Archive for December, 2015

On Human Rights Day, A Call for the US to Close Guantánamo, and for the UK to Defend the Human Rights Act

Eleanor Roosevelt holds up a copy of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948. Roosevelt, the wife of the former US president, who had a deep interest in the rights of refugees, was chosen to chair the UN Human Rights Commission, when it was established on February 16, 1946 to draft a Declaration of Human Rights.

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Over 60 years ago, in the wake of the horrors of World War II, when people with power and influence were determined to do whatever they could to prevent such barbarity from taking place again, the United Nations was established, the Geneva Conventions were rewritten, and representatives of 17 countries drafted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly exactly 67 years ago, on December 10, 1948. Human Rights Day itself was established 65 years ago, on December 10, 1950.

A powerful attempt to establish “a common standard of achievements for all peoples and all nations,” the UDHR set out, for the first time, and in 30 articles, fundamental human rights that were to be universally protected.

These include protection from torture and “cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment,” protection from “arbitrary arrest,” and the right to “a fair and public hearing by an independent and impartial tribunal, in the determination of his rights and obligations and of any criminal charge against him.” The UDHR also stated, “Everyone charged with a penal offence has the right to be presumed innocent until proved guilty according to law in a public trial at which he has had all the guarantees necessary for his defence.” Read the rest of this entry »

Quarterly Fundraiser Day 3: Still Hoping to Raise $2800 (£1800) for My Guantánamo Work

Andy Worthington at the Independence from America protest organised by the Campaign for the Accountability of American Bases (CAAB) at RAF Menwith Hill on July 4, 2013.Please support my work!

Dear friends and supporters,

It’s the third day of my quarterly fundraiser, in which I’m asking you, my readers and supporters, to donate to support my work on Guantánamo and related issues.

As a freelance investigative journalist, commentator and campaigner, I’ve carved out a niche here on the internet over the last eight and half years, writing over 1,850 articles about Guantánamo since May 2007, and, crucially, most of this work — along with most of my media and public appearances — is reader-funded, so any amount will be gratefully received, whether it is $25, $100 or $500 — or any amount in any other currency (£15, £50 or £250, for example). PayPal will convert any currency you pay into dollars, which I chose as my main currency because the majority of my supporters are in the US.

As well as running this website without any institutional funding whatsoever, making me 100% dependent on your support, I also co-directed the We Stand With Shaker campaign, which played a part in securing the release from Guantánamo of Shaker Aamer, the last British resident in the prison, on October 30, without any financial support either, except for that provided by you, my readers and supporters. Read the rest of this entry »

In London, Andy Worthington Discusses Shaker Aamer and Guantánamo, and His Band The Four Fathers Play Three Gigs

A poster promoting The Four Fathers' gigs in December 2015 in London - and Andy Worthington's talk preceding one of those gigs. Poster designed by The Four Fathers' drummer, Bren Horstead.If you’re in London — or nearby — and interested in hearing me talk about Guantánamo and the campaign to free Shaker Aamer, and/or to see my band The Four Fathers play our mix of politically-infused rock and roots reggae, then I’d be delighted to see you at any of the events taking place in the coming weeks in south east London.

First up, on Saturday December 12, is a free 20-minute set at Brockley Christmas Market, on Coulgate Street, next to Brockley station, in London SE4. This is a free gig, as part of an afternoon of music to accompany the market’s plentiful stalls selling great food and drink, and arts and crafts for Christmas. We’re playing at 2pm, and amongst the other acts playing is my son Tyler, who will be beatboxing at 3.30pm.

Two events are taking place on the following Friday, December 18. First up, at 5.30pm, is a free half-hour set at the Honor Oak Christmas Experience, a Christmas event on the Honor Oak Estate, at 50 Turnham Road, London SE4 2JD.

We then rush down the road to Deptford to set up for an event at the Deptford Cinema, a great community cinema at 39 Deptford Broadway, London SE8 4PQ. There’s a bar, and the doors open at 7pm, when there will be some mingling followed, at 8pm, by me delivering a talk, “Shaker Aamer, Guantánamo, Torture and the Struggle for Human Rights,” followed by a Q&A session. The Facebook page for the event is here, and if you can come, please sign up. It costs £5/£3.50 concs. Read the rest of this entry »

Quarterly Fundraiser: I’m Hoping to Raise $3500 to Support My Guantánamo Work

Andy Worthington speaking to Bill Newman, a civil rights and criminal defense attorney and the director of the western Massachusetts office of the ACLU, who hosts a weekday radio talk show on WHMP in Northampton, Massachusetts on January 14, 2015, during Andy's US tour.Please support my work!

Dear friends and supporters,

Every three months, I ask you, if you can, to make a donation to support my work on Guantánamo and related issues. I’m hoping to raise $3,500 (£2,300) for the next three months, which is just $270 (£180) a week for my regular writing about Guantánamo, telling the prisoners’ stories, and campaigning to get the prison closed.

My work is primarily reader-funded, so any amount will be gratefully received, whether it is $25, $100 or $500 — or any amount in any other currency (£15, £50 or £250, for example). PayPal will convert any currency you pay into dollars, which I chose as my main currency because the majority of my supporters are in the US.

Please note that I receive no institutional funding for this website, nor have I received any for my work on the We Stand With Shaker campaign, the high-profile campaign, launched last November, which, I’m pleased to be able to say, played a part in securing the release from Guantánamo of Shaker Aamer, the last British resident in the prison, on October 30. Read the rest of this entry »

For Review at Guantánamo, DoD Acknowledges That 20th “Forever Prisoner” Is Case of Mistaken Identity, As He Seeks Release

Mustafa-al-Shamiri, in a photo included in the classified military files from Guantanamo that were released by WikiLeaks in 2011.The Periodic Review Boards at Guantánamo began two years ago, to review the cases of all the prisoners not already approved for release (48 of the 107 men still held) or put forward for trials (just ten men), and last week I put together the first full annotated list, to assist anyone interested in the reviews to work out who has already has had their cases looked at and who is still awaiting a review.

The PRBs were set up in response to the conclusions reached by the high-level, inter-agency Guantánamo Review Task Force, which President Obama established shortly after taking office in 2009. The task force suggested that 46 men were “too dangerous to release,” even though they acknowledged that insufficient evidence existed to put them on trial, and President Obama promised periodic reviews of their cases when he approved their ongoing imprisonment without charge or trial in an executive order in March 2011. 25 others — initially recommended for prosecution, were later added to the list, after the basis for trial largely collapsed following a handful of devastating appeals court rulings. The mainstream media have helpfully labelled these men “forever prisoners,” but in reality assessing men as “too dangerous to release” is irresponsible, and not justified by a close examination of the facts.

Shamefully, although President Obama declared, in his March 2011 executive order, that, “For each detainee, an initial review shall commence as soon as possible but no later than 1 year from the date of this order,” we are now nearing the five-year mark, and yet just 20 prisoners have had their cases reviewed, and another 44 are waiting. Of those 20, 18 cases have been decided, and 15 men have been recommended for release, which is a success rate of 83%. This quite solidly demonstrates that the “too dangerous to release” tag was the hyperbolic result of an over-cautious approach to what purported to be the evidence against the men held at Guantánamo by the Guantánamo Review Task Force. Read the rest of this entry »

Labour’s Dilemma: What Should Be Done with the 66 MPs Who Voted with the Tories to Approve Airstrikes in Syria?

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn addresses the House of Commons during the day-long debate about whether or not to approve airstrikes in Syria on December 2, 2015, which ended up with the House supporting the government's proposals. Given a free vote, 66 Labour MPs voted with the government.So the warmongers are happy now, as our planes began bombing Syria within hours of Wednesday’s vote in the House of Commons, as civilians die, because they always do, and as we’re told that this is the start of years of war. What a shame and a disgrace. This century, this millennium, since the trigger of 9/11, which Osama bin Laden and Al-Qaeda intended to destabilise us, and to drag us into wars we couldn’t win, we have been mired in disaster in Afghanistan and we plumbed the depths in Iraq, and, when the Labour government gave way to the Tory-led coalition government, and, in turn, the Tories alone, in May’s particularly depressing General Election, we got involved in the destruction of Libya and, after a burst of sanity in 2013, when Parliament voted against bombing Syria, we got back in the game with bombing against Daesh (ISIS/ISIL) in Iraq, which has now been extended to Syria.

Wars of choice, for the whole of this time, so that my son, who is 16 in two weeks, doesn’t remember a time when we weren’t at war. My son was just one year old when we enthusiastically joined the Bush administration’s invasion of Afghanistan, and hideously overstayed our welcome after toppling the Taliban. My son was three when we illegally invaded Iraq, an invasion in which our Prime Minister, Tony Blair, was not Bush’s poodle, as many in the UK think, but was the key ally who gave legitimacy to Bush’s lawless plans.

And these endless wars? They are now longer in duration than the two World Wars combined, and yet they have never had more than the faintest trace of justification; only, arguably, in Afghanistan, at the beginning, although I didn’t agree with that particular invasion either, as wars without proper plans — attributes which all these wars share — are a recipe for disaster. And here we are, 14 years later, with no end in sight, bombing more civilians in Syria. Read the rest of this entry »

Haji Ghalib, the Afghan Freed from Guantánamo Who Is Now Fighting Isis and the Taliban

Former Guantanamo prisoner Haji Ghalib, photographed after his release from Guantanamo in February 2007.When it comes to reports about prisoners released from Guantánamo, there has, since President Obama took office, been an aggressive black propaganda policy — firstly from within the Pentagon and latterly from the Office of the Director of National Intelligence — painting a false picture of the alleged rate of “recidivism” amongst former prisoners, a trend that has also been echoed in the mainstream media, which has repeatedly published whatever nonsense it has been told without questioning it, or asking for anything resembling proof from those government departments that are responsible. For some background, see my articles here, here, here and here – and my appearance on Democracy Now! in January 2010.

The three outstanding problems with the supposed recidivism rate — beyond the lamentable truth that no information backing up the claims has been made publicly available since 2009, and that the media should therefore have been very wary of it — are, firstly, that lazy or cynical media outlets regular add up the numbers of former prisoners described as “confirmed” and “suspected” recidivists to reach an alarming grand total, which, in recent years, is over 25% of those released, when the numbers of those “suspected” of recidivism are based on unverified, single source reporting, and may very well be unreliable. Back in March 2012, for example, as I explained in my article, “Guantánamo and Recidivism: The Media’s Ongoing Failure to Question Official Statistics,” Pentagon spokesman Lt. Col. Todd Breasseale said, “Someone on the ‘suspected’ list could very possibly not be engaged in activities that are counter to our national security interests.” (emphasis added).

The second huge problem with the reports is that even the “confirmed” rate is, very evidently, exaggerated, as it is, to be blunt, inconceivable that as many former prisoners as alleged can have been engaged in military or terrorist activities against the US. In the latest DNI report, for example, made available in September 2015, it is claimed that 117 former prisoners (17.9% of those released) are “Confirmed of Reengaging,” but no indication is given of how that can be possible. Claims can certainly be made for a few dozen “recidivists” — primarily in Afghanistan, and amongst those few former Gulf prisoners who apparently set up an Al-Qaeda offshoot in Yemen — but the figure of 117 is simply implausible. Read the rest of this entry »

Presenting the First Annotated List of the 64 Guantánamo Prisoners Eligible for Periodic Review Boards

Photos of some of the Guantanamo prisoners, made available when classified military files were released by WikiLeaks in 2011.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.

Check out the list here.

On Monday, we published the first annotated list of the 64 Guantánamo prisoners eligible for Periodic Review Boards, which we hope will be useful to anyone who wants detailed information about who is still held at Guantánamo (also feel free to check out our full prisoner list here, listing all 107 men still held).

71 men were initially listed as eligible for Periodic Review Boards — 46 who were designated for ongoing imprisonment without charge or trial by the high-level, inter-agency Guantánamo Review Task Force that President Obama established shortly after taking office in 2009 (which issued its final report in January 2010), and 25 others who were recommended for prosecution by the task force, until the basis for prosecuting them — generally, charges of providing material support for terrorism — were struck down by the appeals court in Washington D.C. in two particular rulings in October 2012 and January 2013.

Of the 71, five were freed, and two others were reabsorbed into the ailing military commission system, leaving 64 men eligible for PRBs. 20 have had reviews since the PRBs began two years ago, with 15 approved for release (of whom four have been freed) and two others awaiting decisions, but 44 others are still awaiting reviews, and at the current rate it will take over four years — until sometime in 2020 — until they are all completed. Read the rest of this entry »

A Hunger for Justice at Guantánamo as Witness Against Torture Video of Thanksgiving Fast Gets 900,000 Views

Witness Against Torture activists in Cuba, staging a fast on Thanksgiving Day in solidarity with the Guantanamo prisoners (Photo: Justin Norman).It’s rare that Guantánamo, and the plight of the men still held there — mostly for nearly 14 years, and nearly all without charge or trial — gets significant media coverage. The last time was in 2013, after the prisoners themselves grabbed the world’s attention by embarking on a prison-wide hunger strike. Two petitions launched at the time (on Avaaz and Change.org) secured, between them, nearly a million signatures, and contributed to the exertion of such pressure on President Obama, both domestically and internationally, that he promised to resume releasing prisoners, after nearly three years of inaction prompted by cynical obstructions raised by Congress and an unwillingness on the president’s part to spend political capital overcoming those obstructions, even though he had the means to do so.

Since then, President Obama has released 59 men, which is progress, but 107 remain, and 48 of those men have also been approved for release, most since 2009, when the high-level inter-agency Guantánamo Review Task Force, appointed by President Obama shortly after taking office, reviewed the cases of all the men still held, and recommended releasing them (156 men), putting them on trial (36 men, later reduced to 10), or continuing to hold them without charge or trial (48, later raised to 71), on the extremely flimsy basis that they were “too dangerous to release,” but that insufficient evidence existed to put them on trial.

Last week, activists from Witness Against Torture, a campaigning group that announced itself to the world in December 2005 by visiting Cuba and protesting outside Guantánamo, revisited its origins on its 10th anniversary, repeating its protest after 14 members of the group attended a peace conference in Havana. The Guardian covered the story, which was soon picked up on by other media outlets. 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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