Just before Christmas, it was announced that Mohammed al-Ansi aka Muhammad al-Ansi (ISN 029), a Yemeni prisoner at Guantánamo, had been approved for release by a Periodic Review Board. The decision made al-Ansi the 38th prisoner to be approved for release by a PRB, and the seventh to be approved for release not after a first review, but after a second review. The decision also means that, of the 59 men still held, 23 have been approved for release.
The PRBs — consisting of representatives of the Departments of State, Defense, Justice and Homeland Security, as well as the office of the Director of National Intelligence and the Office of the Joint Chiefs of Staff — were set up in 2013 to review the cases of all the prisoners not already approved for release or facing trials, and 64 men have had their cases reviewed, with just 26, to date, having their ongoing imprisonment upheld. That’s a success rate of 59% for the prisoners, which rather undermines the alleged basis of their ongoing imprisonment when the PRBs were set up.
41 of the 64 men had been described as “too dangerous to release” by the previous review process, the Guantánamo Review Task Force that President Obama established shortly after taking office in 2009, even though the task force acknowledged that there was insufficient evidence to put them on trial, while the 23 other men had been recommended for prosecution until the basis for prosecutions largely collapsed under judicial scrutiny. For further information, see my definitive Periodic Review Board list on the Close Guantánamo website. Read the rest of this entry »
Excellent news from Guantánamo yesterday, as Charlie Savage, in the New York Times, confirmed what those of us seeking the prison’s closure had hoped — that the majority of the 22 men approved for release (out of the 59 men still held) will be freed before President Obama leaves office.
Because of requirements put in place over many years by a hostile Congress, the Pentagon must notify Congress 30 days before a release — a “transfer” — is to take place, and the deadline for securing releases before Obama leaves office was therefore this Monday, December 19. By late in the day, officials told the Times, the administration had secured homes for 17 or 18 of the remaining prisoners, who, crucially, will be sent to Italy, Oman, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.
The Gulf countries have all taken prisoners in the last two years — almost all of them Yemenis, for whom third countries had to be found because the entire US establishment is unwilling to repatriate Yemenis based on fears about the security situation in their homeland. Four were sent to Oman in January 2015, another six in June 2015, and five were sent to the UAE in November 2015. Another ten were sent to Oman in January 2016, and another 12 were sent to the UAE in August 2016 (with three Afghans, whose repatriation had been prohibited by Congress, based on fears about them ending up taking up arms against US forces). In addition, another nine Yemenis were sent to Saudi Arabia in April 2016. Read the rest of this entry »
We play politically-charged roots reggae and rock — mostly original songs, and mostly my own compositions —and our first LP ‘Love and War’ was released last year, and is available on CD via Bandcamp (it can be sent anywhere in the world). On our Bandcamp page you can also buy the whole album as a download, or buy individual tracks — and you can also listen to or buy our subsequent EP, ‘Fighting Injustice,’ and our song ‘Close Guantánamo,’ released as an online single, as downloads.
We’re currently working on our second album, which will be released next year, featuring a number of songs that are becoming prominent in our live shows: ‘How Much Is A Life Worth?’ (about how white westerners regard their lives as more important than others), ‘London’ (about gentrification, and how London has changed over the last 30 years), ‘Riot’ (about the need to end inequality), ‘Equal Rights And Justice For All’ (about the importance of habeas corpus) — as well as two songs by guitarist Richard Clare — ‘When He Is Sane’, about mental health, and ‘She’s Back’ (about ‘Pussy Riot’) — and some love songs, ‘Tell Me Baby’ (about love and aging), ‘Dreamers’ (written for a friend’s 50th birthday) and ‘River Run Dry’ (about the end of a relationship, a song I wrote as a young man).
For now, however, feel free to check out our ten most popular songs on Bandcamp and have a listen — or buy them if you’d like, which would, of course, delight us! Read the rest of this entry »
Attentive Guantánamo-watchers will recall that, in September, the first round of Periodic Review Boards was completed at Guantánamo, for prisoners assessed as being “too dangerous to release,” or as eligible for prosecution by the high-level, inter-agency Guantánamo Review Task Force that President Obama set up shortly after taking office for the first time in January 2009. For full details, see my definitive Periodic Review Board list on the Close Guantánamo website.
On both fronts, the decisions taken about these men back in 2009 were dubious. For those deemed “too dangerous to release,” the task force acknowledged that insufficient evidence existed to put them on trial, rather undermining the credibility of their assessment, because, if information cannot be produced at a trial, it is fundamentally unreliable and does not rise to the level of evidence — and with Guantánamo, of course, torture and abuse run through everything, distorting all manner of claims regarding the credibility of the US authorities’ information about the prisoners.
41 men put forward for the PRBs were regarded as “too dangerous to release,” while 23 others had been recommended for prosecution, until the basis for prosecutions at Guantánamo — in the much-criticized military commission system, dragged unwisely from the history books after 9/11 — largely collapsed as a result of a number of appeals court rulings, which overturned some of the few convictions secured in the commissions, on the basis that the war crimes for which the men in question had been convicted were not internationally recognized, and had, in fact, been invented by Congress. Read the rest of this entry »
I hope you have time to read Obama v Trump on Guantánamo and torture, my latest article for Al-Jazeera, and to share it if you find it informative.
Al-Jazeera asked me to compare and contrast the president and the president-elect in relation to Guantánamo, giving me an opportunity to run through the history of President Obama’s failures to close the prison, as he promised when he first took office in January 2009. I also briefly discussed Obama’s position on torture, and compared and contrasted Donald Trump’s views.
President Obama has repeatedly blamed Congress for his failure to close the prison, but in fact he had control of Congress in his first two years in office, but failed to capitalise on it, and later, although Congress raised considerable obstacles to his efforts to close the prison, he refused to use a waiver that existed in the legislation allowing him to bypass Congress, and he also refused, at any point, to make the closure of the prison a priority to the extent that he was prepared to properly challenge Congress and work with supportive lawmakers to find a way to get Guantánamo closed. Read the rest of this entry »
In an update from Brexit Britain, the powerful news this week is that some of those who voted for the UK to leave the EU in the June referendum are how clearly having second thoughts, as the economic impact of their suicidal vote starts to become apparent.
Because we have not yet left the EU and the economy has not gone into freefall as we drive ourselves voluntarily off the highest cliff imaginable, in the single most self-destructive act by a nation state in modern history, the chief fantasists of the Brexit camp — those Tory MPs and media commentators obsessed in a deranged manner with an illusory notion of Britain’s sovereignty — are still free to pretend that Brexit will not be a disaster, but is instead some sort of fabulous opportunity.
But two stories this week suggest that this colossal act of self-deception is under threat. Read the rest of this entry »
Twice a year, since 2010, I’ve asked those who oppose the ongoing existence of Guantánamo to write to the prisoners still held there, to let them — and the US authorities — know that they have not been forgotten. For the last letter-writing campaign, in March, I expressed my hope that President Obama might fulfill the promise he made on his second day in office in January 2009, to close the prison for good, but that has not happened, of course, and now the specter of Donald Trump hovers over the wretched facility, with his promises to keep it open, and to send new prisoners there.
Whether the prisoners are worried is unclear. Eight years ago, they cheered President Obama’s victory, thinking that it meant Guantánamo would soon be closed, but eight years later many of them are still held, and presumably have every reason to believe that there is little to hope for. The day after the election, the Miami Herald reported that Army Lt. Col. John Parks, the spokesman for the prison, said that “[m]any detainees did stay up and watch the election results,” although they showed no reaction that he could discern. However, on December 1, on “CBS This Morning,” Margaret Brennan spoke to David Remes, the attorney for the Pakistani prisoner Saifullah Paracha, who “said that many detainees thought that it was the end of the world and felt terrible [and] asked for tranquilizers, sleeping pills, because they were so distraught.”
The letter-writing campaign was started six and a half years ago by two Facebook friends, Shahrina and Mahfuja Ahmed, and, as I mentioned above, it has been repeated every six months, more or less (see here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here and here for my other articles encouraging people to write to the prisoners). Read the rest of this entry »
I wrote the following article for the “Close Guantánamo” website, which I established in January 2012, on the 10th anniversary of the opening of Guantánamo, with the 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.
On Tuesday, at MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa, Florida, the home of US Special Operations Command and Central Command, President Obama made what is expected to be his final speech on counter-terrorism before he leaves office in just six weeks’ time.
As Jessica Schulberg noted for the Huffington Post, in his speech he “defended his legacy ― both from hawks who have accused him of withdrawing from the Middle East, and from liberals who have criticized his reliance on expansive surveillance and drones to fight wars,” and “sought to convince the country that he had struck the correct balance.”
Spying and drones
However, as Spencer Ackerman noted for the Guardian, this was “a highly selective account of his record, particularly about the mass surveillance architecture he embraced and the drone strikes that will be synonymous with his name.” Read the rest of this entry »
Since launching my latest quarterly fundraiser on Monday, I’ve had four donations, for which I’m very grateful, but I’m still a very long way from my target of $3500 (£2750) for the next three months. As a reader-funded journalist, the work I do on Guantánamo — researching, writing, campaigning, making media appearances, making personal appearances, maintaining this website, running the admin, and replying to myriad emails — is mostly unpaid; or, in other words, is only possible with your generous support.
I have no institutional backing, so if you value my independence as a journalist, commentator and activist — as I know many of you do — then please, if you can, donate to enable me to keep working to get Guantánamo closed. A donation of just $25 (£20), for example, is just $2 (£1.50) a week, not a huge amount, I hope, for the work that I do.
So please 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).
You can also make a recurring payment on a monthly basis by ticking the box marked, “Make This Recurring (Monthly),” and if you are able to do so, it would be very much appreciated. I currently have a number of monthly sustainers, and it’s always reassuring to know that some money is guaranteed every month. Read the rest of this entry »
Dear friends and supporters,
It’s that time of year again, when I ask you, if you can, to support my independent research, writing and commentary on Guantánamo and related issues. This is work I’ve been doing, largely as a reader-supported independent writer, for over ten years, but whilst it was reasonable to suppose, until recently, that Guantánamo might close, if not under President Obama, then under Hillary Clinton as his successor, the election of Donald Trump indicates, alarmingly, that the prison may gain a new lease of life from January onwards. On the campaign trail, Trump promised to keep Guantánamo open, to bring back torture, and even to send US citizens to Guantánamo to face military commission trials — all developments that are completely unacceptable.
I need your support to be able to continue the struggle to get Guantánamo closed (to bring to an end indefinite imprisonment without charge or trial), to make sure that no efforts to revive torture will be successful, and to continue to call for those who authorized and implemented the post-9/11 programs of extraordinary rendition, torture and arbitrary detention to be held accountable for their actions. It is hugely important that Donald Trump — and those he is appointing to key positions — are resisted every step of the way if they attempt to revive Guantánamo in any way, or to revisit any of the other lawless excesses of the Bush years.
So 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). I’m hoping to raise $3,500 (£2,700) for the next three months, which is just $270 (£200) a week for my constant work campaigning on behalf of the Guantánamo prisoners. Read the rest of this entry »
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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