Archive for June, 2011

On the 5th Anniversary of the Disputed Guantánamo “Suicides,” Jeff Kaye Defends Scott Horton

Back in January 2010, law professor and Harper’s columnist Scott Horton had a fascinating and alarming article published in Harper’s Magazine (it was online in January, and in the March print edition), entitled, “The Guantánamo ‘Suicides': A Camp Delta Sergeant Blows the Whistle,” a devastating analysis of three supposed suicides at Guantánamo on the night of June 9, 2006. The official report into the deaths had been previously condemned by researchers at the Seton Hall Law School, who had concluded that it contained more holes than verifiable content, but Horton’s exposé ratcheted up the interest, as it drew on the testimony of a number of military personnel who were not only present on the night in question, but were manning the watch towers, which, of course, provide a unique overview of life in Guantánamo and the coming and going of prisoners and military personnel.

I won’t run through the whole article here — and its suggestion that the men were killed, either by accident or design, and probably during torture sessions in “Camp No,” a separate facility outside the main perimeter fence — as I recommend anyone who has not read it to do so (and also to read my own commentary on it, and my follow-up here), but I will say that, having spoken to the lead soldier responsible for questioning the official story, Staff Sgt. Joe Hickman, I was convinced that he had no reason to fabricate a story that could only damage his career, and was particularly impressed by the description of how “he could not forget what he had seen at Guantánamo. When Barack Obama became president, [he] decided to act. ‘I thought that with a new administration and new ideas I could actually come forward,’ he said. ‘It was haunting me.’” And as he told me last year, he felt “physically sick” after holding onto his story for three years. Read the rest of this entry »

Quarterly Fundraiser: An End of Week Appeal for $800 to Support My Work on Guantánamo and Torture

Please support my work!

When certain pundits gaze over the media landscape in the second decade of the 21st century and warn apocalyptically of the demise of newspapers and of serious journalism, they tend to overlook the fact that, ever since formatted blogging first became massively popular around 2005, allowing anyone to write and publish without being a techie, much of journalism’s future has migrated steadily away from the traditional mainstream media and onto the Internet.

Here, and especially in what is sometimes called the progressive blogosphere, anyone seeking detailed information about newsworthy topics can compare and contrast material from countless different sources (both traditional and new media), moving definitively away from a model that demanded allegiance to one particular newspaper, and can also, in general, research topics in greater depth than was available when the traditional media were the gatekeepers of the news. Providing a depth of research and commentary about Guantánamo is something that I have tried to do since I began blogging on a full-time basis four years ago, and along the way I have established an archive of over a thousand articles that keeps the story of Guantánamo alive (as the mainstream media’s interest ebbs and flows), and that also continues to draw in new readers. Read the rest of this entry »

WikiLeaks: The Unknown Prisoners of Guantánamo (Part Four of Five)

Freelance investigative journalist Andy Worthington continues his 70-part, million-word series telling, for the first time, the stories of 776 of the 779 prisoners held at Guantánamo since the prison opened on January 11, 2002. Adding information released by WikiLeaks in April 2011 to the existing documentation about the prisoners, much of which was already covered in Andy’s book The Guantánamo Files and in the archive of articles on his website, the project will be completed in time for the 10th anniversary of the prison’s opening on January 11, 2012.

This is Part 4 of the 70-part series.

One of the great publicity coups in WikiLeaks’ recent release of classified military documents relating to the majority of the 779 prisoners held at Guantánamo, as I explained in the first part of this five-part series, was to shine a light on the stories of the first 201 prisoners to be freed from the prison between its opening, in January 2002, and September 2004, when 35 prisoners were repatriated to Pakistan, and 11 were repatriated to Afghanistan.

A handful of these 46 prisoners were cleared for release as a result of the Combatant Status Review Tribunals, a one-sided process, which ran from August 2004 to March 2005 and was designed to rubber-stamp the prisoners’ prior designation as “enemy combatants,” who could continue to be held indefinitely. Information about the 558 prisoners who passed through the CSRT process (PDF) was first made publicly available in 2006, but no records have ever been publicly released by the US government which provide any information whatsoever about the 201 released, or approved for release before the CSRTs began, except for a prisoner list released in May 2006 (PDF), which contains the names, nationalities, and, where known, dates of birth and places of birth for 759 prisoners (all but the 20 who arrived at Guantánamo between September 2006 and March 2008).

In the years since the documents relating to the CSRTs were released (and information relating to their annual follow-ups, the Administrative Review Boards, or ARBs), I attempted to track down the stories of these 201 men, and managed, largely through successful research that led to relevant media reports, interviews and reports compiled by NGOs, to discover information about 114 of these prisoners, but nothing at all was known about 87 others (except for their names, and, in some cases, their date of birth and place of birth). With the release of the WikiLeaks files, all but three of these 87 stories have emerged for the very first time, and in this series of articles, I am transcribing and condensing these stories, and providing them with some necessary context. The first 51 stories were in Part One, Part Two, and Part Three, and the penultimate instalment is below. Also see Part Five. Read the rest of this entry »

Video: Andy Worthington Discusses the Omar Khadr Film “You Don’t Like the Truth” on Press TV

Last week, I was pleased to take part in a studio discussion at Press TV’s London studios of the documentary film, “You Don’t Like the Truth: 4 Days Inside Guantánamo,” directed by Luc Cote and Patricio Hernandez, and focusing on the story of Guantánamo prisoner Omar Khadr, which will be officially released in the UK on September 30, 2011.

Readers in London who are interested in this film can see it on June 19 in UCL (University College London), as part of a weekend of Guantánamo films put together by Dochouse, an organization based at Riverside Studios, in Hammersmith, which has been supporting and promoting documentaries in the UK since 2002. The “Exposing Guantánamo” weekend is part of the Open City London Documentary Festival, which also features “Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo” (which I directed with Polly Nash).

For further information about “Exposing Guantánamo,” see my article here, in which I described “You Don’t Like the Truth” as follows:

This powerful new film features excerpts from seven hours of video footage of Canadian agents interrogating child prisoner and Canadian citizen Omar Khadr at Guantánamo over a four-day period in 2003. It reveals how his joy at meeting representatives of his own government turned to despair when he realized that they had not come to Guantánamo to help him, and important commentary on the footage is provided by Khadr’s US and Canadian lawyers, by journalist Michelle Shephard, by former US guard Damien Corsetti, and by former prisoners, including Omar Deghayes and Moazzam Begg. The footage was released by the Canadian courts after a ruling that Khadr’s rights had been violated, which was subsequently ignored by the Canadian government. Read the rest of this entry »

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

“‘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). Read the rest of this entry »

Quarterly Fundraiser Day Two: $1500 Still Needed to Fund my Guantánamo Work

Please support my work!

It’s Day Two of my quarterly fundraising appeal, in which I ask my readers and supporters — who made over 300,000 page visits to this site last month, and who have made it a regular feature in Technorati’s Top 100 World Politics Blogs — to support my research and writing on Guantánamo and related topics — as well as the revolutionary movements in the Middle East, and the parlous state of Tory-led politics in the UK.

Since the appeal began, ten friends have kindly donated $500 — a quarter of my aim — leaving $1500 still to raise. Yesterday evening, a friend in London, who I haven’t seen for far too long, actually cycled over to my house, after reading my initial fundraising request on Facebook, to give me £50 ($80), which was a wonderful gesture of solidarity.

I believe that other supporters are sending donations by mail, and if you would also like help me to continue my unique work on Guantánamo, which, in the last few months, has been acknowledged through my work as a media partner with WikiLeaks, please click on the “Donate” button above to make a payment via PayPal. As I explained yesterday, all contributions are welcome, whether it’s $25, $100 or $500. Read the rest of this entry »

Quarterly Fundraiser: Help Me Raise $2000 for My Work on Guantánamo and Torture

Please support my work!

As I celebrate four years of blogging about Guantánamo, 1300 blog posts and the updating of my four-part definitive Guantánamo prisoner list, it’s three months since I last reached out to you, my readers and my supporters, to ask you to provide some financial support as part of the quarterly fundraising process that is such an important part of maintaining my work.

Being a freelance investigative journalist is a precarious existence, and although I have some regular support, one of my key sources of income is about to come to an need, leaving me in a rather more precarious position than I have been in for the last year. This is not where I had hoped to be at this particularly point in time, and as a result, if you can help me out at all, your support will be greatly appreciated.

If you can help out, please click on the “Donate” button above to make a payment via PayPal. All contributions are welcome, whether it’s $25, $100 or $500. Readers can pay via PayPal from anywhere in the world, but if you’re in the UK and want to help without using PayPal, you can send me a cheque (address here — scroll down to the bottom of the page), and if you’re not a PayPal user and want to send a check from the US (or from anywhere else in the world, for that matter), please feel free to do so, but bear in mind that I have to pay a $10/£6.50 processing fee on every transaction. Securely packaged cash is also an option! Read the rest of this entry »

Brutal Benefit Cuts for the Disabled Are Leading to Suicides in the UK

When it comes to callousness, the supposedly caring veneer of David Cameron’s Tory party disintegrated almost as soon as the expedient governing coalition with the hapless Liberal Democrats was formed, when our new leaders announced, with evident relish, their intention of haranguing those without work at a time when there was only one job available for every five unemployed people.

Targetting the unemployed during a recession would be cruel under any circumstances, and it was disgraceful to see the government peddling the false notion that anyone without a job was a workshy scrounger and parasite — and to see that particular lie being lapped up by large numbers of my fellow citizens, thereby revealing that, beneath many people’s superficial respectability beat hearts of hatred, forever burning to find a scapegoat and to make them suffer.

With a sleight of hand, involving an absurdly strict cap on immigration that seemed to have been sourced directly from the fascist BNP, Cameron and his fellow butchers of the British state diverted attention away from immigration but made sure that the new scapegoats consisted of people without a job — even if, or perhaps especially if — they have physical or mental health problems. Read the rest of this entry »

Syria: After the Brutal Torture and Murder of 13-Year Old Hamza Al-Khateeb, The Revolution Will Not Be Silenced

When the revolutionary impulses sweeping the Middle East first manifested themselves in Syria in March, no one foresaw how the movement would grow — or how violently it would be suppressed, although that was always a distinct possibility, given the manner in which the Ba’athist regime has maintained power in Syria for the last 41 years — through emergency laws (in place since 1963), a ban on all protests, and the widespread use of arbitrary detention and torture.

In the last two and a half months, protests have spread throughout the country, and have met with violent resistance, although the epicentre of resistance — the southern city of Daraa — remains the focus of the government’s worst excesses, with a death toll of at least 418 people, according to Human Rights Watch, in a report discussed below.

However, the Daraa protectorate has also become far more notorious in recent days as a result of the torture and murder of Hamza al-Khateeb, a 13-year old boy who has immediately become a symbol of the necessity for the overthrow of the Assad regime for the ever-growing number of Syrians, who, it seems, will not accept anything less than regime change as a result of the relentless brutality of the state’s response to even peaceful dissent. Read the rest of this entry »

The 9/11 Trial Timewarp: It’s February 2008 Again

On Tuesday, the Pentagon issued a press release announcing that prosecutors in the Office of Military Commissions at Guantánamo had sworn charges against five prisoners: Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, Ramzi Bin al-Shibh, Walid Bin Attash, Ali Abd al-Aziz Ali and Mustafa al-Hawsawi.

Accusing the five men of being “responsible for the planning and execution” of the 9/11 attacks, the Pentagon added that the eight charges are “conspiracy, murder in violation of the law of war, attacking civilians, attacking civilian objects, intentionally causing serious bodily injury, destruction of property in violation of the law of war, hijacking aircraft, and terrorism.”

As the Pentagon proceeded to explain, subject to approval by the Commissions’ Convening Authority, Retired Vice Adm. Bruce MacDonald, prosecutors recommended that the charges “be referred as capital.”

Anyone paying attention will realise that we have been here before, on February 11, 2008, when the Pentagon announced that Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and the the four others named above (plus a sixth man, Mohammed al-Qahtani, against whom the charges were later dropped) were charged with “conspiracy, murder in violation of the law of war, attacking civilians, attacking civilian objects, intentionally causing serious bodily injury, destruction of property in violation of the law of war, terrorism and providing material support for terrorism” — and four of them were, in addition, charged with “hijacking or hazarding a vessel.” Read the rest of this entry »

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Andy Worthington

Investigative journalist, author, filmmaker, photographer and Guantanamo expert
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The Guantánamo Files book cover

The Guantánamo Files

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The Battle of the Beanfield

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Stonehenge: Celebration & Subversion

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Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo

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