‘Enshrined Injustice: Guantánamo, Torture and the Military Commissions’ – Nov. 2 London Event with Alka Pradhan, Andy Worthington, Carla Ferstmann

19.10.16

The ironically named Camp Justice at Guantanamo, where the military commission trials, endlessly mired in pre-trial hearings, are supposed to take place.

Please support my work! I’m currently trying to raise $2500 (£2000) to support my writing and campaigning on Guantánamo for the next three months.

 

Here’s one for your diaries, Londoners. On Wednesday November 2, I’m part of a panel discussion — ‘Enshrined Injustice: Guantánamo, Torture, and the Military Commissions’ — taking place at the University of Westminster in central London. The event is free, but please register here on the Eventbrite page.

It’s hosted by Sam Raphael, co-director of The Rendition Project (with Ruth Blakeley at the University of Kent), and the special guest, visiting from the US, is Alka Pradhan, one of the lawyers for Ammar al-Baluchi, a “high-value detainee” at Guantánamo, and one of five men facing a trial for involvement in the 9/11 attacks. Other speakers are Carla Ferstman, the director of REDRESS, and myself, as an independent journalist who has spent over ten years researching and writing about Guantánamo and the post-9/11 torture program, and working to get the prison closed down.

I’ve recently been renewing my focus on the military commissions, via a number of articles on my site (see Not Fit for Purpose: The Ongoing Failure of Guantánamo’s Military Commissions and Guantánamo’s Military Commissions: More Chaos in the Cases of Abd Al-Rahim Al-Nashiri and Majid Khan), on the Close Guantánamo website, and in an op-ed for Al-Jazeera, Guantánamo torture victims should be allowed UN visit, which partly drew on a letter from Ammar al-Baluchi to Juan Méndez, the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture, asking for him to be allowed to visit the “high-value detainees” at Guantánamo.

Yesterday, however, as the Associated Press reported, Méndez (whose term as Rapporteur ends on October 31, when he will be replaced by Swiss lawyer Nils Melter) said he “expects he will end his six-year term without visiting” Guantánamo. He pointed out that “he was invited to visit Guantánamo in 2012 but on conditions that he could not accept,” and added that he “has been unable to appeal those terms.” Specifically, he said, “The terms that I was offered was basically a tour of parts of the facility, but not all. A briefing by the authorities but specifically that I could not talk to any inmate there. So I’m insisting that that’s a non-starter.” (For comparison, the AP also noted that, “In the continental US, only New York City’s Rikers Island prison allowed him to visit on his terms.”)

As the countdown continues to the end of the Obama presidency (with just 92 days left today), a number of questions remain regarding Barack Obama’s legacy in relation to one particular promise that he made on his second day in office — to close the prison at Guantánamo Bay.

President Obama initially promised to close the prison within a year. That deadline came and went, but nearly seven years after, and with just three months left in office, can he close it before his successor takes over, and what will happen to the remaining prisoners? 60 men are still held, and 20 of those men have been approved for release, but of the remaining 40, just ten are facing — or have faced — trials.

What will happen to the 30 men not facing trials, and will the ten men in the trial system ever receive justice? The attempts to prosecute them involve military commissions rather than federal courts, even though the commissions have proven spectacularly unfit for purpose. Procedurally untested, they are also locked into a struggle that strikes to the heart of the lawlessness of the “war on terror,” with, on the one hand, prosecutors (representing the government) seeking to suppress all mention of the fact that these men were tortured, often for many years, in CIA “black sites,” while the defence teams are committed to exposing the truth about what their clients experienced, without which there cannot even be the suggestion that the trials can be fair.

Another question the panel will discuss, arising out of these topics, is whether there will ever be accountability for those who authorized, instigated and undertook the many crimes of the “war on terror” — the torture, rendition and arbitrary detention that have done so much to blacken America’s name.

As we reach the end of Obama’s presidency — with all the uncertainty of who will succeed him — I hope that those concerned about the continued existence of Guantánamo and nearly 15 years of the “war on terror” will remember that we need to focus on the three issues outlined above: the ongoing need for Guantánamo to be closed, and for indefinite imprisonment without charge or trial to be brought to an end, with men accused of crimes put on trial, and soldiers held as prisoners of war according to the Geneva Conventions; the ongoing need for men to be tried in a forum capable of delivering justice, and not one dedicated to hiding evidence of torture; and the ongoing need for those who conceived, instigated and implemented the post-9/11 policies of extraordinary rendition, torture and indefinite imprisonment without charge or trial to be held accountable for their actions.

I hope you can join us for this event. The full details are below, and there is a map on the Eventbrite page.

Wednesday November 2, 2016: 6-8pm: Enshrined Injustice: Guantánamo, Torture, and the Military Commissions
Room 2.05C, University of Westminster, 4-12 Little Titchfield Street, London W1W 7BY

A panel discussion with Alka Pradhan, Human Rights Counsel at the Guantánamo Bay Military Commissions, Andy Worthington, freelance investigative journalist and Carla Ferstmann, Director, REDRESS. Moderated by Sam Raphael.

Below is Sam’s text introducing the events, and below that more detailed biographies of the speakers:

Enshrined Injustice: Guantánamo, Torture, and the Military Commissions

The Centre for the Study of Democracy at the University of Westminster invites you to a panel discussion on the present and future of the detention facility at Guantánamo Bay, and the use of torture upon those who continue to be held by the US Government.

It has now been almost 15 years since the prison at Guantánamo was opened, with over 150 men being rendered to the site in January 2002. Over 600 others were added to the prison population by 2008, with the prison becoming a clear symbol of abuses at the heart of President Bush’s “war on terror”.

Despite President Obama’s calls to close the prison, it remains open to this day. Of the 60 men still detained, 20 have now been cleared for release. The rest are either facing trial through the Military Commission System — a hugely controversial military justice system which provides limited rights to defendants — or else continue to be held indefinitely. 25 have been designated as “forever prisoners”, and will certainly remain detained beyond Obama’s term in office.

Torture remains at the heart of Guantánamo, whether through the introduction of evidence which was gathered under torture by the CIA, or the routine use of torture to discipline those held at the base. Understandings the relationship between the use of torture and the detention of terror suspects as part of the “war on terror” remains an urgent task, as does continuing to press for accountability for those who designed and oversaw the torture programme.

The discussion will be chaired by Dr Sam Raphael, Senior Lecturer at the University of Westminster and Co-Director of The Rendition Project. Speakers on the panel will include:

Alka Pradhan, Human Rights Counsel at the Guantánamo Bay Military Commissions

Alka Pradhan represents Ammar al-Baluchi, one of the 9/11 accused and a former CIA secret prisoner, at the Guantánamo Bay Military Commissions. She was previously Counter-Terrorism Counsel at Reprieve US, where she represented a number of Guantánamo Bay detainees in litigation involving habeas corpus claims and conditions of detention. She also conducted advocacy and litigation on behalf of civilian victims of the targeted killing (drone) program in Yemen and Pakistan, and has advised the US government on compliance with international legal obligations.

Andy Worthington, freelance investigative journalist

Andy has been specialising in Guantánamo — and working to close the prison — for the last ten years. He co-founded the ongoing Close Guantánamo campaign, and the We Stand With Shaker campaign, which, in 2014-15, was part of a successful campaign to secure the release from Guantánamo of Shaker Aamer, the last British resident in the prison.

Carla Ferstman, Director, REDRESS

REDRESS is a human rights organisation that helps torture survivors obtain justice and reparation. It works with survivors to help restore their dignity and to make torturers accountable. Carla Ferstman joined REDRESS in 2001 as its Legal Director and became the Director in 2005. Prior to joining REDRESS, she worked with the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights in post-genocide Rwanda, with Amnesty International’s International Secretariat as a legal researcher on trials in Central Africa and as Executive Legal Advisor to Bosnia and Herzegovina’s Commission for Real Property Claims of Displaced Persons and Refugees (CRPC).

Andy Worthington is a freelance investigative journalist, activist, author, photographer, film-maker and singer-songwriter (the lead singer and main songwriter for the London-based band The Four Fathers, whose debut album ‘Love and War’ and EP ‘Fighting Injustice’ are available here to download or on CD via Bandcamp). He is the co-founder of the Close Guantánamo campaign (and the Countdown to Close Guantánamo initiative, launched in January 2016), the co-director of We Stand With Shaker, which called for the release from Guantánamo of Shaker Aamer, the last British resident in the prison (finally freed on October 30, 2015), and the author of The Guantánamo Files: The Stories of the 774 Detainees in America’s Illegal Prison (published by Pluto Press, distributed by the University of Chicago Press in the US, and available from Amazon, including a Kindle edition — click on the following for the US and the UK) and of two other books: Stonehenge: Celebration and Subversion and The Battle of the Beanfield. He is also the co-director (with Polly Nash) of the documentary film, “Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo” (available on DVD here — or here for the US).

To receive new articles in your inbox, please subscribe to Andy’s RSS feed — and he can also be found on Facebook (and here), Twitter, Flickr and YouTube. Also see the six-part definitive Guantánamo prisoner list, and The Complete Guantánamo Files, an ongoing, 70-part, million-word series drawing on files released by WikiLeaks in April 2011. Also see the definitive Guantánamo habeas list, the full military commissions list, and the chronological list of all Andy’s articles.

Please also consider joining the Close Guantánamo campaign, and, if you appreciate Andy’s work, feel free to make a donation.

9 Responses

  1. Andy Worthington says...

    When I posted this on Facebook, I wrote:

    Here’s my latest article promoting the panel discussion about Guantanamo, torture and the military commissions that I’ve helped organize, and am speaking at, on Wednesday November 2 at the University of Westminster in central London. Our special guest from the US is Alka Pradhan, attorney for Ammar al-Baluchi, “high-value detainee,” torture victim and one of five men charged with involvement in the 9/11 attacks, and also speaking is Carla Ferstman, the director of Redress, which is seeking accountability for torture in relation to the CIA’s “black sites” in Europe (Poland, Romania and Lithuania). Westminster’s Sam Raphael is moderating. The event is free, but please register on the Eventbrite page: https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/enshrined-injustice-guantanamo-torture-and-the-military-commissions-tickets-28670010774
    Hope to see you there!

  2. Andy Worthington says...

    Alka Pradhan wrote:

    Looking forward to being part of such a distinguished panel!

  3. Andy Worthington says...

    Me too, Alka!

  4. Andy Worthington says...

    Also check out the Gitmo Watch Facebook page, Twitter and the website, which are of interest:
    https://www.facebook.com/GitmoWatch/
    https://twitter.com/GitmoWatch
    http://www.gitmowatch.com

  5. Andy Worthington says...

    Rose Ann Bellotti wrote:

    We need this seminar in America. Good luck, Andy. I hope President Obama hears you and the other speakers. Loud and clear.

  6. Andy Worthington says...

    I’ll be over in the new year, Rose – in NYC and Washington, D.C., at least – and I hope there will be an event or events just like this.

  7. Andy Worthington says...

    Rose Ann Bellotti wrote:

    Any chance this might be available online?

  8. Andy Worthington says...

    Let me find out if it can be recorded at least, Rose.

  9. Andy Worthington says...

    Please note that the venue has changed because of a pleasantly large number of people signing up to attend. You should have been notified if you signed up via the Eventbrite page. If not, here’s the new address – it’s the Uni’s main site on Regent Street, near the BBC, just 5 mins from the original advertised venue:
    Main Boardroom (Room 117)
    University of Westminster
    309 Regent Street
    London W1B 2HW

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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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