On January 10, while I was visiting the US for events marking the 10th anniversary of the opening of Guantánamo, the World Can’t Wait, the campaigning organization responsible for my visit, hosted a screening of the documentary film, “Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo” (which I co-directed with Polly Nash) at a branch of Busboys and Poets in Washington D.C.
This was the day before the rally and march to close Guantánamo, which I covered here, here and here, and it was an extremely well attended event, with over a hundred people in the audience — mostly campaigners from the various organizations involved in the January 11 protest, including Amnesty International, Witness Against Torture, the World Can’t Wait, Code Pink and the National Religious Campaign Against Torture.
Also present were: the attorney Tom Wilner — my colleague in the newly established “Close Guantánamo” campaign and website, with whom I had just taken part in a lunchtime event at the New America Foundation (also with Congressman Jim Moran and Col. Morris Davis) — and Darold Killmer and Mari Newman, attorneys from Denver whom I had asked to come along and speak about their clients, five Yemenis who are still held at Guantánamo.
The half-hour Q&A session that followed the screening was filmed, and I’ll be posting that soon, but first I’m posting below a short introduction I delivered while the staff at Busboys and Poets worked on technical issues involving the screening. While these were being resolved, I told the audience about the “Close Guantánamo” campaign, and our petition on the White House’s “We the People” website, asking President Obama to fulfil his promise to close Guantánamo. The petition has a one-month deadline, which comes to an end on February 6, so please sign it if you haven’t done so already.
I also told the audience about the news from Guantánamo, via Ramzi Kassem, the attorney for Shaker Aamer, the last British resident in Guantánamo, which I had announced on my website that day. Shaker and other prisoners had made it clear that they would be holding a three-day protest and hunger strike, to let the world know that they were not happy that President Obama was getting away with portraying Guantánamo as a safe and humane facility, and also to show solidarity with those protesting in Washington D.C. and elsewhere in the US.
In addition, I spoke specifically about the need to create a campaign on both sides of the Atlantic to push for the release of Shaker Aamer, well known as the foremost defender in Guantánamo of the prisoners’ human rights, on the basis that the Obama administration no longer wants to hold him, and the British government has asked for him to be returned to his wife and family in the UK.
I noted that the Congressional restrictions on releasing prisoners to countries that lawmakers regard as dangerous (included in provisions in the horrendous National Defense Authorization Act, in which lawmakers also declared their intention to hold terror suspects in permanent military custody, without charge or trial), could not realistically extend to the UK, making Shaker the prime candidate for breaking the deadlock regarding the release of prisoners from Guantánamo.
As I also explained, in 2011, the restrictions were so successful that only one living prisoner — an Algerian who had his habeas corpus petition granted by the courts — was released, and two others left in coffins, having died at the prison.
My thanks to everyone who turned up to make the screening such a successful event, to Debra Sweet, the national director of the World Can’t Wait for organizing it, and to Palina Prasasouk for filming my talk, and to Justin Norman for editing it.
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, “The Complete Guantánamo Files,” a 70-part, million-word series drawing on files released by WikiLeaks in April 2011, and details about the documentary film, “Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo” (co-directed by Polly Nash and Andy Worthington, and available on DVD here — or here for the US). Also see 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.
hello Andy, i thank you for the muslim community and i ask Allaah suabhaanuh wa Taala to give you the strength and health needed and in return a very happy life. sincerely, alia.
Thank you, Alia. It’s very good to hear from you, and thanks for the kind words.
On Facebook, Gabriele Müller wrote:
thanks, Andy, sharing
You’re welcome, Gabriele. And thanks also to everyone else who has liked and shared this – and everyone who has Dugg it as well.
Andy, I hope you have a screening here in Toronto. Maybe when Omar is repatriated? Or if that takes a long time, maybe before?
Did you hear that ten Cuban dissidents made it inside the wire in November, claiming political asylum, and started their own hunger strike on 2012-02-03? http://www.google.com/hostednews/afp/article/ALeqM5jWZDnmdUpARfJ-2ygmPqi9GZDUpw?docId=CNG.956cc047c755305c8ad4580183554bcc.9f1 A cuban blogger supporting their efforts says that, rather than offering asylum camp authorities are treating them like terrorists. That is an exagerration, as they were allowed to contact supporters on the outside. The blogger supporting them wrote that he didn’t know if camp authorities had started force-feeding them yet, “as Americans usually do in such cases.”.
Anyhow, I came across three photos showing a Cuban refugee’s struggle to make it onto the base, a few years ago, and a fourth photo showing him bound and blindfolded after he made it to US soil. http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/Category:Cuban_refugees_at_the_Guantanamo_Bay_Naval_Base
Thanks, arcticredriver. I’d love to visit and show the film in Canada one of these days, but the few attempts that have been made by various supporters never came to fruition, unfortunately. Perhaps, as you say, when Omar is finally released.
As for the Cuban dissidents, I saw that story briefly yesterday. Thanks for providing further information, including the photos from a previous attempt by a Cuban to seek sanctuary at the naval base. I think that photo of him bound and blindfolded says all you need to know about the welcome that doesn’t generally await Cubans in search of American generosity.
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