Archive for April, 2013

Former US Navy Judge Advocates General Call for the Closure of Guantánamo

I wrote the following article for the “Close Guantánamo” website, which I established in January 2012 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.

The hunger strike at Guantánamo shows no sign of ending, and as a result we at “Close Guantánamo” fear, every day, that we will hear news of some unfortunate soul’s death at the prison. Every day we also wait, in vain, for President Obama to take leadership on the issue, and to pledge to release some of the 86 men (out of 166 in total), who were cleared for release at least three years ago by an inter-agency task force that the President established when he took office in 2009 – when, of course, he also promised to close Guantánamo within a year, but failed to do so.

We have been covering the hunger strike since it first surfaced, and we continue to monitor it, and to urge people to put pressure on President Obama and Chuck Hagel, the defense secretary, to bring it to an end the only way that is acceptable — not with lockdowns and the use of solitary confinement, but with political courage, and a sense of what is right and what is wrong.

Holding men who have been cleared for release by sober and sensible officials from the key government departments and the intelligence agencies is completely unacceptable, under any circumstances, and it demeans America for this situation to be ongoing, day after day, with the world’s media finally paying attention once more, after years of indifference. Read the rest of this entry »

The Prisoners Speak: Reports from the Hunger Strike in Guantánamo

On Friday, I received an alarming message from inside Guantánamo, from a reliable source who described the impact of the prison-wide hunger strike, now nearing the three-month mark, by stating that the the guards were “putting people in isolation and all day long making lots of noise by speaking loudly, running on the metal stairs and leaving their two-way radios on all day and night. People cannot sleep.”

The source added, “There are at least four people that are at the very edge and one named Khiali Gul from Afghanistan is in a bad shape and cannot move and cannot talk or eat or drink. When other detainees tell the guards about him, they say, ‘When he is completely unconscious, then we will take him.’ The chances are that he will die.”

I have been reporting on the hunger strike since it first became public knowledge in February, and it is reports like the one above, and the statements that have been featured in prominent newspapers — by Samir Moqbel, a Yemeni, in the New York Times, and Shaker Aamer, the last British resident in Guantánamo, in the Observer — that have helped to put the spotlight back on Guantánamo, after several years in which most people had lost interest. Read the rest of this entry »

Return Shaker Aamer from Guantánamo: The Full Text of the Parliamentary Debate, April 24, 2013 (Part Two of Two)

This is the second part of the transcript of a Parliamentary debate that took place last Wednesday, April 24, 2013, eleven years, two months and ten days after Shaker Aamer, a British resident, arrived at Guantánamo, six years after he was told that the Bush administration no longer wanted to hold him, nearly six years after his return to the UK was first requested by the British government (under Gordon Brown), and over three years since he was officially cleared for release by the inter-agency task force that President Obama established after he took office in January 2009.

That he is still held — as are 85 other men cleared for release by the task force — is so monstrously unjust that is is unsurprising that many of the men, including Shaker, are part of a prison-wide hunger strike, which has been ongoing for nearly three months, to draw attention to their plight.

The men have been failed by all three branches of the US government — by President Obama, who promised to close the prison within a year when he took office; by Congress, where cynical lawmakers have imposed almost insurmountable obstacles to their release; and by the courts, where a handful of judges (in the DC Circuit Court) have gutted habeas corpus of all meaning for the men held in Guantánamo, and have been allowed to do so by the Supreme Court. Read the rest of this entry »

This was the Week the NHS Died, and No One Cares

Need Not Greed: Save the NHSKeep Our NHS Public"The NHS will last as long as there are folk left with the faith to fight for it"Stop the sell-offNHS not for saleSave Lewisham Hospital public meeting
The panel for the Save Lewisham Hospital public meeting

Save the NHS: A Protest Outside Parliament, and a Public Meeting in Lewisham, a set on Flickr.

On Wednesday April 24, the House of Lords voted by 254 votes to 146 to dismiss a motion, proposed by the Labour peer Lord Hunt of Kings Heath, a shadow health minister, to prevent the passage of regulations relating to Section 75 of the Health and Social Care Act (the Tories’ wretched legislation for NHS reform, passed last year), which was sprung on an unsuspecting public back in February.

The reason I call this the week that the NHS died is because the regulations enforce competition on almost all NHS business, paving the way for private companies to swiftly and effectively dismantle it, cherry-picking services they can easily make profits out of, and cowing the newly appointed Clinical Commissioning Groups (the GPs responsible for 80 percent of the NHS budget), who will be afraid of ruinously expensive legal challenges if they dare to take on the private sector.

It is not strictly true, of course, that no one cares, but I stand by the necessity of such a provocative headline. In fact, a 38 Degrees petition was signed by over 360,000 people, but millions should have been on the streets since the Tories first announced their intentions to destroy the NHS. That, however, has never happened. On the night of the Section 75 motion last week, despite furious lobbying of peers, and some great speeches in support of the NHS (by Lords Hunt and Owen in particular), the last chance to block the legislation was lost. Read the rest of this entry »

EXCLUSIVE: A Warning from Guantánamo – Four Prisoners Are Close to Death, and the Authorities Don’t Care

I have just received a brief message from a credible source inside Guantánamo, about the situation in the prison today, which I wanted to make available because it exposes how four prisoners are close to death, as a result of the prison-wide hunger strike that is on its 80th day, and yet the guard force are behaving with brutality and indifference.

The source stated that it “looks like GTMO is going backward,” with the guards “putting people in isolation and all day long making lots of noise by speaking loudly, running on the metal stairs and leaving their two-way radios on all day and night. People cannot sleep.”

The source added, “There are at least four people that are at the very edge and one named Khiali Gul from Afghanistan is in a bad shape and cannot move and cannot talk or eat or drink. When other detainees tell the guards about him, they say, ‘When he is completely unconscious, then we will take him.’ The chances are that he will die.”

The source also explained that he has been trying to get an Afghan lawyer “to notify his family to at least call him and they might have a chance to talk to him for the last time.” Read the rest of this entry »

Return Shaker Aamer from Guantánamo: The Full Text of the Parliamentary Debate, April 24, 2013 (Part One of Two)

On April 24, 2013, eleven years, two months and ten days after Shaker Aamer, a British resident, arrived at Guantánamo, his case was finally the subject of a Parliamentary debate. The trigger for this was an e-petition to the British government, calling on ministers to “undertake urgent new initiatives to achieve the immediate transfer of Shaker Aamer to the UK from continuing indefinite detention in Guantánamo Bay,” which secured over 100,000 signatures, through the tireless work of numerous campaigners, making it eligible for a discussion in Parliament.

Jane Ellison, the Conservative MP for Battersea, Shaker’s constituency, requested the debate, which took place in Westminster Hall, and it will, hopefully, be followed sometime next month by a full debate in the House of Commons.

Below I’m cross-posting the transcript of the debate, in which, as I explained yesterday when I posted photos from a demonstration in Parliament Square that followed the debate, the MPs who spoke made “an unassailable case for Shaker’s immediate release.”

Primarily, these MPs were Jane Ellison, the Green MP Caroline Lucas, and the Labour MPs John McDonnell, Jeremy Corbyn and Yasmin Qureshi. Also present, and making short statements or asking questions were the Labour MPs Kerry McCarthy, Jim Cunningham, Stephen Timms, John Woodcock, Russell Brown, Gavin Shukur, Andy Slaughter and Anas Sarwar, the Conservative MP Mike Freer, Mark Durkan of the SDLP and the Independent MP Eric Joyce. Read the rest of this entry »

Free Shaker Aamer from Guantánamo: Photos of a Protest Outside Parliament, April 24, 2013

Free Shaker Aamer from Guantanamo: Protest in Parliament Square, April 24, 2013Over 117,000 People Say: Free Shaker Aamer from GuantanamoStand up for Shaker Aamer: Save his lifeI died waiting for justice: Adnan Latif 1975-2012Free Shaker Aamer from GuantanamoJoy Hurcombe, the chair of the Save Shaker Aamer Campaign
Bring Shaker home nowCampaigners call for the release from Guantanamo of Shaker AamerSadiq Khan calls for the release of Shaker Aamer from GuantanamoShaker Aamer: where's the justice?Sheikh Suliman Ghani calls for the release of Shaker Aamer from GuantanamoJohn McDonnell calls for the release of Shaker Aamer from Guantanamo
I am waiting 11 years for Shaker AamerMr. Prime Minister, phone your friend, President ObamaMr. Cameron, ask Obama to close Guantanamo now

Free Shaker Aamer from Guantánamo: Protest Outside Parliament, April 24, 2013, a set on Flickr.

On April 24, 2013, campaigners calling for the release from Guantánamo of Shaker Aamer, the last British resident in the prison, held a demonstration outside Parliament following a Parliamentary debate in Westminster Hall from 9.30 to 11 am. Shaker, who has a British wife and four British children, is one of 86 prisoners cleared for release by an inter-agency task force established by President Obama in 2009 but still held, and, in recent weeks, his story has finally become prominent in the mainstream British media, as he is part of the prison-wide hunger strike that began on February 6, and there are fears for his life (see my recent reports here and here).

The Parliamentary debate followed a successful e-petition, calling on the British government to “undertake urgent new initiatives to achieve the immediate transfer of Shaker Aamer to the UK from continuing indefinite detention in Guantánamo Bay,” which secured over 100,000 signatures, through the tireless work of numerous campaigners, making it eligible for a discussion in Parliament. Please note that an international petition for Shaker is still ongoing. Read the rest of this entry »

“It is Indisputable that the United States Engaged in Torture”: So When Do the Prosecutions Begin?

“It is indisputable that the United States engaged in the practise of torture.” These powerful words are from “The Report of the Constitution Project’s Task Force on Detainee Treatment,” a 600-page report involving a detailed analysis of the treatment of prisoners following the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. The project took two years to complete, and its conclusions are difficult to dismiss, as the eleven-member panel constitutes a cross-section of the US establishment.

The co-chairs are Asa Hutchinson, who, as the Atlantic described it, “served in the Bush Administration as a Department of Homeland Security undersecretary from 2003 to 2005, and as the administrator of the Drug Enforcement Administration before that,” and James R. Jones, “a former US ambassador to Mexico and a Democratic member of the House of Representatives for seven terms.”

Other members of the panel include “Talbot D’Alemberte, a former president of the American Bar Association; legal scholar Richard Epstein; David Gushee, a professor of Christian ethics; David Irvine, a former Republican state legislator and retired brigadier general; Claudia Kennedy, ‘the first woman to receive the rank of three-star general in the United States army’; naval veteran and career diplomat Thomas Pickering; [and] William Sessions, director of the FBI in three presidential administrations.”

The project was undertaken because, as the Task Force explained, “the Obama administration declined, as a matter of policy, to undertake or commission an official study of what happened, saying it was unproductive to ‘look backwards’ rather than forward.” Read the rest of this entry »

Photos: A Bright Morning on Chesil Beach in Dorset

Sunny skylightThe bathroomThe kitchenMorning waves on Chesil Beach 1Morning waves on Chesil Beach 2Chesil Beach in the morning
Fortuneswell wakes upShine onThe Cove House Inn in the mist

A Bright Morning on Chesil Beach in Dorset, a set on Flickr.

From April 9 to 12, 2013, I escaped London for a brief but thoroughly refreshing family holiday in Dorset, on England’s south coast, far enough away from London to escape the greed and pretension that is sadly so dominant in the capital.

In two previous sets, “A Rainy Easter: Chesil Beach in Dorset,” and “Fog, Prison and the Sea: The Isle of Portland at Night,” I posted photos from the first day of the holiday, as the weather veered from overcast to foggy. None of this mattered, as the house we were staying in — a converted former chapel and former fisherman’s store — was a wonderful, inspiring place, as the first few photos in this set hopefully show, and we were, in any case, staying somewhere that was enchanting whatever the weather. Read the rest of this entry »

Guantánamo Authorities Respond to Hunger Strike with Violence; Red Cross Complains

I wrote the following article for the “Close Guantánamo” website, which I established in January 2012 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.

In response to the prison-wide hunger strike at Guantánamo, the authorities last weekend stormed into Camp 6, the block where the majority of the prisoners are held, and hauled most of the prisoners off to solitary confinement.

The authorities attempted to justify their actions — but failed to understand that the men who are endangering their lives by embarking on a hunger strike are doing so not to upset the authorities for no reason, or to challenge their authority needlessly, but because they despair of ever being released.

Even though 86 of the 166 men still held were cleared for release by an inter-agency Guantánamo Review Task Force established by President Obama in 2009, the US government has turned its back on them. Although two-thirds of the cleared prisoners are Yemenis, President Obama issued a blanket ban on releasing any Yemenis after the failed underwear bomb plot on Christmas Day 2009 (perpetrated by a Nigerian man recruited in Yemen).

Congress has also raised obstacles preventing the release of prisoners, and the court of appeals in Washington D.C. — the D.C. Circuit Court — has also issued rulings preventing the release of prisoners for reasons that have much more to do with ideology and paranoia than with the facts.

The men are effectively stranded at Guantánamo, and will die there unless action is taken immediately by President Obama to bring this intolerable situation to an end. Read the rest of this entry »

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Andy Worthington

Investigative journalist, author, filmmaker, photographer and Guantanamo expert
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