Yesterday, I posted a short video of a speech I gave on January 10, while I was visiting the US for events marking the 10th anniversary of the opening of Guantánamo, prior to 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.
That screening, the day before protests marking the 10th anniversary (which I covered here, here and here), was organized by the World Can’t Wait, the campaigners responsible for my visit, and was followed by a panel discussion in which I was delighted to be speaking alongside 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.
Introducing the Q&A session, I spoke briefly about the “Close Guantánamo” campaign and the now-closed petition on the White House’s “We the People” website, asking President Obama to fulfil his promise to close Guantánamo, and also reminded those attending that, while criticizing Congress for inserting provisions in the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) demanding the mandatory military custody, without charge or trial, of anyone who can be accused of being associated with al-Qaeda, they should not forget that, for ten years, the prisoners in Guantánamo have been detained on essentially the same basis.
I also urged people to go away with just one message to tell everyone they meet — that, far from holding “the worst of the worst,” the Guantánamo of today actually contains 89 prisoners, out of the 171 still held, who have been cleared for release by the President’s interagency Task Force, but who are still held because they have become the victims of cynical political maneuvering.
After this introduction, I turned the mike over to Darold Killmer and Mari Newman, who spoke eloquently about their clients, the obstructions they have faced, and their incredulity that US justice has so spectacularly failed them. They also explained how their clients have persistently asked them to make sure that their stories are not forgotten, and anyone wishing to know more can read the stories of two of these men — Abdul Rahman al-Qyati and Musa’ab al-Madhwani — in the Center for Constitutional Rights’ “Faces of Guantánamo” reports that I played a major role in compiling, and which are also available here.
Afterwards, Tom also spoke, eloquently explaining his own disappointments, urging those attending to join the “Close Guantánamo” campaign, and also explaining, as he did last week in an article on the “Close Guantánamo” website, which I publicized here, that the NDAA actually contains a waiver, whereby the administration can, if it wishes, release prisoners from Guantánamo without having to overcome the almost insurmountable obstacles raised by Congress that have prevented a single prisoner from being released in the last 13 months.
Now, as Tom also mentioned, the only obstacle to the release of prisoners is whether President Obama and his administration can find the courage and the political will to actually follow through, and to begin to release some of those 89 cleared prisoners who are still held, but whose ongoing detention ought to be a source of shame.
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.
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