On Tuesday February 16, 2010, at 6.30 pm, Amnesty International UK is screening the new Guantánamo documentary film, “Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo,” at the Human Rights Action Centre, 17-25 New Inn Yard, London EC2A 3EA (map and directions here). This is a free event, but those who want to attend need to book online here, on Amnesty’s website.
The screening will be followed by a Q&A session, featuring former Guantánamo prisoner Omar Deghayes (profiled in the Guardian on Friday) and Andy Worthington, journalist, co-director of the film (with Polly Nash), and author of The Guantánamo Files. Other guests are tbc. The Q&A will be chaired by Sara MacNeice, Amnesty’s Campaign Manager for Terrorism, Security and Human Rights.
“Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo” tells the story of the prison by focusing in particular on the stories of three men. One is Omar Deghayes, and another is Binyam Mohamed, who was released in February 2009, but the film has a particular relevance right now because the third man, Shaker Aamer, is still held, despite being cleared for release in 2007, and despite the British government asking for him to be returned to the UK in August 2007.
As the foremost advocate of the prisoners’ rights in Guantánamo, Shaker’s influence upset the US authorities to such an extent that those pressing for his return fear that the US government wants to return him to Saudi Arabia, the country of his birth, where he will not be at liberty to tell his story, and recent revelations indicate that, despite claims that it has been doing all in its power to secure his release, the British government may also share this view.
Last month, it emerged in a court case in the UK that British agents witnessed his abuse while he was held in US custody in Afghanistan, and just last week, for Harper’s Magazine, law professor Scott Horton reported that he was tortured in Guantánamo on the same night, in June 2006, that three other men appear to have been killed by representatives of an unknown US agency, and that a cover-up then took place, which successfully passed the deaths off as suicides.
Please come along to watch the film, and to discuss what steps we can all take to put pressure on the British government to demand the return of Shaker Aamer to the UK, to be reunited with his British wife, and his four children. To get involved now, please visit this Amnesty International action page, to find details of how you can write to David Miliband and Gordon Brown, asking them to demand Shaker’s return.
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 Shaker Aamer, Binyam Mohamed 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.
On January 10, 2010, on the eve of a 12-day fast and vigil outside the White House, calling for the closure of Guantánamo, the film was screened in Washington D.C., and the following day Matt Daloisio of Witness Against Torture sent the following email to Omar, Moazzam and myself:
I am part of a community of folks from the US who attempted to visit the Guantánamo prison in December 2005, and ended up fasting for a number of days outside the gates. We went then, and we continue our work now, because we heard the cries for justice from within the prison walls.
As we gathered tonight as a community, we watched “Outside the Law,” and by the end, we all sat silent, many with tears in our eyes and on our faces. I have so much I’d like to say, but for now I wanted to write a quick note to say how grateful we are that you are out, and that you are speaking out with such profound humanity. I am only sorry what we can do is so little, and that so many remain in the prison.
“Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo” is a Spectacle Production (74 minutes, 2009), and copies of the DVD are now available. As featured on Democracy Now!, ABC News and Truthout. See here for videos of the Q&A session (with Moazzam Begg, Omar Deghayes, Andy Worthington and Polly Nash) that followed the launch of the film in London on October 21, 2009.
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, updated in January 2010, and, if you appreciate my work, feel free to make a donation.
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