Archive for July, 2013

Lewisham Hospital Saved! Judge Rules Jeremy Hunt’s Downgrade Plans Unlawful

We won! Congratulations to the tens of thousands of campaigners who have been fighting to save Lewisham Hospital for the last eight months, since plans to severely downgrade services at the hospital were first announced.

Today in the High Court, Mr. Justice Silber, ruling on two judicial reviews submitted by the Save Lewisham Hospital campaign and Lewisham Council, ruled that the health secretary, Jeremy Hunt, had acted unlawfully when he approved proposals by an NHS Special Administrator, Matthew Kershaw, to severely downgrade services at Lewisham Hospital. The ruling is here.

This was a stunning victory for campaigners — myself included — who have fought the proposals for the last nine months, ever since they were announced at the end of October 2012 by Matthew Kershaw, an NHS Special Administrator appointed to deal with the debts of a neighbouring NHS trust, the South London Healthcare Trust, based in the boroughs of Greenwich, Bexley and Bromley, which was losing over £1m a week, partly through ruinous PFI deals. Read the rest of this entry »

“The Grotesque Injustice of Guantánamo: Insiders’ Accounts” – By Video, Andy Worthington Joins Event in Portland, August 1, 2013

On Thursday August 1, I’ll be taking part, via teleconferencing, in “The Grotesque Injustice of Guantánamo: An Insiders’ Account,” an event in Portland, Oregon organized by peace activist and Vietnam veteran S. Brian Willson and Laura Sandow, a US Navy veteran, who was serving at Guantánamo when George W. Bush’s “war on terror” prison opened in January 2002.

Brian was the commander of a security unit in Vietnam, and is a trained lawyer and criminologist. He recently participated in a hunger strike in Portland in solidarity with the Guantánamo hunger strikers, and is the author of Blood On The Tracks: The Life and Times of S. Brian Willson (PM Press, 2011).

Laura first asked me to be involved back in June, when she and Brian had decided to put an event together, and her request coincided with the publication of her story in the online comic magazine Symbolia, in a powerful strip written by the journalist Sarah Mirk, based on an interview with Laura, and drawn by Lucy Bellwood. See this Think Progress article for excerpts from Laura’s story, and buy it here. As she explained to me in a recent email, “The more people that understand this atrocity [the prison at Guantánamo Bay], the more likely we are to prevent it from becoming an acceptable course of action for future policy decisions.”

The event is sponsored by Veterans for Peace Chapter 72, and takes place in the Buchan Room at the First Unitarian Church, 1226 SW Salmon Street, Portland, Oregon 97205, beginning at 7pm. Doors open at 6:30 pm, and there is a suggested sliding-scale donation of $5 to $20 for the event, although the organizers stress that no one will be turned away for lack of funds. Read the rest of this entry »

I’m Off to WOMAD, Back on Monday: Lee Perry and Seun Kuti on the Bill!

Since 2002, my family and I, along with a crew of friends, including our kids, have been regulars visitors at the WOMAD festival (World of Music Art and Dance), originally in Reading but, since 2007, at Charlton Park in north Wiltshire, where my wife runs children’s workshops, and we get backstage passes to mingle with the great and good of the world music scene.

The festival is a world music lover’s dream, and this year I’m looking forward to seeing my hero, Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry (now, astonishingly, 77 years old!), appearing with Max Romeo, with whom, of course, Perry produced the extraordinary “War Ina Babylon” album, in 1976, featuring “War Ina Babylon,” a perennial favourite (and the song that Bob Marley begged to have for himself), which I’m posting below. That album also featured other timeless classics, including “Chase the Devil“: Read the rest of this entry »

Video: Andy Worthington Calls for the Release from Guantánamo of Shaker Aamer, Parliament Square, July 18, 2013

Please sign the international petition calling for the release from Guantánamo of Shaker Aamer!

Last Thursday, the Save Shaker Aamer Campaign — dedicated to securing the release from Guantánamo of the last British resident in the prison — held its final vigil outside Parliament prior to MPs’ summer recess. The campaigners had been holding lunchtime vigils on weekdays since May, and I was delighted to turn up to show my support. Please see below for a three-minute video in which I explained why the vigil was taking place, which was recorded by a representative of the PCS union.

It is, of course, outrageous that Shaker is still held, as he was cleared for release under President  Bush in 2007, and again under President Obama in January 2010, along with 85 of the other 166 men still held. Opportunistic opposition to the release of prisoners by lawmakers in Congress, and shameful inaction on the part of President Obama are responsible for keeping these 86 men in Guantánamo.

Moreover, there are still no signs that any of the men will be released, even though they have been on a hunger strike to highlight their plight since February, and two months ago President Obama, responding to unparalleled criticism internationally and domestically, promised to resume releasing prisoners.

Please see below for the video, and if you like it, please feel free to share it: Read the rest of this entry »

The Schizophrenic in Guantánamo Whose Lawyers Are Seeking to Have Him Sent Home

The prison at Guantánamo is such an extraordinarily lawless and unjust place that 86 prisoners cleared for release by an inter-agency task force established by President Obama when he took office in 2009 are still held.

Other prisoners recommended for trials languish, year after year, with no hope of justice, and 46 others were specifically recommended for indefinite detention without charge or trial, on the basis that they are too dangerous to release, even though there is insufficient evidence to put them on trial.

That means, of course, that the supposed evidence is fundamentally untrustworthy, a dubious melange of statements extracted through the use of torture and other forms of coercion, and unreliable intelligence reports, but the government refuses to acknowledge that unpalatable truth.

Instead, the men have been obliged to resort to a hunger strike, now in its sixth month, to wake the world up to their plight, and to put pressure on the administration to act. Eight weeks ago, President Obama delivered an eloquent speech about national security, in which he perfectly described how unjust and counter-productive Guantánamo is, and promised to resume releasing prisoners, but he has still not released a single cleared prisoner, and nor has he initiated reviews for the 46 men whose indefinite detention he authorized in March 2011, when he promised to establish Periodic Review Boards (PRBs) to review the men’s cases, to establish whether they continue to be regarded as too dangerous to release. Read the rest of this entry »

EXCLUSIVE: The Last Days in the Life of Adnan Latif, Who Died in Guantánamo Last Year

This article, published simultaneously here and on the “Close Guantánamo” website, contains exclusive information from the unclassified notes of a visit to Abdelhadi Faraj — a Syrian prisoner, and one of 86 men cleared for release from Guantánamo but still held — by his attorney, Ramzi Kassem, in October 2012. During that visit, Faraj spoke about the death of Adnan Latif, the Yemeni prisoner who died at Guantánamo last September, and the notes from that visit, made available to me via Ramzi and his team at CUNY (the City University of New York) are compared and contrasted with the military’s own account, as described in a report released to the journalist Jason Leopold through FOIA legislation at the start of July 2013.

Ten months ago, on September 8, 2012, Adnan Latif, a Yemeni prisoner in Guantánamo, died in his cell. While no one at the time knew the circumstances of his death, it was clear that, however he had died, it was the fault of all three branches of the US government — of President Obama and his administration, of Congress, and of the Supreme Court and the court of appeals in Washington D.C. (the D.C. Circuit Court).

Latif, who had severe mental health problems, had been cleared for release in 2006 by a military review board under George W. Bush, and again by the inter-agency Guantánamo Review Task Force, established by President Obama shortly after taking office in January 2009. He also had his habeas corpus petition granted by a District Court judge in July 2010, but the Obama administration appealed that ruling, and the D.C. Circuit Court overturned it in November 2011. In 2012, when Latif appealed to the Supreme Court, the highest court in the land refused to accept his case (or those of six other prisoners), and three months later he was dead.

Two weeks ago, in response to a FOIA request submitted by the journalist Jason Leopold, the military released its report into Latif’s death, which found that the prison guards and medical personnel responsible for him had failed to follow the prison’s rules in dealing with him, and that Latif himself had “hoarded medications and ingested them shortly before he was found unresponsive in his cell.”

However, not everyone finds this explanation convincing. Read the rest of this entry »

From Guantánamo, Hunger Striker Abdelhadi Faraj Describes the Agony of Force-Feeding

Although I’ve been very busy for the last few months with a steady stream of articles about Guantánamo and the ongoing hunger strike, I haven’t been able to keep track of everything that has been made available. In terms of publicity, this is an improvement on the years before the hunger strike reminded the world’s media about the ongoing existence of the prison, when stories about Guantánamo often slowed to the merest of trickles, and everyone involved in campaigning to close the prison and to represent the men still held there was, I think it is fair to say, becoming despondent and exhausted.

However, it is also profoundly depressing that it took a prison-wide hunger strike to wake people up to the ongoing injustice of Guantánamo, where 86 cleared men are still held (cleared for release in January 2010 by President Obama’s inter-agency Guantánamo Review Task Force), and 80 others are, for the most part, held indefinitely without charge or trial. And it is just as depressing to note that, despite making a powerful speech eight weeks ago, and promising to resume releasing prisoners, President Obama has so far failed to release anyone.

With Ramadan underway, there has been a slight dip in the total number of prisoners on the hunger strike — 80, according to the US military, down from 106, although there has been a slight increase in the number of prisoners being force-fed — from 45 to 46. Read the rest of this entry »

Video: “Is Guantánamo Forever?” – Andy Worthington on “Inside Out” with Susan Modaress

On Friday, I was delighted to talk to Susan Modaress, for the show “Inside Out” on Press TV. Susan interviewed me while I was in New York City in January 2011, for protests on the ninth anniversary of the opening of Guantánamo, which are available here.

The 22-minute show, “Is Guantánamo Forever?” (available below via YouTube) centred on a Skype interview with me and an interview with Karen Greenberg, the Director of the Center on National Security at Fordham University’s School of Law, and I hope you have time to watch it.

Susan and I began by discussing the hunger strike — how it began, and why the 166 men still held are in such despair that they have been refusing food for over five months and are risking their lives.

Their despair, of course, is because 86 of them were cleared for release three and a half years ago by the inter-agency Guantánamo Review Task Force, but are still held, and the 80 others were either recommended for trials that have largely failed to materialize, or were recommended for indefinite detention without charge or trial, on the basis that they were too dangerous to release, even though insufficient evidence exists to put them on trial.

Read the rest of this entry »

Bradley Manning Trial: No Secrets in WikiLeaks’ Guantánamo Files, Just Evidence of Colossal Incompetence

Last week, just before the defense rested its case in the trial of Pfc. Bradley Manning, I was delighted that my book The Guantánamo Files was cited as a significant source of reliable information about the prisoners in Guantánamo — more reliable, in fact, than the information contained in the previously classified military files (the Detainee Assessment Briefs) leaked by Manning and released by WikiLeaks in April 2011, on which I worked as a media partner.

The trial began at the start of June, but on February 28, Manning accepted responsibility for the largest leak of classified documents in US history — including the “Collateral Murder” video, featuring US personnel indiscriminately killing civilians and two Reuters reporters in Iraq, 500,000 army reports (the Afghan War logs and the Iraq War logs), 250,000 US diplomatic cables, and the Guantánamo files.

When Manning accepted responsibility for the leaks, the Guardian described it as follows: “In a highly unusual move for a defendant in such a serious criminal prosecution, Manning pleaded guilty to 10 lesser charges out of his own volition – not as part of a plea bargain with the prosecution.” The Guardian added that the charges to which Manning pleaded guilty “carry a two-year maximum sentence each, committing Manning to a possible upper limit of 20 years in military prison,” but pointed out that he “pleaded not guilty to 12 counts which relate to the major offences of which he is accused by the US government. Specifically, he denied he had been involved in ‘aiding the enemy’ — the idea that he knowingly gave help to al-Qaida and caused secret intelligence to be published on the internet, aware that by doing so it would become available to the enemy.” Read the rest of this entry »

For Ramadan, Please Write to the Hunger Striking Prisoners at Guantánamo

Every six months, I urge readers to send letters to the prisoners in Guantánamo, and, as this is the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, which began July 8, there is no better time to write to the 166 men still held, the majority of whom have been on a hunger strike for over five months, protesting about conditions at the prison, and the failure of all three branches of the US government to free them or put them on trial.

In the last three years, just ten prisoners have been released, even though 86 of the men still held were cleared for release by the sober and responsible inter-agency Guantánamo Review Task Force, consisting of around 60 members of the major government departments and the intelligence agencies. Established by President Obama when he took office in 2009, the task force spent a year reviewing the men’s cases before reaching their decisions about who to release, who to prosecute, and, disturbingly, who to hold indefinitely without charge or trial on the basis that they are “too dangerous to release,” even though insufficient evidence exists to put them on trial. In the real world, what this means is that the supposed evidence is no such thing, and is, instead, a collection of extremely unreliable statements made by the prisoners themselves, and, more particularly, their fellow prisoners, as well as other intelligence reports of a dubious nature.

The Guantánamo Review Task Force’s report was published in January 2010, but it was not until last month that a document explaining which prisoners had been placed into which categories was released through FOIA legislation. I analyzed that document here, and noted which prisoners had been placed in which categories in the prisoner list on the CloseGuantánamo.org website. Read the rest of this entry »

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Andy Worthington

Investigative journalist, author, filmmaker, photographer and Guantanamo expert
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