On October 21, at the launch of the new documentary film, “Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo” (directed by Polly Nash and Andy Worthington) at the Cochrane Theatre in London, Spectacle, the production company, filmed the Q&A session following the screening, in which Moazzam Begg, Omar Deghayes, Andy Worthington and Polly Nash took questions from the large and well-informed audience. The Q&A session, which lasted for about an hour, is available via YouTube in nine parts, which are available below.
In the first part, following introductions, Moazzam talked about the difficulties facing prisoners released from Guantánamo, and Omar talked about the most vulnerable prisoners in Guantánamo: those from countries, including Libya, who cannot be repatriated because of fears that they will be tortured on their return. Omar also spoke about the aims of the Guantánamo Justice Centre, launched in August, which hopes to provide support and legal assistance for released prisoners around the world.
In the second part, following a question about Shaker Aamer (one of three prisoners on whom the film focuses, along with Binyam Mohamed and Omar) and the role of the British government in attempting to secure his release, Moazzam spoke about the enormously significant role that Shaker played in advocating for the prisoners’ rights in Guantánamo, and how it may be that he is still held because he knows too much about the dark secrets of the prison’s long history, and Andy reprised the discussions about prisoners who cannot be repatriated, and the role that European countries can play in providing new homes for them, including the UK, which has turned its back on Ahmed Belbacha, an Algerian who lived here for several years. Omar also spoke about Shaker, reinforcing the notion that he has the most extraordinary recollections about events in Guantánamo.
In the third part, Polly responded to a question about the future of the film, encouraging people to organize their own screenings, and Moazzam very kindly plugged The Guantánamo Files: The Stories of the 774 Detainees in America’s Illegal Prison, the book on which the film was based.
In the fourth part, in response to a question about the future of the remaining Guantánamo prisoners, Andy discussed the obstructive nature of America’s lawmakers who, just before the launch, had threatened to pass a law preventing any prisoner from being transferred to the US mainland, even to face a trial. At the time of the launch, the administration had secured the right to bring prisoners to the mainland to face trials, but had no explanation about what was going to happen to the rest of the men still held. Andy also explained the pernicious longevity of the Bush administration’s claim that Guantánamo held “the worst of the worst,” despite the fact that they were mostly rounded up randomly, and stressed how, in the prisoners’ habeas corpus petitions, US judges have dismissed the government’s allegations in 80 percent of the cases, and Omar spoke about how prisoners were being pressed to accept plea bargains in order to secure their release, and also mentioned the horrors of Bagram, Guantánamo’s “evil twin,” telling the audience how his brother-in-law had recently ended up in Bagram, after being seized while visiting family members in Afghanistan, and how, on Obama’s watch, he had been subjected to brutal treatment in US custody. Andy also spoke about the situation at Bagram now, and how it still violates the Geneva Conventions, and Moazzam mentioned how his time at Bagram was so bleak that he looked forward to being transferred to Guantánamo.
In the fifth part, following a question about how Moazzam and Omar had survived their long years in US custody, Moazzam explained how his faith had enabled him to survive, and also how his faith in people — his fellow prisoners, the lawyers, and, in some cases, American soldiers — had also contributed enormously.
In the sixth part, following a question about the use of secret evidence in terror-related cases in the UK, and whether evidence extracted in Guantánamo and Afghanistan was used in the UK — Moazzam responded by stating that information from Guantánamo and elsewhere was definitely used by the British intelligence services, and stated his belief that it was definitely part of the reason that the supposed evidence is being discussed behind closed doors, and Omar spoke about how the British resident Jamil El-Banna had been interrogated incessantly about his knowledge of Abu Qatada in the UK, and had been offered rewards if he provided information (whether true or not), and also spoke about Lahsen Ikassrien, a Spanish prisoner who had been pressurized to act as an informer in connection with people in Spain whom he didn’t know.
In the seventh part, in response to a question about losing faith in humanity (based on a statement made by Clive Stafford Smith about prisoners who have been tortured), Moazzam spoke about how a tiny gesture of revulsion at what was happening by a solitary American guard could be enough to revive one’s hope for humanity, and Omar spoke about how suspicion became part of the fabric of Guantánamo, because interrogators lied so persistently, pretending to be lawyers or Red Cross representatives, for example, and also spoke about how important it was to receive letters from supporters.
In the eighth part, in response to a question about the prisoners who died in Guantánamo, Omar described the deaths as murders, spoke once more about Shaker’s knowledge of the deaths, and explained that there were many ways to drive someone to death, and in response to another question about how prisoners would be tried, in Guantánamo and elsewhere, Moazzam stated that it would be extremely difficult to prosecute prisoners who have been tortured, and also lamented the fact that prisoners in Bagram, who have not even been adequately screened according to the requirements of the Geneva Conventions, will never receive trials, because that prison remains deliberately and defiantly outside the law. Moazzam also spoke about how Bagram was a major contributing factor to losing the battle for hearts and minds in Afghanistan, which Andy reinforced with an anecdote about an Afghan prisoner in Guantánamo.
In the ninth part, in response to a question about other torture victims around the world, who are being overlooked as the world focuses on the crimes of the US administration, Moazzam spoke about how he had indeed heard stories from people tortured by other regimes which made his own experiences pale in comparison, and Andy mentioned how sad it was that an increase in racism and xenophobia in the UK has led to a situation in which few people in Britain care.
About the film
“Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo” is a new documentary film, directed by Polly Nash and Andy Worthington, telling the story of Guantánamo (and including 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.
“Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo” is a Spectacle Production (74 minutes, 2009), and copies of the DVD are now available.
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 the new documentary film, “Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo” (co-directed by Polly Nash and Andy Worthington, and launched in October 2009), and, if you appreciate my work, feel free to make a donation.
[…] Andy Worthington Featured Writer Dandelion Salad http://www.andyworthington.co.uk 1 January 2010 On October 21, at the launch of the new documentary film, “Outside the Law: […]
With grim revulsion I have followed the nine parts of the panel and with deep shame I, as a “Westerner” from Germany, have come to realise, how deeply entangled we all are (take EU-policies! EPAs for one!) in this immoral stranglehold this fucked-up West imposes on the rest of the world, that cannot defend itself against “our” (?) brutalised policies and our willingness, to impose “our” (?) will on the world. China, remembering her own experieces in suffering through the West, is watching us keenly, I bet!
Samuel P. Huntington has summed it up for me better than anyone: “The West conquered the world not because of the supremacy of its ideas, its values or its religion, but because of its supreme willingness in the application of organised violence. Westerners often forget this, Non-Westerners never!”
The manufacture of weaponry must be brought under the control of states and thus, at the very least, not be yielding to a profit margin. This is the single most important contribution toward peace in this world! As long as there is a profit to be made, the search for enemies to combat will continue, and if there aren’t any in sight, we in the West will create them — through our policies!
[…] new Guantanamo documentary, “Outside the Law: Stories from Guantanamo,” former prisoner Omar Deghayes explained how his Pakistani brother-in-law was recently captured on a visit to Afghanistan and ended up in […]
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.
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