“This is a strong movie examining the imprisonment and subsequent torture of those falsely accused of anti-American conspiracy.”
Joe Burnham, Time Out
For over a year now, I have been touring the country, showing the documentary film, “Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo,” which I co-directed with Polly Nash — sometimes with Polly, sometimes with former prisoner Omar Deghayes, and on other occasions with former prisoner Moazzam Begg, and with other guests, including the human rights lawyers Gareth Peirce and Aamer Anwar, and the journalist and playwright Victoria Brittain.
At all of these screenings — over 30 in the UK, to date, and with other screenings in Norway and the US — the speakers have encouraged the audiences to take action for Shaker Aamer, the last British resident in Guantánamo, and one of three men whose stories feature prominently in the film. In the early days, from the launch last October until April this year, we focused on sending letters to David Miliband, and, since May, we have shifted the focus onto the new foreign secretary, and a letter to William Hague can be found here.
Shaker is still held, but in the last few weeks his case has been propelled into the headlines, as the coalition government reached a financial settlement with 15 former Guantánamo prisoners, and also with Shaker, to bring to an end a civil claim for damages filed by a number of these men, which threatened to wash away the last vestiges of credibility still retained by the government and the security services after disturbing revelations in the case of Binyam Mohamed — a British resident subjected to “extraordinary rendition” and torture — emerged in the Court of Appeal in February.
In summer, the first of 500,000 classified documents were released by the court in connection with the civil claim, revealing shocking information about the involvement of Jack Straw and Tony Blair in actively depriving prisoners of their rights, and terrifying the government into making the financial settlement. Tacitly, of course, the settlement also serves as an admission of guilt on the part of the government and the security services, but although it provides some sort of closure for the 15 released prisoners, it still leaves Shaker in limbo.
Shaker needs to be returned immediately to agree his part of the settlement, and also so that an ongoing Metropolitan Police investigation into his claims that British agents were present when he was tortured in US custody in Afghanistan can be concluded. Without this, as David Cameron has conceded, the government’s alternative to the civil claim — a judicial inquiry into British complicity in torture, headed by Sir Peter Gibson — cannot even begin.
As a result, the only convincing explanation for why Shaker is not already back in the UK is that neither the US nor the UK governments can let go of their entrenched position, established over many years, in which Shaker’s release is something to be put off for as long as possible, because, as the foremost defender of the prisoners’ rights, involved in regular negotiations with the authorities and — it seems — subjected to horrendous abuse on the night that three other men died at Guantánamo in June 2006, his release will subject both governments to further scrutiny of their crimes.
With this intense scrutiny of Shaker’s case, there has never been a better time for concerned members of the public, fed up with the lies and prevarications on both sides of the Atlantic, to put pressure on the British government — and the Americans — to secure Shaker’s immediate return to the UK. As mentioned above, a draft letter to foreign secretary William Hague is here, and readers can also send a letter to their MPs asking them to raise Shaker Aamer’s case with William Hague. A draft letter is here. Readers can also send a postcard to Daniel Fried, President Obama’s Special Envoy on Guantánamo, asking for Shaker Aamer’s release (although I would cut the section mentioning that the US government can, if it wishes, “charge him promptly and give him a fair trial”).
The three free screenings in London next week are listed below:
Thursday December 9, 6 pm: Film screening — “Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo.” Followed by Q&A.
UCL, Lecture Theatre LG04, 26 Bedford Way, London, WC1H 0AP.
With Andy Worthington and Polly Nash.
For Human Rights Day, UCL Human Rights Society has organized this screening at short notice. See the Facebook page, and the website here, Also see here for a map, and for further information please email Rachel Eve Ginter.
Friday December 10, 7 pm: Film screening – ”Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo.” Followed by Q&A.
Roehampton University, Duchene Lecture Theatre 001, Roehampton Lane, London, SW15 5PU.
With Omar Deghayes, Andy Worthington and Polly Nash.
This screening is part of the Roehampton Human Rights Film Festival, organized by the Human Rights Society, and is taking place on the 60th anniversary of Human Rights Day, which began on the second anniversary of the creation of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948. Sadly, the human rights course at Roehampton faces the axe as a result of the Tory-led coalition government’s unprecedented assault on funding for arts and humanities subjects. Please sign the petition here opposing the closure of the course.
For further information, please contact Marina Manners.
Saturday December 11, 4.30 pm: Film screening – ”Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo.” Followed by Q&A.
Battersea Arts Centre, Lavender Hill, London, SW11 5TN.
With Omar Deghayes, Andy Worthington and Polly Nash.
This screening is part of “A Day for Shaker Aamer,” organized by the Save Shaker Aamer Campaign in his home borough of Wandsworth. The day begins at 12 noon, with a demonstration at Ponton Road, Nine Elms, London SW8, the site of the new US embassy. At 12.30 those gathered will march to Battersea Arts Centre for a public meeting, beginning at 2 pm, with speakers including Ken Livingstone, Moazzam Begg, Victoria Brittain, Jeremy Corbyn, Lindsey German, Kate Hudson, Gareth Peirce and Yvonne Ridley. Throughout the day, there will also be stalls and displays in the Great Hall.
For further information or to book a stall, please phone the SSAC on 07756 493877 or email. Also see the Facebook page here, and see here for the BAC website.
There is also a scrreening in Sheffield on Wednesday December 15. See here for details. Dates for 2011 will be announced soon.
Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo” is directed by Polly Nash and Andy Worthington, and tells the story of Guantánamo (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” is essential viewing for anyone interested in Guantánamo and other prisons. The film explores what happens when a nation with a reputation for morality and justice acts out of impulse and fear. To my mind, Andy Worthington is a quintessential force for all things related to the journalism of GTMO and its inhabitants. As a military lawyer for Fayiz al-Kandari, I am constantly reminded that GTMO is ongoing and that people still have an opportunity to make history today by becoming involved. “Outside the Law” is a fantastic entry point into the arena that is GTMO.”
Lt. Col. Barry Wingard, attorney for Guantánamo prisoner Fayiz al-Kandari
“I thought the film was absolutely brilliant and the most powerful, moving and hard-hitting piece I have seen at the cinema. I admire and congratulate you for your vital work, pioneering the truth and demanding that people sit up and take notice of the outrageous human rights injustices perpetrated against detainees at Guantánamo and other prisons.”
Harriet Wong, Medical Foundation for Care of Victims of Torture
“[T]hought-provoking, harrowing, emotional to watch, touching and politically powerful.”
“Last Saturday I went to see Polly Nash and Andy Worthington’s harrowing documentary, “Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo” at London’s BFI. The film knits together narratives so heart-wrenching I half wish I had not heard them. Yet the camaraderie between the detainees and occasional humorous anecdotes … provide a glimpse into the wit, courage and normalcy of the men we are encouraged to perceive as monsters.”
Sarah Gillespie, singer/songwriter
“The film was great — not because I was in it, but because it told the legal and human story of Guantánamo more clearly than anything I have seen.”
Tom Wilner, US attorney who represented the Guantánamo prisoners before the US Supreme Court
“The film was fantastic! It has the unique ability of humanizing those who were detained at Guantánamo like no other I have seen.”
Sari Gelzer, Truthout
“Engaging and moving, and personal. The first [film] to really take you through the lives of the men from their own eyes.”
Debra Sweet, The World Can’t Wait
“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.”
Matt Daloisio, Witness Against Torture
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) and of two other books: Stonehenge: Celebration and Subversion and The Battle of the Beanfield. 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 July 2010, details about the new documentary film, “Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo” (co-directed by Polly Nash and Andy Worthington, currently on tour in the UK, and available on DVD here), and my definitive Guantánamo habeas list, and, if you appreciate my work, feel free to make a donation.
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