In June 2004, in the wake of the Abu Ghraib scandal, a notorious memo from August 2002 was leaked. It was written by John Yoo, a lawyer in the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel and it claimed to redefine torture and to authorize its use on prisoners seized in the “war on terror.” I had no idea at the time that its influence would prove to be so long-lasting.
Ten years and four months since it was first issued, this memo — one of two issued on the same day, which will forever be known as the “torture memos” — is still protecting the senior Bush administration officials who commissioned it (as well as Yoo, and his boss, Jay S. Bybee, who signed it).
Those officials include George W. Bush, former Vice President Dick Cheney and their senior lawyers, Alberto Gonzales and David Addington. None of these men should be immune from prosecution, because torture is illegal under US domestic law, and is prohibited under the terms of the UN Convention Against Torture, which the US, under Ronald Reagan, signed in 1988 and ratified in 1994. As Article 2.2 states, unequivocally, “No exceptional circumstances whatsoever, whether a state of war or a threat of war, internal political instability or any other public emergency, may be invoked as a justification of torture.” Read the rest of this entry »
Please sign the e-petition to the British government, calling for Shaker Aamer’s release, and the international petition on the Care 2 Petition Site, addressed to both the British and the American governments.
The family of Shaker Aamer, the last British resident in Guantánamo, have just released this photo of him, smiling and waving, and looking, for all the world, like a free man, even though he has just started his twelfth year in US custody. My headline is slightly misleading, as February 14, 2013 will mark the 11th anniversary of Shaker’s arrival at Guantánamo, if he is not released beforehand, but he was first sold into US custody on November 23, 2001, so it was a convenient shorthand for his eleven years in US custody. Please click on the photo to enlarge it.
This photo is the first to be made available since April 2011, when a photo of him was included in his classified military file, which was released by WikiLeaks. Hundreds of photos of the Guantánamo prisoners were included in the WikiLeaks files, and many of them featured prisoners who had never been seen before, or had only been seen in photos taken before their capture, which were often taken many years before their capture. Read the rest of this entry »
When Night Falls: Lewisham, Greenwich and Deptford, a set on Flickr.
This photo set — the 62nd in my ongoing project to photograph London by bike — follows on from the previous set, in which, just a few weeks ago, I recorded a particularly warm and vivid sunset from Hilly Fields, the hill-top park near my home in Brockley, in south east London. After the sun had finally dipped below the horizon for good, I made my way down the hill for a quick circuit of the other areas close to me that are a source of enduring fascination for me — Lewisham, the centre of the borough, and Greenwich and Deptford, both of which meet the River Thames at their northern edge.
With the sky darkening, this was a fascinating journey — through some of Lewisham’s back streets and industrial sites that took on an eerie beauty at night, and then down to Greenwich, where I took photos of some of that famous borough’s celebrated pubs and other sights — including St. Alfege’s Church and the Cuttty Sark by the river — before moving on to Deptford along the path beside the Thames, and a return journey via Deptford High Street, the least corporate high street in London, which was still buzzing with independent life despite the late hour. Read the rest of this entry »
Autumn Sunset in Hilly Fields, Brockley, a set on Flickr.
As part of my ongoing project to photograph the whole of London by bike, my most recent photo sets — with the exception of the set featuring images from Saturday’s massive demonstration in Lewisham to resist plans to close the hospital’s A&E Department — captured a journey I made through south east London, and then along Commercial Road in the East End and back home via Canary Wharf, on a blazing hot day in July. That was exhilarating, and a lovely reminder of the joys that summer can bring, but here and now, as the days get shorter, and the leaves continue to fall, heralding the full-blown arrival of winter, I thought it would make sense to post some more recent photos.
This set — the 61st London set — and the four to follow capture some of the delights of autumn, in and around my home in Brockley, in south east London, and also including Deptford and Greenwich. This first set, however, returns to my local park, Hilly Fields, on a hill commanding wonderful views of Blythe Hill, looking over to the wooded expanse of Forest Hill, where the last vestiges remain of the Great North Wood that once covered most of south London. There are also glimpses to be had of Canary Wharf and the O2, as well as views over Blackheath to Shooters Hill, down to Lewisham and all the way out to Kent. Read the rest of this entry »
Save Lewisham Hospital A&E: The Massive Protest on November 24, 2012, a set on Flickr.
The rain fell, but nothing could deter the people of Lewisham — and supporters from elsewhere — from marching in numbers not seen in living memory to protest about the disgraceful plans, announced less than a month ago, to close Lewisham’s A&E Department, to downgrade maternity services, and to cut other acute frontline services, sending emergency cases and mothers with complications to the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Woolwich, which will then be responsible for the A&E of the 750,000 inhabitants of three boroughs — Lewisham, Greenwich and Bexley.
Faced with a derisory “consultation period,” ending on December 13, and an intended fait accompli, the people of Lewisham have been saying no in serious numbers — nearly 20,000 people have now signed a petition initiated by Heidi Alexander MP, and at least 10,000 people turned out yesterday, on a day that was so miserable and wet that only the hardcore showed up, the committed and the dedicated, and there were at least 10,000 of us! 10,000 people believing in the need to preserve Lewisham Hospital as a fully functioning hospital for the 250,000 people who use it and rely on it. Read the rest of this entry »
I wrote the following article for the “Close Guantánamo” website, which I established in January with US attorney Tom Wilner. Please join us — just an email address is required to be counted amongst those opposed to the ongoing existence of Guantánamo, and to receive updates of our activities by email.
This week, in its “Room for Debate” series, the New York Times invited six people to debate the question, “Time to End Military Tribunals?” and also to comment on whether, in his second term, President Obama should “finally close Guantánamo.”
On the one, hand, of course, there were some powerful arguments made for President Obama to drop the military commissions — especially after the recent ruling by the D.C. Circuit Court, quashing one of the only convictions in the system’s troubled history, that of Salim Hamdan — and finally fulfill his failed promise to close Guantánamo, and it was important to have these arguments made in the pages of the Times.
In “A Failed Experiment,” Andrea Prasow of Human Rights Watch stated bluntly, “The Guantánamo experiment has failed,” and added, “Those implicated in serious crimes should be prosecuted, but in time-tested judicial systems. If the president is serious about closing Guantánamo, he needs to work with Congress to lift the restrictions on transferring detainees. If Congress refuses, Obama should use his veto”– included in last year’s National Defense Authorization Act, which Tom Wilner wrote about here. Read the rest of this entry »
Shops, Ships and Union Jacks: A Surreal Tour Around Canary Wharf, a set on Flickr.
This photo set — the 60th in my ongoing project to photograph the whole of London by bike — is the last in a series of five sets recording a journey I made one sunny day in July, from my home in south London, through New Cross and Bermondsey by bike, across Tower Bridge, and up through Shadwell to Commercial Road, which I followed — with many fruitful deviations — along its whole length, to the junction where West India Road bears off towards Canary Wharf, and Commercial Road becomes East India Road.
As my camera battery had run out, but I couldn’t bear not having a working camera, I decided to find one in Canary Wharf, which was more difficult than I expected, as the shop I needed was some distance from where I parked my bike, through a series of shopping malls whose scale surprised me, as they now constitute another city entirely. Read the rest of this entry »
So here’s a quick message to invite anyone in Hull — or anywhere near — to come along to Hull University on Tuesday to hear me speak about Shaker Aamer, the last British resident in the prison, and the shameful responsibility of both the British and the American governments for continuing to hold him.
I have been invited to speak by the Hull University Amnesty Society, and the event, which is free, is taking place in the Wilberforce Building, Room LT-15, at 7pm on Tuesday November 27. A Facebook page is here. Please come along if you can! The Wilberforce Building is No. 60 on the map here.
Shaker remains held even though he was first cleared for release under George W. Bush in 2007, and was also cleared for release under President Obama in 2009, through the deliberations of the interagency Guantánamo Review Task Force, established by the President to decide who to release, who to try and who to continue holding indefinitely. Read the rest of this entry »
Please sign the petition to save Lewisham’s A&E and maternity services and send it on to your friends and family. Over 16,000 people have already signed!
And here are the crucial dates for your diary:
This Saturday, November 24, “Hands Around Our Hospital” is a major march and rally in Lewisham, with the intention of attracting at least 5,000 protestors to show the government that the people of Lewisham will not accept plans to close the A&E Department and downgrade maternity services to pay for debts elsewhere in the NHS. Meet at Loampit Vale roundabout at 2pm, and link hands around the hospital at 3pm. Afterwards there will be a rally in Ladywell Fields, with speakers including local GP, Dr. Louise Irvine, Steve Bullock, the Mayor of Lewisham, and other health workers and patients. If you want to help, see here.
Next Wednesday, November 28, there is a Public Meeting at Catford Broadway Theatre, at 7pm, with speakers including Dr. Louise Irvine and Dr. John Lister, who featured prominently in “Wake Up Call,” a film by Anne-Marie Sweeney, produced last year for Keep Our NHS Public and Health Emergency. Read the rest of this entry »
Development and Decay: Commercial Road in Stepney and Limehouse, a set on Flickr.
As part of my ongoing project to photograph the whole of London by bike, this is the 59th photo set I have posted, and the last of three photo sets recording a journey I made along Commercial Road, in the East End, one hot and sunny day in July (see here and here). It was something of a revelation to me, as, although I know parts of the East End, I was largely unfamiliar with this area, and cycling the whole of the road from Aldgate to the junction near Canary Wharf, as well as making diversions into the back streets, helped bring to life this vibrant and historically fascinating part of town that I have since revisited on several occasions.
This whole part of the city — rather frayed around the edges, and with an uneasy mix of wealth and poverty, featuring the white working class and Asian immigrants on the one hand, and bankers on the other — is primarily subject to drastic changes because of its proximity to the City and Canary Wharf, and is, in a very real sense, up against the full force of international money, with developers intent on exploiting any land they can get their hands on to build new housing aimed at foreign investors — a bubble of exploitation, with investors charged too much for properties that they, in turn, sell or rent for too much to London residents. Read the rest of this entry »
Writer, campaigner, investigative journalist and commentator. Recognized as an authority on Guantánamo and the “war on terror.” Co-founder, Close Guantánamo, co-director, We Stand With Shaker. Also, singer and songwriter (The Four Fathers) and photographer.
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