Archive for August, 2013

I’m on Holiday for Two Weeks: Please Keep Sharing and Liking the GTMO Clock, Which Aims to Shame President Obama on Guantánamo

Click on the image to visit the GTMO Clock website and see how many days it has been since President Obama promised to resume releasing prisoners from Guantánamo, and how many men have been freed.

I’m away with my family to Sicily for two sun-drenched weeks of rest and relaxation — actually, it will more probably involve a fair amount of clowning around, and walking the Mediterranean streets at noon, like the Mad Dogs and Englishmen Noel Coward sang about, but I am sure it will be relaxing, and I’m grateful for the opportunity to unwind for a little while and recharge my batteries.

It’s been an intense six months on the Guantánamo front, and I’m acutely aware that there is no good news for the men still held there, who embarked on a prison-wide hunger strike over six months ago to protest about the conditions of indefinite confinement in which they all find themselves, regardless of whether or not they have been cleared for release. 86 of the remaining 166 prisoners have, but they remain held because President Obama lacks the political will to make their release a priority, faced with hostility from Congress, where opportunistic lawmakers have imposed onerous restrictions on the release of prisoners.

Please keep the men in your thoughts, if you can. Write to them, and if you haven’t already done so, visit the GTMO Clock website I launched last week, designed by Justin Norman, to see how many days it is since President Obama promised to resume releasing cleared prisoners (in a major speech on national security on may 23), and how many men have so far been released. The answer isn’t pretty. Read the rest of this entry »

Guantánamo: British Ex-Intelligence Officer On Hunger Strike in Support of Shaker Aamer

On Monday, Harry Ferguson, 52, a former officer with MI6, the British intelligence agency, began a week-long hunger strike, as part of the Stand Fast for Justice initiative launched by the legal action charity Reprieve, in support of the prisoners at Guantánamo Bay — and, in particular, Shaker Aamer, the last British resident in the prison, who continues to be held despite being cleared for release by a military review board under President Bush in 2007 and by President Obama’s inter-agency Guantánamo Review Task Force in January 2010. Others who have been hunger striking as part of the campaign include Julie Christie, the comedian Frankie Boyle, and Reprieve’s Director, Clive Stafford Smith.

Shaker is one of 86 men cleared for release by the task force but still held at Guantánamo, because of a lack of political will on the part of President Obama and obstruction by Congress, and has been part of the prison-wide hunger strike that began in February. At its peak, the hunger strike involved up to 130 of the remaining 166 prisoners. That figure has apparently fallen recently, but 37 men are still being force-fed, a painful process that medical experts condemn as torture.

Explaining his reasons for embarking on a hunger strike in solidarity with Shaker and the other prisoners, Mr. Ferguson gave a statement that ought to shame everyone in the British establishment who has colluded with the Bush and Obama administrations in the lawlessness of the last 12 years, since the 9/11 attacks. Read the rest of this entry »

Congratulations to John Grisham for Writing about the Injustice of Guantánamo

In the long and horrendous history of the “war on terror” prison at Guantánamo Bay, it has been noticeable that very few celebrities have challenged the myriad injustices of Guantánamo — the torture; the indefinite detention without charge or trial; the decision by the Bush administration to tear up every domestic and international law and treaty regarding the treatment of prisoners; the refusal to make a distinction between soldiers and terrorists; the bounty payments issued to America’s Afghan and Pakistani allies, which led to numerous civilians being rounded up and sent to Guantánamo; the pressure exerted on the prisoners to make them tell lies about themselves and their fellow prisoners, to create the majority of what passes for evidence at Guantánamo; the failure of President Obama to hold any Bush administration officials (up to and including President Bush) responsible for their actions; the failure of President Obama to close the prison as he promised; the failure of President Obama to resume releasing prisoners, as he promised in a major speech in May this year; the opportunistic fearmongering of Congress, which has raised almost insurmountable obstacles to prevent the release of prisoners or the closure of the prison; the decision by judges in the appeals court in Washington D.C. (the D.C. Circuit Court) to gut habeas corpus of all meaning in relation to the Guantánamo prisoners, and to shut the Great Writ down as a route out of the prison; and the decision by the Supreme Court to allow this cynical manipulation of the law to stand, and not to assert its authority over the appeals court.

As a result of the general indifference towards Guantánamo, it came as a great and pleasant surprise when, at the weekend, the author John Grisham, whose books have sold over 250 million copies, wrote an op-ed for the New York Times about the indefinite detention of prisoners at Guantánamo, focusing, in particular, on the case of Nabil Hadjarab, an Algerian national, and an orphan, with relatives in France who have been seeking his release for many years. Grisham found out about him because he was alerted to the fact that prisoners were being prevented from reading his books, and that Nabil was one of them — and I imagine he was made aware of this through his support for the Innocence Project, a non-profit organization in the US dedicated to exonerating wrongfully convicted people, which Nabil’s lawyers at Reprieve have also been involved in over many years.

Grisham, I’m glad to say, has understood perfectly the horrors of Guantánamo, as the following passages from his article show: Read the rest of this entry »

Endless Injustice: Newly Announced Guantánamo Review Boards Will Be Toothless Unless Cleared Prisoners Are Freed

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.

As the hunger strike at Guantánamo reaches the six-month mark, it is, sadly, apparent that President Obama has failed to act swiftly to release prisoners following his major speech on national security issues on May 23, when he promised, “To the greatest extent possible, we will transfer detainees who have been cleared to go to other countries.”

Since then, there has been some progress, just not enough. Last week it was announced that President Obama has notified Congress of his intention to release two Algerian prisoners, but 86 of the remaining 166 prisoners have been cleared for release since January 2010, when an inter-agency task force established by the president when he took office issued its report regarding the disposition of the prisoners, and all 86 need to be released.

I understand that Congress has imposed onerous restrictions on the release of prisoners, insisting that the administration must provide assurances that any released prisoner must be unable to engage in terrorist acts against the US. However, Guantánamo must be closed, as President Obama promised when he took office in January 2009, and the hunger strike must be brought to an end. Read the rest of this entry »

Photos: Shaker Aamer Protest in London, and His Latest Message from Guantánamo

Free Shaker Aamer from Guantanamo, Parliament Square, July 18, 2013Bring home Shaker AamerShut Guantanamo: End 11 years of shameStand up for Shaker AamerDavid Harrold says, "Free Shaker Aamer"Ray Silk addresses Shaker Aamer protest
Shaker Aamer protestFree Shaker AamerAndy Worthington at Free Shaker Aamer protest

Shaker Aamer Protest in London, July 18, 2013, a set on Flickr.

Now that many people have been wakened to the plight of Shaker Aamer, the last British resident in Guantánamo, through P.J. Harvey writing a song about him that has sent ripples through the music world, I hope that ongoing efforts to secure his release will attract more support in the months to come. After all, what excuse is there for people not to be outraged that he is one of 86 men cleared for release under President Bush and Obama who are still held, and that he is part of a prison-wide hunger strike to which the authorities are responding with force-feeding?

On July 18, as Parliament shut up shop for the summer, I joined campaigners from the Save Shaker Aamer Campaign and the London Guantánamo Campaign in Parliament Square, outside the Houses of Parliament, for a last vigil before the summer recess began. I have already posted a video of an interview I undertook on the day with a representative of the PCS union (the Public and Commercial Services union), but art the time I didn’t have the opportunity to make the photos I took available, and I was then derailed by a week away.

I’m posting them now to try to help keep Shaker’s story in the public eye, and also to thank the Save Shaker Aamer Campaign and the London Guantánamo Campaign for their tireless work to try and secure the closure of Guantánamo and the release of Shaker Aamer. Read the rest of this entry »

GTMO Clock Launched, 75 Days Since Obama’s Promise to Resume Releasing Prisoners from Guantánamo, and Six Months Since Hunger Strike Started

Please click on the “GTMO Clock” image to visit the website and see how many days it has been since President Obama promised to resume releasing prisoners from Guantánamo, and how many men have been freed.

Today, the “Close Guantánamo” campaign, Witness Against Torture and the Center for Constitutional Rights are launching the “GTMO Clock,” to show how long it is since President Obama promised to resume releasing prisoners from Guantánamo, and how many men have been freed. This article is published simultaneously here and on the “Close Guantánamo” website.

It’s six months since the prisoners at Guantánamo embarked on a prison-wide hunger strike to protest about their seemingly endless detention. Although President Obama promised to close the prison within a year when he took office in January 2009, he failed to do so, and in February this year, the majority of the 166 men still held began refusing food, in the hope of attracting the world’s attention to their plight, and forcing President Obama to act.

In May, after the world’s media had picked up on the hunger strike, and international bodies including the UN, the EU and the International Committee of the Red Cross had put pressure on President Obama, he responded with a major speech on national security, in which he promised to resume releasing prisoners from Guantánamo. Today, however, it’s 75 days since that speech, and no prisoners have yet been released. The “GTMO Clock” will be keeping track of how many days it has been since President Obama made his promise, and how many men have been released. Read the rest of this entry »

Shaker Aamer and Other Guantánamo Prisoners Call Force-Feeding Torture, Ask Appeals Court for Help

On June 30, as I reported here, lawyers for four prisoners in Guantánamo — Shaker Aamer, the last British resident in the prison, Nabil Hadjarab and Ahmed Belbacha, both Algerians, and Abu Wa’el Dhiab, a Syrian — filed a motion with the District Court in Washington D.C., asking a judge to issue a ruling compelling the government to “stop force-feeding in the prison and stop force-medicating prisoners, particularly with Reglan, a drug used by the US during the force-feeding process that when used for extended periods of time can cause severe neurological disorders, including one that mimics Parkinson’s disease,” as it was described in a press release by Reprieve, the London-based legal action charity whose lawyers filed the motion, along with Jon B. Eisenberg in the US.

The men are amongst the 86 prisoners (out of the 166 men still held), who were cleared for release by the inter-agency Guantánamo Review Task Force, established by President Obama when he took office in 2009. In addition, all are involved in the prison-wide hunger strike that began six months ago, and both Nabil Hadjarab and Ahmed Belbacha are amongst the 41 prisoners who are being force-fed.

Although the prisoners made a compelling argument for the need for intervention, the judge ruling in Abu Wa’el Dhiab’s case, Judge Gladys Kessler, was unable to grant the motion, because of a legal precedent from February 2009, when, in the case of Mohammed al-Adahi, a Yemeni who sought to stop his force-feeding, a court ruled that “no court, justice, or judge shall have jurisdiction to hear or consider any other action against the United States or its agents relating to any aspect of the detention, transfer, treatment, trial, or conditions of confinement of an alien who is or was detained by the United States and has been determined by the United States to have been properly detained as an enemy combatant.” Read the rest of this entry »

Video: Culture of Impunity Part Two – Andy Worthington on Bush’s War Crimes, Bradley Manning and Guantánamo

Six weeks ago, on June 26, the International Day in Support of Victims of Torture, initiated by the United Nations in 1997, on the 10th anniversary of the the day that the UN Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment came into force, I posted the first half of a newly released documentary film, “Culture of Impunity,” for which I was interviewed along with the law professor and author Marjorie Cohn, the professor, author and filmmaker Saul Landau, the author and activist David Swanson, Laura Pitter of Human Rights Watch and Stephen Rohde of the ACLU.

The documentary, which looks at the many ways in which the most senior figures in the Bush administration — including George W. Bush, Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld — have escaped accountability for the crimes committed in the “war on terror” declared after the 9/11 attacks, was produced by Alternate Focus, which describes itself as “working for peace and justice by offering the American public media which shows another side of Middle Eastern issues,” and I was interviewed for it in April.

The producer, John Odam, has just sent me a link to the second part of this powerful documentary, on YouTube, which I’ve made available below, along with the first part. It features all of the experts interviewed in the first half, as well as Stephen Zunes, a Professor of Politics and International Studies at the University of San Francisco. Read the rest of this entry »

Video: Andy Worthington Discusses the Bradley Manning Verdict on RT

On Wednesday evening, I spoke to RT about the verdict in the trial by court-martial of Pfc. Bradley Manning, following his conviction on 20 charges, including espionage and theft, which was announced by the judge in his case, Army Col. Denise Lind, on Monday. My five-minute interview is available below, via YouTube.

Significantly, Judge Lind refused to convict Manning on the most serious charge — that of “aiding the enemy,” which the prosecution had tried to claim proved that Manning had “general evil intent” when he leaked hundreds of thousands of classified US government documents, 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, released by WikiLeaks in April 2011, on which I worked as a media partner.

However, that was the only good news on Monday, as Manning still faces 136 years in prison based on the other charges, which is a horrendous situation. Asked about it, I explained that it is an unacceptable ruling for whistleblowers, motivated, as Manning was, to make available information that is in the public interest  — about war crimes, for example — that the US government wanted to keep hidden, and I also pointed out how the mainstream media evidently agreed, having used what he leaked to sell newspapers and attract viewers for news programs for many months in 2010 and 2011. Read the rest of this entry »

Photos: Victory for the Save Lewisham Hospital Campaign

Justice for Lewisham HospitalSave Lewisham Hospital campaignersA youthful campaigner for Lewisham HospitalHands off my hospital!Victory!A victory for Lewisham Hospital is a victory for everyone
We won!Victory in LewishamYou lose, Mr. Hunt!Brian Fisher GP celebrates Lewisham's victoryLouise Irvine GP celebrates Lewisham's victoryLewisham Hospital: Here to stay!

Victory for the Save Lewisham Hospital Campaign, a set on Flickr.

Here are my photos from yesterday’s celebrations by campaigners for Lewisham Hospital — myself included — outside the High Court, and then outside Lewisham Hospital, following a spectacular victory in the High Court after nine months of campaigning.

As I explained in my brief report yesterday, after I returned from the High Court, Mr. Justice Silber, ruling on two judicial reviews submitted by Lewisham Council and the Save Lewisham Hospital campaign, ruled that health secretary Jeremy Hunt had acted unlawfully when he approved plans to severely downgrade services at Lewisham Hospital, including shutting its A&E Department, so that there would only be one A&E Department for the 750,000 inhabitants of the boroughs of Lewisham, Greenwich and Bexley, and cutting maternity services so severely that nine out of ten mothers in a borough of 270,000 people would have to give birth elsewhere. Read the rest of this entry »

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Andy Worthington

Investigative journalist, author, campaigner, commentator and public speaker. 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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