On Friday (October 5), I’m heading to Sheffield, in the company of my friend — and former Guantánamo prisoner — Omar Deghayes, to take part in a conference at Sheffield University, entitled, “Confronting US Power after the Vietnam War: Transnational and International Perspectives on Peace Movements, Diplomacy, and the Law, 1975-2012.” The conference, which concludes on Saturday, is sponsored by the university’s Centre for Peace History, and the Peace History Society, and was organised by Michael Foley, co-director of the Centre for Peace History and an organiser for the campaigning group Witness Against Torture, who I join in Washington D.C. every January 11 to protest about the continued existence of Guantánamo on the anniversary of its opening (on January 11, 2002).
The panel Omar and I are taking part in on Friday evening — the conference’s keynote event — is entitled, “Resisting Empire: Global Resistance to Guantánamo and Torture,” and it begins at 6:30pm in the Richard Roberts Building Auditorium, in the east wing of the Dainton Building, on Brook Hill (postcode S3 7HF).
Joining us will be Jeremy Varon, Associate Professor of History at the New School for Social Research in New York, who is also a member of Witness Against Torture. Also speaking is Katie Taylor of the London-based legal action charity Reprieve, for whom I used to work, whose presentation will mainly be focused on the challenges of resettlement and the work of Reprieve’s Life after Guantánamo Project. Omar will be talking about his experiences, and his work with the Guantánamo Justice Centre, and, as a representative of the campaigning group Close Guantánamo, I will be talking about the fundamental problems with the supposed evidence against the prisoners, and the injustice of the US continuing to hold 86 prisoners (out of the remaining 166) who have been cleared for release as a result of multiple review processes, some as long ago as 2004.
If you’re in Sheffield on Friday, it would be wonderful to see you at the conference. It is just three months until the 11th anniversary of the opening of Guantánamo, and the prison does not become any more acceptable the longer it is open. The men held there may no longer be defined as “enemy combatants,” but they are neither prisoners of war protected by the Geneva Conventions, nor criminal suspects, and they are still essentially prisoners without rights, as the Bush administration intended.
I hope that the conference helps to galvanise our efforts to demand, in January, that the new administration — to be elected in November — closes Guantánamo, and that there will be no more excuses for not doing so. In our thoughts will be Adnan Latif, a Yemeni who died in Guantánamo last month, despite having been repeatedly cleared for release over the last six years. Those of us who want Guantánamo to be closed are permanently aware that, without decisive action by the US authorities, there will be more deaths at Guantánamo — of men who haven’t seen their families for ten years, despite never having been charged or tried or convicted of anything, for the most part — and we are also determined that Adnan Latif’s death will not have been in vain.
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, Flickr (my photos) and YouTube. Also see my definitive Guantánamo prisoner list, updated in April 2012, “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 please also consider joining the new “Close Guantánamo campaign,” and, if you appreciate my work, feel free to make a donation.
On Facebook, Waris Ali wrote:
aahhh im staying at uni this weekend though i am sorely tempted to go back just for this! Are you by any chance going to be able to mention the shaker petition, perhaps take a couple hundred flyers with you and ask everyone to take one and get there famiy/friends to sign?
Yes, I’ll mention the petition, Waris. I don’t have any flyers, but I’ll make sure to get the URL to everyone! It would be good to see you there!
Waris Ali wrote:
Ahh i probs wont be able to make it for this one by the looks of it Andy Excellent, I will see if we can get the shaker campaign elected for our amnesty group and campaign on it in a couple of weeks time, get a fair few hundred more signatures from that. But as u know, without the ISOCS mobilising as well as some other amnesty groups, its gonna be tough reaching the target.
I would love to hear an audio of this and to be able to disseminate the link with your comment.
(This would also be a great time to include the reminder to donate…for self and others) So be sure to add these details…sorry it’s taken me oh so long…
Thanx for doing this in the midst of your photographic travels. I would be schizoid.
All the best,
Thanks, Connie. I just got in. The event was powerful, and well attended – at least 250 people – with, I believe, moving presentations from Omar, Jeremy, Katie and myself. My thanks to Mike Foley at the university here (and also a member of Witness Against Torture, like Jeremy) for organising it. Not sure if it was recorded, although a few people seemed to be filming on smart phones. I’ll ask around …
Yes, plz do check around…I’d love to send on this info or any other you’d recommend timely for current happenings.
Do you have any recent comments on Drone Warfare as a possible attempt to replace the “messy” business of illegal imprisonment with what has been thought a “cleaner” approach of extrajudicial execution/assassination?
Are you following this weekend’s Peace March into Waziristan and if so — what might tie together common, ongoing concerns surrounding torture by drones and the tragedy of Gitmo and other “dark places”?
What do you say to the comments that US/Nato drones and prisons are lesser than evil of extremists? (Or what comments have you found make a difference in your talks…when all the studies we have done are not being read/considered in our arguments?)
Yes, of course, replacing the “messy” business of extraordinary rendition, secret prisons and torture with drone killings is equally reprehensible – essentially replacing one crime against humanity with another.
I’m very glad to see such opposition to drones, but I do wish people would constantly cross-reference their concerns, mentioning that drones are a replacements for the torture program and indefinite detention at Guantanamo, just as campaigners against the NDAA should mention that, without Guantanamo, lawmakers and the administration would not have had a precedent to be able to argue that there were any circumstances in which suspects – whether US citizens or not – can be imprisoned indefinitely without charge or trial.
YES, the precedent is obvious and hasn’t gone away at all…I hadn’t been aware that there was much talk about the “exchanging” pattern — having only seen one write-up which included that — so if this is overdone, surely there needs to be a loud rebuttal.
Personally, just as Reprieve UK, Center for Constitutional Rights, Bill of Rights Defense Committee, Code-Pink and now nogitmos.org does — I’d really love to be a part of a movement which can connect these concerns maybe once a year…since we would IMHO effect more, learn more, allow some to the secret horrific places our leaders and military folk chose to hide out in the open…
You would be one person who would be followed into such a venture…
Thanx for sharing your reasonable and dialogue worthy concerns…
Don’t forget the Video/transcript/Audio if there is one from your recent event…?
What do we know about torture/uncharged prisoners in ships hidden far from any view and any provable accountability?
And what’s currently going on in Diego Garcia?
I have a friend who’s returning home to work with the children of the poor people from that Island tossed off by both Britain and the US so inhumanely without recompense…
I heard a BBC report a few years ago…how utterly dead the island was — no comment on other things — tried to find it, nothing in archive, tried to get it by calls/emails to BBC — no one could find???
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