Archive for December, 2014

Come and See Andy Worthington and the Four Fathers Play the Campaign Song for We Stand With Shaker in London on Saturday

The Four Fathers at Guantanamo, a collage by Bren Horstead of the band fronted by human rights journalist and campaigner Andy Worthington, who wrote the campaign song for the We Stand With Shaker campaign he launched with Joanne MacInnes in November 2014.If you’re in London on Saturday and can get to Brockley (SE4, two stops from London Bridge, three stops from Canada Water), I’ll be showcasing another of my interests, in addition to being a human rights journalist and campaigner — singing in a band, playing the campaign song I wrote for the We Stand With Shaker campaign that I launched with Joanne MacInnes two weeks ago.

My band The Four Fathers are playing at the Brockley Christmas Market, on Coulgate Street, right next to Brockley Station, from 1.30 to 2pm, and everyone is welcome. The event is free, and there will be loads of welcoming stalls selling Christmas presents, food and drink.

The We Stand With Shaker campaign seeks to secure the release from Guantánamo, without further delay, of Shaker Aamer, the last British resident in the prison, who is still held, despite being cleared for release in 2007 and 2009, and despite the British government’s official position — that it is seeking his release and his return to his family in London. Read the rest of this entry »

Video: Juliet Stevenson and David Morrissey Star in New Film About Shaker Aamer for Human Rights Day, Calling for His Release from Guantánamo

A screen shot of Juliet Stevenson from the short film the We Stand With Shaker campaign made for Human Rights Day, of Shaker Aamer's Declaration of No Human Rights, written in Guantanamo.Watch the video of Juliet Stevenson and David Morrissey reading from Shaker Aamer’s “Declaration of No Human Rights” below.

Yesterday, December 10, was Human Rights Day, marking the 66th anniversary of the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights by the United Nations (on December 10, 1948). Its 30 articles provided a benchmark for decent behaviour following the atrocities of the Second World War, and they have been enormously influential, leading, for example, to the UN Convention Against Torture, which was ratified in 1987.

However, after the dreadful terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, the US swept aside laws and treaties dealing with the treatment of prisoners, embracing torture — as revealed on Tuesday in the executive summary of the Senate Intelligence Committee’s report on the CIA torture program, which I wrote about here — and engaging in a widespread program of kidnapping (“extraordinary rendition”) and indefinite detention without charge or trial.

A bleakly iconic manifestation of the US governments post-9/11 flight from the law is Guantánamo, where 136 men still languish, hoping that the uproar over the CIA’s torture program and its network of”black sites” will not mean that they — who have also suffered, and continue to suffer the torture of open-ended arbitrary detention, and, in some cases, brutal force-feeding — will be overlooked. Read the rest of this entry »

Quarterly Fundraiser: Still Seeking $2000 (£1200) to Support My Work on Guantánamo, Shaker Aamer and Torture

Andy Worthington (R) with the actor-director Mark Rylance (L) and Joanne MacInnes (C) during an event for Shaker Aamer in Parliament Square on December 10, 2014 as part of the We Stand With Shaker campaign (Photo: Benedick Tranchell).Please support my work!

Dear friends and supporters,

Can you help to support my work on Guantánamo and torture — including the case of Shaker Aamer, the last British resident in the prison?

My work — my writing, my campaigning, my media appearances and personal appearances — is largely unfunded: or, to put it another way, is only funded if you, my readers and supporters, provide donations to support me.

If you can help out at all, please click on the “Donate” button above to donate via PayPal (and I should add that you don’t need to be a PayPal member to use PayPal). Read the rest of this entry »

Prosecutions Now! Please Read My New Article for Al-Jazeera About the Release of the Senate Torture Report

A screenshot of Andy Worthington's Al-Jazeera article about the CIA torture program, published on December 10, 2014.Dear friends and supporters,

I hope you have time to read my new article for Al-Jazeera English, “Punishment, not apology after CIA torture report” looking at yesterday’s release of the 500-page executive summary of the Senate Intelligence Committee’s 6,700-page report into the CIA’s “Detention and Interrogation Program,” which took five years to complete, and cost $40m; or, in other words, the release of the summary of the Committee’s report about the Bush administration’s torture program, as run by the CIA.

In the article, I run through the history of the secretive program and how knowledge of it became public, from 2004 onwards (and including a mention of the report on secret detention for the UN in 2010, on which I was the lead writer and researcher), and I also look at a few of the genuinely shocking stories that emerge from the executive summary, some of which are shocking even for those of us who have spent years — in my case nearly nine years — researching and writing about the torture program.

I remain worried, however, that the Committee’s important work will be swept under the carpet, and that no one will be held accountable — by which I don’t just mean CIA officials, and James Mitchell and Bruce Jessen, the former SERE psychologists who designed the program (and earned $81m as a result!), as much as those who gave them their orders in the first place; namely, President George W. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney, and the various lawyers around them — David Addington, William J. Haynes II, John Yoo and Alberto Gonzales, for example — who did so much to initiate the torture program and to attempt to justify it. Read the rest of this entry »

Quarterly Fundraiser: Please Help Me Raise $2500 to Support My Guantánamo Work

Andy Worthington, in a photo for the We Stand With Shaker campaign.Please support my work!

Dear friends and supporters,

Every three months I ask you, if you can, to support my work on Guantánamo and the “war on terror” by making a donation. Most of the work I do to educate people about Guantánamo, and to campaign to get the prison closed, is unpaid — or, rather, it is unpaid unless it is funded by you, my readers — and this quarter is no exception.

I recently launched a campaign called We Stand With Shaker, specifically to try and secure the release from Guantánamo of Shaker Aamer, the last British resident in the prison. With a colleague, Joanne MacInnes, we launched it two weeks ago, and we seem to be getting noticed, in particular through our photos of celebrities — including actors, comedians, politicians, journalists and musicians — standing with a giant inflatable figure of Shaker. Some of you may also be surprised to discover that I also wrote and sang the campaign song, featured in the official video for the campaign.

This project has been taking up a huge amount of time, although, like so much of my work, it is completely unfunded, so any assistance you can provide will be very gratefully received, as the campaign continues, with new initiatives planned for the next few months, as well as the daily updates of celebrities standing with Shaker. Read the rest of this entry »

Who Are the Six Men Freed from Guantánamo and Given New Homes in Uruguay?

Photos of five of the six men released to Uruguay from Guantanamo - from L to R: Ali Hussein al-Shaaban, Ahmed Adnan Ahjam, Abdelhadi Faraj, Mohammed Taha Mattan and Abu Wa'el Dhiab. The photos are from the classified military files released by WikiLeaks in 2011, and the collage is by LeaNoticias.com.Great news regarding Guantánamo, as yesterday the Pentagon announced that six men, long cleared for release from the prison — four Syrians, a Palestinian and a Tunisian — have been resettled in Uruguay as refugees.

Back in March, President José Mujica of Uruguay — a former political prisoner — announced that he had been approached by the Obama administration regarding the resettlement of Guantánamo prisoners and had offered new homes to a number of men, cleared for release from the prison in 2009 by President Obama’s high-level Guantánamo Review Task Force, who could not be safely repatriated.

In May, President Mujica’s offer was confirmed, as I explained in an article entitled, “Uruguay’s President Mujica Confirms Offer of New Home for Six Guantánamo Prisoners,” but the releases were then delayed. The Obama administration ran into problems with Congress after releasing five Taliban prisoners in exchange for Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, the sole US prisoner of war in Afghanistan, and, according to various reports, defense secretary Chuck Hagel dragged his heels when it came to notifying Congress of any proposed releases, as required by law. In addition President Mujica ran up against hostility from his political opponents — which was particularly difficult in an election year. Read the rest of this entry »

UN Says Force-Feeding at Guantánamo Constitutes Ill-Treatment in Violation of the Convention Against Torture

A powerful image from Witness Against Torture in the US.I’ve been so busy lately with the launch of We Stand With Shaker, the new campaign to secure the release from Guantánamo of Shaker Aamer, the last British resident in the prison, that I haven’t had time to write anything — until now — about the United States’ recent appearance before the United Nations Committee Against Torture to explain its position on the torture and ill-treatment of prisoners in its custody.

The session — which took place on November 12 and 13, and was the first US report to the Committee Against Torture since 2006, when George W. Bush was president — led to numerous criticisms in the Committee’s response, adopted on November 20; in the Guardian‘s words, of “indefinite detention without trial; force-feeding of Guantánamo prisoners; the holding of asylum seekers in prison-like facilities; widespread use of solitary confinement; excessive use of force and brutality by police; shootings of unarmed black individuals; and cruel and inhumane executions.”

The Committee was also concerned about the US record on torture, expressing “its grave concern over the extraordinary rendition, secret detention and interrogation programme operated by the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) between 2001 and 2008, which involved numerous human rights violations, including torture, ill-treatment and enforced disappearance of persons suspected of involvement in terrorism-related crimes” — concerns expressed in a 2010 UN report about secret detention on which I was the lead author (and also see here, here and here) — and reminded the US about “the absolute prohibition of torture reflected in article 2, paragraph 2, of the Convention [Against Torture], stating that ‘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.'” The Committee also called for the long-delayed Senate Intelligence Committee torture report — or, more accurately, its executive summary — to be issued without further delay. Read the rest of this entry »

More Guantánamo Releases Planned Despite Hostility in Congress

"President and Congress: Close Guantanamo" - a banner from the protest calling for the closure of Guantanamo outside the White House on January 11, 2012, the 10th anniversary of the opening of the prison.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 a hopeful sign of ongoing progress on Guantánamo, following the recent release of six prisoners, Julian Barnes of the Wall Street Journal reported on Thursday that defense and congressional officials had told him that the Pentagon was “preparing to transfer additional detainees” from Guantánamo “in the coming weeks.”

After four Yemenis and a Tunisian were given new homes in Georgia and Slovakia, and a Saudi was repatriated, defense officials “said there would be more transfers in December, but declined to detail their numbers or nationalities.”

Laura Pitter, the senior national security counsel for Human Rights Watch, said in response, “There does seem to be a renewed effort to make the transfers happen,” which, she added, seems to indicate a desire on the president’s part to continue working towards closing the prison, as he promised when he took office in January 2009, before Republicans raised obstacles that he has, in general, not wished to spend political will overcoming. Read the rest of this entry »

Support Hoxton’s New Era Estate Tenants in Their Struggle Against Rapacious US Landlord Westbrook Partners

The two young women in the centre and the right of this photo live on the New Era Estate in Hoxton, and were part of a group of protestors that, on December 1, 2014, had just handed in a petition - of nearly 300,000 signatures - calling on David Cameron to protect them from the rapacious US property developers (Westbrook Holdings) who bought their estate earlier this year and now want to remove the tenants from the flats in which many have lived for decades, paying rents similar to those in council housing or housing associations. If evicted, many of these hardworking people will have to leave London entirely, because of the rampant greed in the capital that shows no sign of abating (Photo by Andy Worthington).Congratulations to the tenants of the New Era Estate in Hoxton for mounting a major campaign to oppose attempts by the US property company that bought up their homes to price them out, in an act of naked greed that ought to make any decent person feel rather queazy about how greed has become the sole measure by which society as a whole measures success.

The New Era Estate — home to 93 families in several blocks of flats in Hoxton, where London’s hipsters mix with council tenants — was built in the 1930s as workers’ housing, a private enterprise by a socially responsible family whose activities echoed what was being undertaken at the time by the London County Council. The Lever family, which built the estate, ran it through a trust — and kept the rents genuinely affordable — until March this year, when it was sold to a consortium, led by the US firm Westbrook Holdings, in which Tory MP Richard Benyon’s family firm also had a stake — and the Benyons, it transpired, took over the running of the estate.

In June, the Daily Mirror reported how rents had already been put up by 10% and how, at a meeting with tenants — many of whom have lived on the estate for decades — Richard Benyon’s brother Edward “announced plans to ­refurbish the 1930s homes and build more flats on the roof,” as the Mirror put it.

“The goal, which is something I have had to say to all of you, is the fact that the rents will be going to market value,” he said, meaning, quite possibly, a tripling or quadrupling of the existing rents, because of the hipness of Hoxton and the complete absence of any kind of rent control. Landlords, if they can get away with it, can charge £2000 a month for flats whether they are new, refurbished or run-down (making a total of £24,000 a year), even though the average income in the UK is only £27,000. Read the rest of this entry »

Former Guantánamo Military Defense Attorney Todd Pierce Interviewed by the Talking Dog

Former US military defense attorney Todd Pierce speaking at the presentation of the Sam Adams Associates Award for Integrity in Intelligence to Chelsea Manning in Oxford in February 2014 (Photo: Andy Worthington).I’m delighted to be cross-posting below an interview conducted by my good friend The Talking Dog (functioning below the radar under a pseudonym in New York City) with another good friend, Army Maj. Todd Pierce (retired), who, as a Judge Advocate General (JAG) officer, was part of the defense team for two Guantánamo prisoners charged in the military commissions — Ali Hamza al-Bahlul (still held) and Ibrahim al-Qosi (released in 2012).

Todd became fascinated by the philosophical origins of the Bush-Cheney military commissions in the Nazi era, and efforts to justify the commissions through a warped interpretation of US Civil War precedents. Since retiring, he has continued to pursue these interests, and has also become part of Sam Adams Associates, who describe themselves as “a movement of former CIA colleagues of former intelligence analyst Sam Adams, together with others who hold up his example as a model for those in intelligence who would aspire to the courage to speak truth to power,” and who, every year since 2002, have presented the Sam Adams Associates Award for Integrity in Intelligence to whistleblowers — most recently to Chelsea Manning, at an event in Oxford that I attended in February.

I do hope you have time to read the interview — which also includes Todd’s latest thoughts on the case of Ali Hamza al-Bahlul, who has been successfully appealing against his 2008 conviction and life sentence — with profound repercussions for the entire military commissions project, which, it should be noted, should never have been revived by George W. Bush and Dick Cheney in the first place.

If you enjoy it, please share it, and please also follow the links I’m posting at the end of this article to the Talking Dog’s extensive archive of interviews about Guantánamo and the “war on terror.” 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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