On Sunday October 21, 2012, almost three years since it first premiered in London, “Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo,” the documentary film I co-directed with Polly Nash, is being screened by Lewes Amnesty International Group, in a high-profile event that involves a panel discussion after the screening with myself, former Guantánamo prisoner Omar Deghayes, Caroline Lucas, the Green MP for Brighton Pavilion, and Norman Baker, the Liberal Democrat MP for Lewes. The event is at All Saints Community Centre, on Friars Walk in Lewes, and begins at 7 pm. Entry is free.
Although this was planned many months ago, the timing is particularly apt, because it was recently confirmed publicly, for the first time ever, that Shaker Aamer, the last British resident in Guantánamo, whose story features in the film, was cleared for release from the prison three years ago by President Obama’s interagency Guantánamo Review Task Force, which consisted of officials and lawyers from the relevant government departments and the intelligence agencies.
Anecdotally, it has been known since 2007 that Shaker was cleared for release — at the time under President Bush — and also that he was cleared under Obama, but such is the secrecy imposed on Guantánamo, and on lawyers for the prisoners, that his legal team were not allowed to speak about it until a month ago, when, unexpectedly, the US Justice Department, for the first time, released the names of 55 prisoners cleared for release, as part of a court case — a list that featured Shaker.
In campaigning for Shaker Aamer’s release, his lawyers, his family and his supporters have come up with various approaches, which we have all been publicising to the best of our ability — a petition to the British government (for which only British citizens and residents are eligible) calling for his immediate return to the UK, for which 100,000 signatures are sought by April 2013, to be eligible for a Parliamentary debate, and an international petition, via the Care 2 petition site, to be delivered to both the US and the UK governments, for which 10,000 signatures are sought.
We will be pushing these petitions on Sunday evening, of course, but I also hope that Caroline Lucas and Norman Baker have some ideas about how we can confront David Cameron, Theresa May and William Hague to demand Shaker’s immediate return, as there are no conceivable excuses to prevent him from being released, to be reunited with his British wife and his four British children, the youngest of whom was born after his capture nearly eleven years ago.
The urgent need for Shaker’s return is not just because — as with the 85 other cleared prisoners — holding men cleared for release makes a mockery of all pretence that there is such a thing as justice at Guantánamo, but also because, as I explained last week in an exclusive article based on notes from a meeting with Ramzi Kassem, one of his lawyers, in May this year, Shaker is held in isolation, as he has been for much of his time at Guantánamo, and is abused every day, by the team of guards who punish all rule-breaking with violence, for protesting about the conditions of his detention, which he does by refusing to return to his cell after his brief daily period of recreation.
As he explained to Ramzi Kassem, and as I described it in my article:
[W]hen a delegation of senior officials in the Obama administration met with him three years ago, he reacted negatively when they said that they “wanted to ensure his comfort,” telling them, “This isn’t comfort to me. It’s about freedom and justice!”
Freedom and justice, indeed. On Sunday we’ll be talking about both, and hoping that we can exert enough pressure on two recalcitrant government to finally bring Shaker Aamer’s long and horribly unjust ordeal to an end.
“‘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
“Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo” is a documentary film, directed by Polly Nash and Andy Worthington, telling the story of Guantánamo (and including sections on extraordinary rendition and secret prisons) with a particular focus on how the Bush administration turned its back on domestic and international laws, how prisoners were rounded up in Afghanistan and Pakistan without adequate screening (and often for bounty payments), and why some of these men may have been in Afghanistan or Pakistan for reasons unconnected with militancy or terrorism (as missionaries or humanitarian aid workers, for example).
The film is based around interviews with former prisoners (Moazzam Begg and, in his first major interview, Omar Deghayes, who was released in December 2007), lawyers for the prisoners (Clive Stafford Smith in the UK and Tom Wilner in the US), and journalist and author Andy Worthington, and also includes appearances from Guantánamo’s former Muslim chaplain James Yee, Shakeel Begg, a London-based Imam, and the British human rights lawyer Gareth Peirce.
Focusing on the stories of three particular prisoners — Shaker Aamer (who is still held, despite being cleared for release), Binyam Mohamed (who was released in February 2009) and Omar Deghayes — “Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo” 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, interviews, or to inquire about broadcasting, distributing or showing “Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo,” please contact Andy Worthington or Polly Nash, and see a trailer for the film below, via Journeyman Pictures, where, for a small fee, you can watch the film online:
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, Omar Deghayes wrote:
come early to Lewes Andy there will be a lot to photo there…its a nice Town …..
I’ll be arriving just after 5, Omar, with my bike, so I’ll get to have a chance to look around, hopefully. I’ve been before. Lovely place.
Nafisah Khan wrote:
Hello! Where exactly will it be?
Hi Nafisah, the address is listed. Sorry if it wasn’t clear. It’s at at All Saints Community Centre, on Friars Walk in Lewes, and begins at 7 pm. Entry is free. Hope to see you there!
Lucia Sol wrote:
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