign for an “ethical foreign policy” — one that seeks, sincerely, to address the problems in other countries that oblige people to flee for their lives, or to travel to other countries in the hope of finding work. This needs addressing because it is often the result of our seemingly insatiable desire to exploit the economies of countries in the developing world, and, in some cases — hello, Colonel Gaddafi, go to the head of the queue! — of our willingness to tolerate the kind of entrenched human rights abuses that create asylum seekers in exchange for resources that drive us frantic with greed; in Libya’s case, oil.

On last night’s showing, the chances of having this kind of discussion are remote, and the xenophobia and racism embraced by the BNP reflects, in many ways, the steady slide towards racism that has not been substantially challenged in the UK since the late 70s and early 80s (when prevailing attitudes towards racism, feminism and gay rights were openly and widely challenged), and the intolerance of immigrants that has been particularly noticeable in the last decade.

Note: See this article for information about the UK’s obligations towards refugees, and the impact of the Human Rights Act, and this paper (PDF) from the University of Oxford’s Refugee Studies Centre for an analysis of refugees and their human rights.

Andy Worthington is the author of The Guantánamo Files: The Stories of the 774 Detainees in America’s Illegal Prison (published by Pluto Press, distributed by Macmillan in the US, and available from Amazon — click on the following for the US and the UK). To receive new articles in your inbox, please subscribe to my RSS feed (and I can also be found on Facebook and Twitter). Also see my definitive Guantánamo prisoner list, published in March 2009, details about my film, “Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo” (co-directed by Polly Nash, and launched in October 2009), and, if you appreciate my work, feel free to make a donation.

Musicians (Finally) Say No To Music Torture

Well, that took a while. Nearly a year after George W. Bush’s Republican party was voted out of office, and at least five years after reports first surfaced that music was being used in “War on Terror” facilities in Iraq, Afghanistan and Guantánamo as part of a package of “enhanced interrogation techniques,” — which, in any world other than the reality-defying one inhabited by Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld, would have been defined as torture — several noted musicians have spoken out to condemn the practice.

As was reported widely yesterday, REM, Pearl Jam, Trent Reznor, Tom Morello, and other artists including Jackson Browne, Billy Bragg, Michelle Branch, T-Bone Burnett, David Byrne, Rosanne Cash, Marc Cohn, Steve Earle, the Entrance Band, Joe Henry, Bonnie Raitt, Rise Against, and The Roots launched a formal protest against the use of music as torture.

In a statement, Tom Morello said, “Guantánamo is known around the world as one of the places where human beings have been tortured — from water boarding, to stripping, hooding and forcing detainees into humiliating sexual acts — playing music for 72 hours in a row at volumes just below that to shatter the eardrums. Guantánamo may be Dick Cheney’s idea of America, but it’s not mine. The fact that music I helped create was used as a tactic against humanity sickens me — we need to end torture and close Guantánamo now.”

REM added, “We signed onto the campaign in complete support of President Obama and the military leaders who have called for an end to torture and to close Guantánamo. As long as Guantánamo stays open, America’s legacy around the world will continue to be the torture that went on there. We have spent the past 30 years supporting causes related to peace and justice — to now learn that some of our friends’ music may have been used as part of the torture tactics without their consent or knowledge, is horrific. It’s anti-American, period.”

In a phone call, Rosanne Cash told the Washington Post, “I think every musician should be involved. It seems so obvious. Music should never be used as torture.” Cash said she reacted with “absolute disgust” when she heard about it, adding, “It’s beyond the pale. It’s hard to even think about.”

The protest was timed to coincide with a Freedom of Information Act request filed by the National Security Archive, an independent research institute in Washington D.C., which is seeking the declassification of all records related to the use of music in interrogation practices. It also coincided with a recent call by veterans and retired Army generals to shut Guantánamo, and TV and radio ads, which were launched this week by the National Campaign to Close Guantánamo, led by Tom Andrews, a former congressman from Maine.

Nevertheless, with the exception of Tom Morello (of Rage Against The Machine), whose music was used for torture, and who has been complaining about it since 2004, and Trent Reznor (Nine Inch Nails), whose music was also used, and who expressed his outrage last year when he first heard about it, few musicians have taken the issue on board before now.

Last July, when David Gray spoke out about his disgust that his music was used for torture, and the British-based legal charity Reprieve began campaigning about it, there was little interest. Christopher Cerf, who wrote the music for Sesame Street, (a music torture favorite) complained, but last December, when I wrote a detailed article about it, “A History of Music Torture in the ‘War on Terror,’” I surveyed a generally indifferent industry, in which some of those whose music had been used were indifferent (Bob Singleton, for example, who wrote the theme tune to Barney the Purple Dinosaur, another music torture favorite), others (Metallica) were ambivalent, and others (Drowning Pool, for example) were positively gleeful about it.

From many others (including AC/DC, Aerosmith, Christina Aguilera, the Bee Gees, Neil Diamond, Don McLean, James Taylor, Limp Bizkit, Marilyn Manson, Meatloaf, Pink, Prince, Queen, the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Britney Spears and Bruce Springsteen) there came nothing but an inappropriate silence, and even Eminem, whose anti-Bush credentials were clear from his songs “Mosh” and “White America,” remained quiet, even though, as the British torture victim Binyam Mohamed explained about his time in the CIA’s “Dark Prison” in Kabul in early 2004:

It was pitch black, and no lights on in the rooms for most of the time … They hung me up for two days. My legs had swollen. My wrists and hands had gone numb … There was loud music, Slim Shady and Dr. Dre for 20 days. I heard this non-stop over and over, I memorized the music, all of it, when they changed the sounds to horrible ghost laughter and Halloween sounds.  It got really spooky in this black hole … Interrogation was right from the start, and went on until the day I left there. The CIA worked on people, including me, day and night. Plenty lost their minds. I could hear people knocking their heads against the walls and the doors, screaming their heads off … Throughout my time I had all kinds of music, and irritating sounds, mentally disturbing. I call it brainwashing.

Don’t get me wrong: it’s good that so many diverse groups and individuals are now making their voices heard, as part of a push to close Guantánamo as soon as possible (and to try to hold President Obama to his promise to close the prison by January 22, 2010), but it would have had more impact before last November, when the torturers were still in the White House.

Andy Worthington is the author of The Guantánamo Files: The Stories of the 774 Detainees in America’s Illegal Prison (published by Pluto Press, distributed by Macmillan in the US, and available from Amazon — click on the following for the US and the UK). To receive new articles in your inbox, please subscribe to my RSS feed (and I can also be found on Facebook and Twitter). Also see my definitive Guantánamo prisoner list, published in March 2009, details about my film, “Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo” (co-directed by Polly Nash, and launched in October 2009), and, if you appreciate my work, feel free to make a donation.

Cross-posted on Common Dreams, The Public Record and uruknet.

For a sequence of articles dealing with the use of torture by the CIA, on “high-value detainees,” and in the secret prisons, see: Guantánamo’s tangled web: Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, Majid Khan, dubious US convictions, and a dying man (July 2007), Jane Mayer on the CIA’s “black sites,” condemnation by the Red Cross, and Guantánamo’s “high-value” detainees (including Khalid Sheikh Mohammed) (August 2007), Waterboarding: two questions for Michael Hayden about three “high-value” detainees now in Guantánamo (February 2008), Six in Guantánamo Charged with 9/11 Murders: Why Now? And What About the Torture? (February 2008), The Insignificance and Insanity of Abu Zubaydah: Ex-Guantánamo Prisoner Confirms FBI’s Doubts (April 2008), Guantánamo Trials: Another Torture Victim Charged (Abdul Rahim al-Nashiri, July 2008), Secret Prison on Diego Garcia Confirmed: Six “High-Value” Guantánamo Prisoners Held, Plus “Ghost Prisoner” Mustafa Setmariam Nasar (August 2008), Will the Bush administration be held accountable for war crimes? (December 2008), The Ten Lies of Dick Cheney (Part One) and The Ten Lies of Dick Cheney (Part Two) (December 2008), Prosecuting the Bush Administration’s Torturers (March 2009), Abu Zubaydah: The Futility Of Torture and A Trail of Broken Lives (March 2009), Ten Terrible Truths About The CIA Torture Memos (Part One), Ten Terrible Truths About The CIA Torture Memos (Part Two), 9/11 Commission Director Philip Zelikow Condemns Bush Torture Program, Who Authorized The Torture of Abu Zubaydah?, CIA Torture Began In Afghanistan 8 Months before DoJ Approval, Even In Cheney’s Bleak World, The Al-Qaeda-Iraq Torture Story Is A New Low (all April 2009), Ibn al-Shaykh al-Libi Has Died In A Libyan Prison , Dick Cheney And The Death Of Ibn al-Shaykh al-Libi, The “Suicide” Of Ibn al-Shaykh al-Libi: Why The Media Silence?, Two Experts Cast Doubt On Ibn al-Shaykh al-Libi’s “Suicide”, Lawrence Wilkerson Nails Cheney On Use Of Torture To Invade Iraq, In the Guardian: Death in Libya, betrayal by the West (in the Guardian here), Lawrence Wilkerson Nails Cheney’s Iraq Lies Again (And Rumsfeld And The CIA) (all May 2009) and WORLD EXCLUSIVE: New Revelations About The Torture Of Ibn al-Shaykh al-Libi (June 2009). Also see the extensive archive of articles about the Military Commissions.

For other stories discussing the use of torture in secret prisons, see: An unreported story from Guantánamo: the tale of Sanad al-Kazimi (August 2007), Rendered to Egypt for torture, Mohammed Saad Iqbal Madni is released from Guantánamo (September 2008), A History of Music Torture in the “War on Terror” (December 2008), Seven Years of Torture: Binyam Mohamed Tells His Story (March 2009), and also see the extensive Binyam Mohamed archive. And for other stories discussing torture at Guantánamo and/or in “conventional” US prisons in Afghanistan, see: The testimony of Guantánamo detainee Omar Deghayes: includes allegations of previously unreported murders in the US prison at Bagram airbase (August 2007), Guantánamo Transcripts: “Ghost” Prisoners Speak After Five And A Half Years, And “9/11 hijacker” Recants His Tortured Confession (September 2007), The Trials of Omar Khadr, Guantánamo’s “child soldier” (November 2007), Former US interrogator Damien Corsetti recalls the torture of prisoners in Bagram and Abu Ghraib (December 2007), Guantánamo’s shambolic trials (February 2008), Torture allegations dog Guantánamo trials (March 2008), Sami al-Haj: the banned torture pictures of a journalist in Guantánamo (April 2008), Former Guantánamo Prosecutor Condemns “Chaotic” Trials in Case of Teenage Torture Victim (Lt. Col. Darrel Vandeveld on Mohamed Jawad, January 2009), Judge Orders Release of Guantánamo’s Forgotten Child (Mohammed El-Gharani, January 2009), Bush Era Ends With Guantánamo Trial Chief’s Torture Confession (Susan Crawford on Mohammed al-Qahtani, January 2009), Forgotten in Guantánamo: British Resident Shaker Aamer (March 2009), A Child At Guantánamo: The Unending Torment of Mohamed Jawad (June 2009) and the extensive archive of articles about the Military Commissions.

Photos from the launch of “Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo”

Poster for "Outside the Law: Stories from Guantanamo"Yesterday’s launch of “Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo” at the Cochrane Theatre in London was a great success. The documentary was extremely well received, with numerous members of the audience explaining afterwards that it spelled out “man’s inhumanity to man” in the context of the “War on Terror” with clarity and eloquence.

Amongst the comments I’ve received today is an email thanking me for an “excellent event” and an “important film” that was “very informative and very moving,” and another stating:

The film was brilliantly powerful — both understated and shocking. All night I have had the images in my head and thoughts of these men who, even when released, can’t contact their families. I hate to admit I had no idea about extraordinary rendition — you have lifted the lid on a world that far too many people, like myself, find too easy to avoid.

And the following:

I have just returned from a rather extraordinary evening. I attended the film premiere of Andy Worthington and Polly Nash’s film “Outside the Law” — a feature length documentary about Guantánamo. I urge you all to see it. Please do and then when you have seen it pass it on to your friends and family. I have not seen anything at all that compares to understanding the magnitude of what has been happening in Guantánamo and Bagram. After seeing this film and then staying for the Q&A, which featured the film makers, as well as former detainees Omar Deghayes and Moazzam Begg, I was moved, inspired and angered beyond any other event I have been to. People left the venue with changed opinions, far better informed and shocked. Once again please do try and get to a screening.

There’s also this from a detailed review at The Osterley Times blog:

The film was intense and powerful, mostly because it did not attempt in any way to emotionalise the story it was laying out before us. [Andy] Worthington, Clive Stafford Smith and others simply told the story of how the US abandoned habeas corpus and found itself in a kind of war with its own legal system, whilst [Moazzam] Begg and [Omar] Deghayes told the tale of what it was like to be on the receiving end of this historic aberration of justice.

I’m delighted to reproduce below some photos of the directors, Polly Nash and Andy Worthington, and other photos of the Q&A session that followed the film, in which the directors were joined by former Guantánamo prisoners Moazzam Begg and Omar Deghayes for a very lively and thought-provoking session. The photos were taken by Richard Wolff, whose website is here, and are reproduced with Richard’s kind permission.

Andy Worthington and Polly Nash

Andy Worthington and Polly Nash, at the launch of “Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo,” London, October 21, 2009.

Polly Nash and Andy Worthington introducing "Outside the Law: Stories from Guantanamo," London, October 21, 2009

Polly Nash and Andy Worthington introducing the film.

Polly Nash, Omar Deghayes, Moazzam Begg and Andy Worthington discussing Guantanamo after the launch of "Outside the Law: Stories from Guantanamo," London, October 21, 2009

Andy Worthington discussing Guantánamo in the Q&A session (with Polly Nash, Omar Deghayes and Moazzam Begg).

Omar Deghayes and Moazzam Begg discussing Guantanamo after the launch of "Outside the Law: Stories from Guantanamo," London, October 21, 2009

Omar Deghayes discussing Guantánamo in the Q&A session (with Moazzam Begg).

Omar Deghayes, Moazzam Begg and Andy Worthington discussing Guantanamo after the launch of "Outside the Law: Stories from Guantanamo," London, October 21, 2009

Andy Worthington discussing Guantánamo in the Q&A session (with Omar Deghayes and Moazzam Begg).

Polly Nash and Omar Deghayes discussing Guantanamo after the launch of "Outside the Law: Stories from Guantanamo," London, October 21, 2009

Polly Nash discussing Guantánamo in the Q&A session (with Omar Deghayes).

About the film

“Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo” is a new documentary film, directed by Polly Nash and Andy Worthington (and inspired by Andy’s book, The Guantánamo Files). The film tells the story of Guantánamo (and includes sections on extraordinary rendition and secret prisons) with a particular focus on how the Bush administration turned its back on domestic and international laws, how prisoners were rounded up in Afghanistan and Pakistan without adequate screening (and often for bounty payments), and why some of these men may have been in Afghanistan or Pakistan for reasons unconnected with militancy or terrorism (as missionaries or humanitarian aid workers, for example).

The film is based around interviews with former prisoners (Moazzam Begg and, in his first major interview, Omar Deghayes, who was released in December 2007), lawyers for the prisoners (Clive Stafford Smith in the UK and Tom Wilner in the US), and journalist and author Andy Worthington, and also includes appearances from Guantánamo’s former Muslim chaplain James Yee, Shakeel Begg, a London-based Imam, and the British human rights lawyer Gareth Peirce.

Focusing on the stories of three particular prisoners — Shaker Aamer (who is still held), Binyam Mohamed (who was released in February 2009) and Omar Deghayes — “Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo” provides a powerful rebuke to those who believe that Guantánamo holds “the worst of the worst” and that the Bush administration was justified in responding to the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 by holding men neither as prisoners of war, protected by the Geneva Conventions, nor as criminal suspects with habeas corpus rights, but as “illegal enemy combatants” with no rights whatsoever.

For further information, interviews, or to inquire about broadcasting, distributing or showing “Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo,” please contact Andy Worthington or Polly Nash.

“Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo” is a Spectacle Production (74 minutes, 2009).

About the directors and the production company

Andy Worthington is a journalist, and the author of three books, including The Guantánamo Files: The Stories of the 774 Detainees in America’s Illegal Prison (Pluto Press). Visit his website here.

Polly Nash is a lecturer at the London College Of Communication (LCC), part of the University of the Arts, London, and has worked in film and TV for 20 years. Core funding for the film was provided by LCC.

Spectacle is an independent television production company specializing in documentary, community-led investigative journalism and participatory media. Spectacle programs have been broadcast across Europe, Australia and Canada and have won international awards. Visit their website here.

For excerpts and extras, follow the links on the Spectacle website. A short trailer is available here. I’m also maintaining a main page for the film here, which will be updated regularly.

Andy’s book The Guantánamo Files: The Stories of the 774 Detainees in America’s Illegal Prison is published by Pluto Press, distributed by Macmillan in the US, and available from Amazon — click on the following for the US and the UK. To receive new articles in your inbox, please subscribe to my RSS feed (and I can also be found on Facebook and Twitter). Also see my definitive Guantánamo prisoner list, published in March 2009, and if you appreciate my work, feel free to make a donation.

Back to home page

Andy Worthington

Investigative journalist, author, campaigner, commentator and public speaker. Recognized as an authority on Guantánamo and the “war on terror.” Co-founder, Close Guantánamo, co-director, We Stand With Shaker. Also, singer and songwriter (The Four Fathers) and photographer.
Email Andy Worthington

CD: Love and War

Love and War by The Four Fathers

The Guantánamo Files book cover

The Guantánamo Files

The Battle of the Beanfield book cover

The Battle of the Beanfield

Stonehenge: Celebration & Subversion book cover

Stonehenge: Celebration & Subversion

Outside The Law DVD cover

Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo

RSS

Posts & Comments

World Wide Web Consortium

XHTML & CSS

WordPress

Powered by WordPress

Designed by Josh King-Farlow

Please support Andy Worthington, independent journalist:

Archives

In Touch

Follow me on Facebook

Become a fan on Facebook

Subscribe to me on YouTubeSubscribe to me on YouTube

Andy's Flickr photos

Campaigns

Categories

Tag Cloud

Afghans in Guantanamo Al-Qaeda Andy Worthington British prisoners CIA torture prisons Clive Stafford Smith Close Guantanamo David Cameron Donald Trump Four Fathers Guantanamo Hunger strikes London Military Commission NHS NHS privatisation Periodic Review Boards Photos President Obama Reprieve Shaker Aamer The Four Fathers Torture UK austerity UK protest US courts Video We Stand With Shaker WikiLeaks Yemenis in Guantanamo