Bring Shaker Aamer Home: Parliamentary Screening of “Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo,” London, Tuesday June 21, 2011

7.6.11

“‘Outside the Law’ is a powerful film that has helped ensure that Guantánamo and the men unlawfully held there have not been forgotten.”
Kate Allen, Director, Amnesty International UK

“[T]his is a strong movie examining the imprisonment and subsequent torture of those falsely accused of anti-American conspiracy.”
Joe Burnham, Time Out

“Every American needs to watch this film. Or at least every mouthpiece in the corporate media. They should broadcast this instead of the WWII Holocaust documentaries, which play on rotation on the cable networks.”
Alexa O’Brien, journalist, WL Central

As featured on Democracy Now!, ABC News and Truthout. Buy the DVD here (£10 + £2 postage in the UK, and worldwide) or here if in the US ($10 post free).

On Tuesday June 21, at 6 pm, there will be a special Parliamentary screening of the documentary film, “Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo” (directed by Polly Nash and Andy Worthington), in the Attlee Suite in Portcullis House, opposite the House of Commons on Bridge St, London, SW1A 2LW (Please note that this venue change was announced on June 15, and amended accordingly).

The screening, hosted by the MPs Caroline Lucas (Green, Brighton Pavilion), Jeremy Corbyn (Labour, Islington North) and Peter Bottomley (Conservative, Worthing West), is to raise awareness of the ongoing plight of the remaining 171 prisoners at Guantánamo (who are still, for the most part, held without charge or trial in a prison that remains a monstrous aberration from international norms), and, in particular, to raise awareness amongst MPs of the fact that one of these men still held without charge or trial is the British resident Shaker Aamer.

The screening will be followed by a Q&A session with US attorneys Brent Mickum and Tom Wilner, who are both visiting London for this event, British lawyer Gareth Peirce, former Guantánamo prisoners Omar Deghayes and Moazzam Begg, and Andy Worthington and Polly Nash. It will be chaired by journalist Victoria Brittain.

Brent Mickum represents Shaker Aamer (and also the supposed “high-value detainee” Abu Zubaydah), and Tom Wilner, who is featured in the film, was Counsel of Record to the Guantánamo prisoners in their cases before the US Supreme Court. British readers are no doubt familiar with solicitor Gareth Peirce, who has represented beleaguered minorities in the UK from the Irish in the 1970s and 1980s to the Muslims of today (and who also appears in the film), and Omar Deghayes, Moazzam Begg and journalist, author and Guantánamo expert Andy Worthington (who worked as a media partner for WikiLeaks’ recent release of classified military documents relating to the Guantánamo prisoners) also feature prominently in the film.

As I explained in a recent article:

The last British resident in Guantánamo, with a British wife and four British children who live in Battersea, Shaker Aamer has been held without charge or trial in America’s notorious “War on Terror” prison for over nine years, despite being told that he had been approved for transfer in 2007.

In WikiLeaks’ recent release of classified military documents relating to almost all of the 779 prisoners who have been held at Guantánamo throughout its long history (171 of whom remain), the reasons for Shaker Aamer’s continued detention were revealed as the paranoid sham that they have always been.

Because of his principled stand regarding the prisoners’ rights, and because of his fluency in English, his charisma and his influence, Shaker Aamer has persistently been regarded as a threat by the US authorities, even though most of the supposed evidence against him in his file consists of statements made by some of the most notoriously unreliable witnesses in Guantánamo and the CIA’s network of secret prisons.

As Amnesty International noted in a news release last month, foreign secretary William Hague and the Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg “have both raised Aamer’s plight with members of the US administration in the last six months, and the British government maintains that it is doing all it can to secure his return.”

However, as I also explained:

Britain’s heel-dragging on this issue is both inexplicable and unacceptable, as the British government negotiated a compensation deal for Shaker, as well as 15 former prisoners, last year, which was announced in November, and which cannot, of course, be concluded in Shaker’s case while he remains in Guantánamo.

As I have also pointed out repeatedly, the inquiry into British complicity in torture abroad, which David Cameron announced last July, cannot proceed without Shaker’s presence, not only because he is a prime witness to some of the claims that the inquiry will have to address, but also because a Metropolitan Police inquiry into his claims that he was tortured in US custody in Afghanistan, prior to his transfer to Guantánamo, while British agents were present in the room, cannot, realistically, conclude without him, and, as the PM has acknowledged, the inquiry cannot begin while the Met’s investigations are ongoing.

Despite all this, however, as Amnesty noted, Shaker Aamer’s case “remains unresolved, with no timetable for either a trial or release,” and it is this inaction that we all hope to address on June 21 in Portcullis House.

The screening is free, but it will be on a first come, first served basis, so if you wish to attend, please turn up early. And if you are attending, please note that the Portcullis House entrance is on Victoria Embankment and you should allow plenty of time to clear security.

How you can help

Caroline Lucas, Jeremy Corbyn and Peter Bottomley are this week sending letters to their fellow MPs asking them to attend the screening, but if readers in the UK would like to contact their own MPs independently to ask them to attend the screening, that would be very useful. MPs can be contacted via WriteToThem or via Parliament’s website (also see “Find Your MP“). If you are writing to your MP, you can ask them to RSVP to Cath Miller (for Caroline Lucas), and you can also let me know, so that I can keep tabs on developments. You may also wish to ask your MP to sign up to Caroline Lucas’ Early Day Motion regarding Guantánamo Bay (EDM 1093), which has so far been signed by just 30 MPs. The text of the EDM (which was submitted last November, and which I wrote about here), is as follows:

That this House:

– notes with regret that President Obama’s pledge to close the US Military Detention Centre at Guantánamo Bay by January 2010 is almost one year overdue and little closer to realisation;

– welcomes gestures by other European States to accommodate and receive innocent prisoners who have been cleared for release to help close the facility;

– notes with dismay that on 11 January 2011 the detention facility will have been open for nine years and that British resident Shaker Aamer has now been held there without charge or trial for almost the same length of time;

– urges the Government to step up its action to secure his release without further delay;

– and further notes the case of Ahmed Belbacha, previously resident in the UK and facing the imminent threat of forced return to his native Algeria where there are fears he will face abuse of his human rights;

– applauds the lead taken by countries such as Ireland, France, Spain, Germany and Bulgaria, who have accepted prisoners cleared for release from Guantánamo Bay by the US authorities on humanitarian grounds but who cannot return to their country of origin;

– and urges the Government to take similar measures to accept a number of such cleared prisoners.

The 30 MPs who have signed the EDM are:

Green: Caroline Lucas (Brighton Pavilion)
Conservative: Peter Bottomley (Worthing West)
Labour: Jeremy Corbyn (Islington North), Martin Caton (Gower), John McDonnell (Hayes & Harlington), Marsha Singh (Bradford West), Michael Connarty (Linlithgow & Falkirk East), John Cryer (Leyton & Wanstead), John Robertson (Glasgow North West), Sheila Gilmore (Edinburgh East), Alan Keen (Feltham & Heston), Albert Owen (Ynys Mon), Kerry McCarthy (Bristol East), Frank Doran (Aberdeen North), Barry Gardiner (Brent North)
Liberal Democrat: Mike Hancock (Portsmouth South), John Hemming (Birmingham Yardley), David Ward (Bradford East), Simon Wright (Norwich South), Bob Russell (Colchester), Andrew George (St Ives), John Leech (Manchester Withington), Tom Brake (Carshalton & Wallington), Malcolm Bruce (Gordon, Aberdeen)
Social Democratic and Labour Party: Mark Durkan (Foyle), Alasdair McDonnell (Belfast South)
Plaid Cymru: Jonathan Edwards (Carmarthen East and Dinefwr), Elfyn Llwyd (Meirionnydd Nant Conwy), Hywel Williams (Caernarfon)
Alliance: Naomi Long (Belfast East)

About the film

“Outside the Law” focuses on the stories of three British prisoners — Shaker Aamer (who is still held, and is the subject of an ongoing campaign to secure his return) and Omar Deghayes and Binyam Mohamed (both released). The film looks at how the Bush administration turned its back on domestic and international laws after 9/11, and examines how prisoners were rounded up in Afghanistan and Pakistan without adequate screening, and why some of these men may have been in Afghanistan or Pakistan for reasons unconnected with militancy or terrorism. The film 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 about the film, for interviews, or to inquire about broadcasting, distributing or showing “Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo,” please contact Polly Nash or Andy Worthington, and see a trailer for the film below, via Journeyman Pictures, where, for a small fee, you can watch the film online:

Note: Readers who wish to do more can find a letter here to William Hague (which I wrote in November), and campaigners can order postcards to William Hague and to Shaker in Guantánamo here. And see here for Amnesty International’s campaign page, where readers can write to US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Campaigners can also send postcards to the US State Department, specifically to Daniel Fried, President Obama’s Special Envoy on Guantánamo.

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, Twitter, Digg and YouTube). Also see my definitive Guantánamo prisoner list, updated in June 2011, details about the new documentary film, “Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo” (co-directed by Polly Nash and Andy Worthington, on tour in the UK throughout 2011, and available on DVD here — or here for the US), my definitive Guantánamo habeas list and the chronological list of all my articles, and, if you appreciate my work, feel free to make a donation.

27 Responses

  1. Norwegian Shooter says...

    Right on! Congratulations and good luck!

  2. Andy Worthington says...

    Thank you, my friend! Wish you could be here …

  3. Andy Worthington says...

    On Facebook, Colin Maclean wrote:

    Fight The Power!

  4. Andy Worthington says...

    Ann Alexander wrote:

    Hope to attend, Andy.

  5. Andy Worthington says...

    Aaron Ben Acer Quinn wrote:

    will hopefully meet you Andy at the victims of torture rally in London later in the month….

  6. Andy Worthington says...

    Thank you, my friends. Ann, I very much hope that you’ll be able to make it, and Aaron, I look forward to meeting you on the 26th. I’ll be posting details about that soon …

  7. Andy Worthington says...

    Willy Bach wrote:

    Thanks Andy, whatever was the point in Britain’s supine attitude to the US, if it means that they still don’t respect the legal rights of British citizens? Re-posted and I hope they get lots of letters.

  8. Andy Worthington says...

    Haris Sheikh wrote:

    Andy, You should also show this to Canadian Parliament. There is a long silence at Ottawa Hill. No one cares about Canadian Child soldier Omar Khadr in Guantanamo.

  9. Andy Worthington says...

    Thanks, Willy and Haris.
    Willy, I guess the answer is that the British government isn’t all that bothered about getting Shaker back, despite their protestations to the contrary. I see that the judicial inquiry into British complicity in torture abroad has gone very quiet now that the government achieved its primary aim through the financial compensation to the former prisoners — getting them to drop their civil claim for damages, which was producing such alarming information about the complicity of senior government officials (Tony Blair and Jack Straw). It seems to me that David Cameron is happy to drop the inquiry because, if he proceeds, troublemakers like Amnesty, Cageprisoners, Reprieve and others (including me!) will be on his case about why Shaker Aamer isn’t back from Guantanamo. It’s very disturbing, and I hope that the event on the 21st sheds more light on it.
    And Haris, thanks for that suggestion, but I would say that the Canadian government — and all Canadians — need to see “You Don’t Like the Truth: 4 Days Inside Guantánamo,” the excellent documentary about Omar Khadr, based on the videotapes of interrogations by Canadian agents at Guantanamo in 2003:
    http://www.youdontlikethetruth.com/
    It’s showing in London, with my film, “Outside the Law: Stories from Guantanamo,” on Sunday June 19, just two days before the Parliamentary screening:
    http://www.andyworthington.co.uk/2011/06/02/open-city-new-london-film-festival-screening-of-outside-the-law-stories-from-guantanamo-ucl-june-19-2011/

  10. Andy Worthington says...

    Willy Bach wrote:

    Andy, I had thought that the torture inquiry had gone quiet, or was working still, but with the media’s short attention span, we were not hearing. Surely, the newly exposed facts about Ulster, the Mays Prison, Bobby Sands etc and the Kenyan Mau Mau material shows that Britain indeed has supported torture and performed torture in the past and still supports it today. One former British SAS person once explained to me that Britain does not teach how to torture, but rather how to withstand torture when done to you (and if you are SAS-trained that happens). These interrogation techniques were undoubtedly used on Argentinian peasant conscripts during the Falklands War. This tears down all the self-righteous pomposity of Anglo-superiority and opens the way for real changes.

  11. Andy Worthington says...

    Willy Bach wrote:

    For the Canadian film, thanks, yes they have their own ghosts to explain, I had not heard about this important film that is showing around the world in French as well as English, I presume. Winning prizes! Excellent!

  12. Andy Worthington says...

    Great to hear from you, Willy. The latest on the torture inquiry was on May 15, when the Independent, in a story written by Brian Brady entitled, “Torture inquiry will ‘not cover US rendition'”, reported:

    An inquiry into Britain’s involvement in torture during the “war on terror” will not investigate whether UK forces handed over suspects to be transported to other countries for interrogation by the Americans – despite David Cameron’s assurance that it would probe all aspects of the controversy.

    The head of the Detainee Inquiry ordered by Mr Cameron has confirmed that he will not consider the issue of detainees transferred between forces fighting in Iraq and elsewhere, which has been identified by many critics as one of the murkiest elements of the “extraordinary rendition” saga.

    Campaigners last night condemned the decision, which contradicts assurances made by the Prime Minister when he set up the inquiry last year.

    Tory MP Andrew Tyrie, chairman of the all-party group on extraordinary rendition, said: “To hold an inquiry into rendition without fully addressing detainee transfers is only doing half the job. We know that two detainees captured by UK forces, and… handed over to the US were rendered to Bagram in 2004. But we do not know how this was allowed to happen, if other instances have similarly slipped through the net, nor if the procedures in place are sufficient to prevent this from happening in the future.”

    Mr Cameron told MPs last July that the inquiry would be allowed “to look at all… issues”. But, in correspondence seen by The Independent on Sunday, the chairman of the inquiry, Sir Peter Gibson, has now confirmed that “military detention operations should not be one of [its] key themes”.

    The Ministry of Defence (MoD) originally denied that its forces had been complicit in US rendition operations, despite claims from a former SAS soldier, Ben Griffin, that the UK had handed captives over to the US in the knowledge that they would be rendered (ie, transported) or mistreated.

    Two years ago, ministers were forced to admit that two detainees captured by UK forces in Iraq and handed over to the US in 2004 had subsequently been transferred to Bagram. Campaigners had hoped the inquiry would establish whether other cases had slipped through the net – or whether the handovers had taken place on a systematic basis.

    But, in a letter to Mr Tyrie, Sir Peter said: “Allegations relating to military detention operations post-2003… are being covered under separate arrangements by the MoD.”

    Here’s the link: http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/torture-inquiry-will-not-cover-us-rendition-2284400.html

  13. Andy Worthington says...

    And here’s an excerpt from a column in the Independent by former ambassador Craig Murray, published just three days ago:

    In the second of the prime ministerial election debates, Nick Clegg startled his opponents by devoting some opening comments to extraordinary rendition and the use of intelligence obtained under torture. Last year’s annual Liberal Democrat Assembly in Liverpool saw a full conference debate. But the issue is a prime example of a win for the Lib Dems evaporating in delivery. It was announced with great fanfare at the start of the coalition government that there would be an inquiry into the question of UK complicity in torture. But then the establishment clawed the ball back by appointing Sir Peter Gibson, the intelligence services commissioner, who every year in that role has reported that MI6 were “trustworthy, conscientious and reliable”. Now the inquiry will take place mostly in secret, and not until court proceedings relating to individuals who had allegedly suffered torture are over. Worst of all, its terms of reference will be limited strictly to individual cases of torture, rather than whether there was a general policy of collusion with torture by hideous regimes abroad.

    I was the only British civil servant to enter a written objection at the time to UK complicity in torture. I have been warned by senior friends in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office that Gibson’s terms of reference are specifically being tweaked to exclude my evidence. MI6 still receives, via the CIA, “intelligence” from Uzbekistan’s torture chambers. It was receiving “intelligence” from Mubarak’s Egyptian torture chambers until the moment he fell, and still does so from other countries, including Saudi Arabia and Bahrain. An FCO spokesman even used the killing of Osama bin Laden to justify the efficacy of intelligence gained from torture.

    And here’s the link: http://www.independent.co.uk/opinion/commentators/craig-murray-the-biggest-threat-to-clegg-lies-overseas-2293168.html

  14. Andy Worthington says...

    And as for the Omar Khadr film, I’ll shortly be posting a video of a Press TV show I took part in last week, reviewing it.

  15. Andy Worthington says...

    Willy Bach wrote:

    Andy, thanks for filling in some gaps and Craig Murray’s article should be standard reading. I remember your poll of MPs before the last UK election showed that a mere 24% of Labour MPs claimed to be interested in human rights, and a shocking (if that is still possible) 2% or was it 2.5% of Conservatives. We are seeing the fruit of that now. Because Britain is water-boarding mates with some really ghastly regimes in Central Asia and elsewhere you have to get frisked on entering the Lib Dem conference. Well, they are reaping just desserts too.

  16. Andy Worthington says...

    Thanks again, Willy. Yes, I think the last 10 years have demonstrated that when Western countries play dirty with detention and interrogation, they only get more paranoid, and, of course, they further alienate those who are already not fond of their foreign policies. It’s a lose-lose situation we’ve been in, and which we seem unable to extricate ourselves from.
    Glad you recalled that analysis I did of the MPs who care about human rights. Of course, many LibDems have now taken ministerial positions, meaning that they can no longer express opinions about things like human rights, but I was dismayed to discover that only 30 MPs had signed Caroline Lucas’ Early Day Motion about Guantanamo and Shaker Aamer.

  17. Andy Worthington says...

    Willy Bach wrote:

    Britain has previously runs some very expensive rigged inquiries and had to re-do them. Bloody Sunday comes to mind and the Iraq Inquiry will need re-doing at great expense in perhaps 20 years from now when Lord Blair of Isfahan is dead and the most succulent evidence gone with him. This torture inquiry needs to be written about and all its flaws revealed, including the evidence that Craig Murray wanted to submit. Let us know if someone is already working on this. Surely you won’t have time. Yet another opportunity for Britain to become a democracy was casually tossed over the shoulder like a gnawed chicken bone.

  18. Andy Worthington says...

    Willy — “This torture inquiry needs to be written about and all its flaws revealed, including the evidence that Craig Murray wanted to submit. Let us know if someone is already working on this. Surely you won’t have time.” I’m sure I’ll find some time if/when it actually begins, but you’re right. It could certainly do with some thorough analysis. What’s reassuring, at least, is that various NGOs have been examining it closely: http://www.andyworthington.co.uk/2011/02/26/lawyers-and-human-rights-groups-criticize-proposed-uk-torture-inquiry-as-the-government-fails-to-address-the-return-of-shaker-aamer-the-last-british-resident-in-guantanamo/ http://www.andyworthington.co.uk/2011/02/27/ngo-letter-to-chair-of-uk-torture-inquiry-raising-concerns-about-possible-whitewash/

  19. Andy Worthington says...

    Christine Casner ‎wrote:

    Andy Worthington, When will this be in Boston, if ever????

  20. Andy Worthington says...

    When someone can rustle up the cash for a flight, Chris. Any worthy groups in your neighborhood who could raise the funds? I’m a cheap date once I’m there – nothing fancy required: no bling, no riders, no fancy hotels … ha!

  21. Andy Worthington says...

    MaryAnn Thomas wrote:

    Great ! They need to see it. So glad I got to see it. Thank you for all you do Andy !!!!!

  22. Andy Worthington says...

    Thanks, MaryAnn. Great to hear from you. Hope all is well with you.

  23. Andy Worthington says...

    Christine Casner wrote:

    ‎I watched “Outside The Law: Stories From Guantanamo,” this morning!!! (And my hubby watched with me — A MIRACLE!!!!) ♥♥♥

  24. Andy Worthington says...

    Mui J. Steph wrote:

    You got your hubby to watch? That’s great, Chris. I saw a version of Outside the Law. Don’t know if there are updates.

  25. Andy Worthington says...

    That’s great, Chris. I was just showing it myself, this evening, to students in York. And Mui, Polly and I are planning a short film as an extra that will provide some more up to date information.

  26. Andy Worthington says...

    Mui J. Steph wrote:

    That’s great Andy, I’ll be glad to see it.
    As an aside. I saw this link via Moazzam B.
    http://ipsnews.net/news.asp?idnews=56038
    Ninety Percent of Petraeus’s Captured “Taliban” Were Civilians. They claim innocents rounded up are actually released. We’re talking Bagram, so I’m skeptical. IMHO, these number games are the reason Gtmo existed in the first place. It’s disturbing.

  27. Andy Worthington says...

    Time stands still. I wrote a book in 2006, published in 2007, made a film that came out in 2009, but most of what’s under discussion is still relevant, and the damned place is still open. I hope you found the film powerful, Chris. I have to say that, having road-tested it on at least 60 screenings now, in the UK, the US, Poland and Norway, it never fails to hold people’s attention, and always leads to interesting conversations afterwards. How I wish someone somewhere would broadcast it!

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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.
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