Archive for November, 2017

How People Power Is Stopping Social Cleansing in Haringey

Stop HDV campaigners in summer 2017.Please support my work as a reader-funded investigative journalist, commentator and activist.

 

The struggle against social cleansing in the UK is a huge struggle, as councils enter into disgraceful deals with private developers, housing estates are destroyed, and tenants and leaseholders dispossessed, and victories often appear elusive.

As a result, what is happening in Haringey, in north London, is inspirational, as local activists have been working to successfully ensure that councillors who support the council’s social cleansing proposals — involving the creation of the Haringey Development Vehicle (HDV), a £2bn deal with a private developer — are de-selected prior to the council elections next May, and are being replaced with candidates who oppose the plans. See this page on the Stop HDV website for the extraordinary story of how, at the time of writing, there are now 36 Labour candidates who oppose the HDV, and only seven who support it.

The threat in Haringey is more severe than anywhere else in London, as the Labour council’s deal, with Lendlease, the Australian-based international housing developer, would involve all of Haringey’s council housing being transferred to the HDV. Even before an agreement is in place, plans have been announced for estates to be destroyed, and it is not scaremongering to suggest that the destruction and social cleansing, if it is not stopped, will be on a scale that has never been seen before in the UK. Read the rest of this entry »

Curator of Guantánamo Art Show Responds to Authorities’ Threats to Burn Prisoners’ Work: “Art Censorship and Destruction Are Tactics of Terrorist Regimes, Not US Military”

"Shipwreck," a 2011 painting by Djamel Ameziane, a Guantanamo prisoner released in 2013.Please support my work as a reader-funded journalist! I’m currently trying to raise $2500 (£2000) to support my writing and campaigning on Guantánamo and related issues over the next three months of the Trump administration.

 

Stung by criticism of its paranoid and heavy-handed approach to Guantánamo prisoners’ art, the Pentagon now seems to be involved in a rearguard damage limitation exercise, but it may be too late.

Last week, as I explained here, the Miami Herald reported that “Ode to the Sea: Art from Guantánamo Bay,” a show of prisoners’ art in New York, featuring 36 works by eight prisoners, four of whom are still held, had led the US military to say that it would be stopping prisoners from keeping any artwork they have made, and to threaten to burn it, prompting widespread criticism.

In a powerful op-ed in the New York Times, which I’m cross-posting below, Erin Thompson, a professor of art crime and one of the curators of the show at John Jay College of Criminal Justice, stated, “Art censorship and destruction are tactics fit for terrorist regimes, not for the US military. The art poses no security threat: It is screened by experts who study the material for secret messages before it leaves the camp, and no art by current prisoners can be sold. Guantánamo detainees deserve basic human rights as they await trial. Taking away ownership of their art is both incredibly petty and utterly cruel.” Read the rest of this entry »

How Much Is A Life Worth? New Album Released Today by The Four Fathers, London Journalist and Activist Andy Worthington’s Band

The cover of The Four Fathers' new album, 'How Much Is A Life Worth?'I’m delighted to announce that today my band The Four Fathers are releasing our second album, How Much Is A Life Worth? via Bandcamp, where you can buy it on CD (which can be sent anywhere in the world), or as a download (either the whole album, or individual tracks). The CD costs £8 (about $10.67), plus postage and packing, while the download of the album costs £5 (about $6.67), with individual tracks available for $1 (about $1.33). These are the minimum prices, but you can always pay more if you want to provide us with extra financial support, to help us recoup the costs of recording and production.

The album features ten original rock and roots reggae songs — eight written by me, as lead singer and rhythm guitarist, and two written by lead guitarist Richard Clare. It follows the release in 2015 of the band’s first album, ‘Love and War,’ and continues to demonstrate a commitment to political issues, with six of the album’s ten songs being protest songs. The band also features Brendan Horstead on drums and percussion, Andrew Fifield on flute and harmonica, and Louis Sills-Clare on bass (replaced after the album was recorded by current bassist Mark Quiney).

Followers of the band on Bandcamp — or those who have seen us live — will already know some of these songs, as six of them have previously been released online, although all of them have now been slightly remastered. Those songs are, in order of release, ‘Close Guantánamo’ (used for the ‘Close Guantánamo’ campaign that I run), ‘Dreamers’ (a song about friendship, written for a friend’s 50th birthday), live favourites ’Riot’ (about austerity and the need for social and economic justice) and ‘London’ (a lament for how the capital’s vibrancy in the 80s and 90s has been destroyed by housing greed), ‘She’s Back’ (Richard’s song about Pussy Riot) and ‘Equal Rights And Justice For All’ (my celebration of habeas corpus, which always gets a laugh when I say live that no set is really complete without a song about habeas corpus). Read the rest of this entry »

Support Lauri Love, Computer Expert and Activist, Who Faces Extradition to the US in a Life-Threatening Betrayal of Justice

An image created by the campaign to prevent computer expert Lauri Love from being extradited to the US.This Wednesday and Thursday, November 29 and 30, a hearing is taking place at the High Court in London to assess whether Lauri Love, a computer expert with Asperger’s Syndrome, should be extradited to the US for acts of online activism —  allegedly targeting US government websites in the wake of the suicide of computer expert and activist Aaron Swartz in January 2013, along with many other online activists.

There is no evidence that any harm was caused in the US, Lauri has never set foot in the US, the British government has brought no case against him in the UK, and yet, under the terms of the 2003 US-UK Extradition Treaty, the US is able to demand that he be sent to the US to be imprisoned (in isolation in a maximum-security prison) and subsequently tried (in a broken, punitive system in which huge pressure is exerted to accept a plea deal and a 10-20 year sentence rather than fight and lose and be imprisoned for life). Worryingly, Lauri Love has been openly stating that he could not bear punitive isolation in the US, and would kill himself rather than be extradited, and those closest to him do not dispute this intent.

I have some experience of the chronic unfairness of the US-UK Extradition Treaty, because, back in 2012, I worked to oppose the injustice of the treaty with reference to the cases of Talha Ahsan and Babar Ahmad, who ended up being extradited in relation to a UK website encouraging Muslim resistance to oppression, which was run from the UK, but had, at one point, involved a server in Connecticut — enough, apparently, for extradition to take place. Read the rest of this entry »

Celebrating 200 Days of Andy Worthington’s Photo Project, ‘The State of London’

Recent photos from 'The State of London', Andy Worthington's photo project, launched on Facebook in May 2017.Please support my work as a reader-funded investigative journalist, commentator, activist and photographer.

 

Today is the 200th day of ‘the State of London’, a photo project that I launched on Facebook on May 11 this year, the fifth anniversary of when I first began travelling around the capital by bike, taking photos on a daily basis. I also set up a Twitter page recently, and, in the new year I hope to get the website (currently just a skeleton) up and running. My article introducing the project is here, and also see here for my reflections after 100 days.

The photos cover every one of London’s 120 postcodes, and also include some of the outlying boroughs, and, since launching the daily photos on Facebook, I’ve posted photos from over half of London’s 120 postcodes.

They feature what I hope is a fascinating cross-section of the capital’s many faces beyond those seen by tourists — its abandoned and run-down places, its buildings old and new (the latter rising up like a plague of greed), night and day, the light, the rain, the seasons and the weather, political protests, and, increasingly, those parts of the city that are threatened with destruction — primarily, council estates that are being knocked down and replaced with new private developments from which the existing residents (both tenants and leaseholders) are generally excluded, a disgraceful form of social cleansing involving councils from across the entire political spectrum. Read the rest of this entry »

The Latest Scandal of the Military Commissions at Guantánamo: A Death Penalty Case Without a Death Penalty Lawyer

The US flag, seen through barbed wire, at Guantanamo.Please support my work as a reader-funded journalist! I’m currently trying to raise $2500 (£2000) to support my writing and campaigning on Guantánamo and related issues over the next three months of the Trump administration.

 

The military commissions at Guantánamo, since they were ill-advisedly dragged out of the history books by the Bush administration, have persistently failed to demonstrate anything more than a tangential relationship to justice, as I have been reporting for over ten years. Last September, I summarized the trial system’s many failures in an article entitled, Not Fit for Purpose: The Ongoing Failure of Guantánamo’s Military Commissions.

Under Donald Trump, there has been no improvement. Pre-trial hearings drag on, seemingly interminably, as defense lawyers seek to expose evidence of the torture of their clients in CIA “black sites,” while prosecutors, for the government, do everything they can to hide that evidence. Earlier this month, however, as I explained in a recent article, a new low point was reached when, astonishingly, the chief defense counsel, Brig. Gen. John Baker, was briefly imprisoned for defending the right of three civilian defense attorneys to resign after they found out that the government had been spying on them.

The loss of the attorneys led to a disgraceful situation in which the government insisted on limping on the with the capital case — against Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, a victim of CIA torture, and the alleged mastermind of the bombing of the USS Cole in 2000 — even though it is illegal to pursue a capital case without a qualified death penalty lawyer on board. That role was filled by Rick Kammen, who had been on al-Nashiri’s case for nine years. Read the rest of this entry »

Persistent Dehumanization at Guantánamo: US Claims It Owns Prisoners’ Art, Just As It Claims to Own Their Memories of Torture

"Empty glassware" (2015) by Guantanamo prisoner Ahmed Rabbani.Please support my work as a reader-funded journalist! I’m currently trying to raise $2500 (£2000) to support my writing and campaigning on Guantánamo and related issues over the next three months of the Trump administration.

 

I wrote the following article (as “The Persistent Abuse of Guantánamo Prisoners: Pentagon Claims It Owns Their Art and May Destroy It, But U.S. Has Long Claimed It Even Owns Their Memories of Torture“) 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.

After years of letting Guantánamo prisoners keep the artwork they have made at the prison, subject to security screening, the Pentagon has suddenly secured widespread condemnation for banning its release, and, it is alleged by one of prisoners’ attorneys, for planning to burn it.

The story was first reported on November 16 by Carol Rosenberg of the Miami Herald, and updated on November 20. Rosenberg explained how, for years, prisoners’ art had been released “after inspection by prison workers schooled in studying material for secret messages under the rubric of Operational Security.”

However, as Rosenberg explained, “Ode to the Sea: Art from Guantánamo Bay,” an exhibition in the President’s Gallery of New York’s John Jay College of Criminal Justice until January 16, 2018, which features “paintings and other works by current and former captives” — and “which garnered international press coverage” — “apparently caught the attention of the Department of Defense,” because of an email address provided for people “interested in purchasing art from these artists.” Read the rest of this entry »

Guantánamo’s Oldest Prisoner Calls Conditions “Hell,” Says, “We Are Getting Collective Punishment Because of the Hunger Strike”

Guantanamo prisoner Saifullah Paracha in an updated photo taken by representatives of the International Committee of the Red Cross and provided to his family, who made it public.Please support my work as a reader-funded journalist! I’m currently trying to raise $2500 (£2000) to support my writing and campaigning on Guantánamo and related issues over the next three months of the Trump administration.

 

The horrors of Guantánamo — ever present in a prison where men have been held for nearly 16 years without ever being charged with a crime, and with no notion of when, if ever, they will get to leave — seem to be being ramped up under Donald Trump, as we might have suspected from his aggressive stance towards the prison and the men held there, even before he took office in January, and from witnessing his racism, and glimpsing the violence that permanently seems to lurk beneath his blubbery exterior.

Despite threats to send new prisoners to Guantánamo — threats which have not, mercifully, transpired — Trump did nothing in his first eight months regarding the prison except shutting the door on it and refusing to contemplate releasing anyone, even the five men — out of the 41 still held — who were approved for release by high-level government review processes under President Obama.

Two months ago, however, according to hunger striking prisoners, whose story I reported before the mainstream media took an interest, Trump finally made his influence felt, changing the rules about the way they are treated. For over ten years, hunger striking prisoners were closely monitored, but now, according to those refusing food, new instructions, initiated from September 20 onwards, mean that they are no longer having their health assessed at all. Read the rest of this entry »

After Powerful Screening of ‘Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo’ at Westminster University, I’m Available for Further Events

A screenshot of former Guantanamo prisoner Omar Deghayes in 'Outside the Law: Stories from Guantanamo', shown at the University of Westminster on November 17, 2017 (Photo: Andy Worthington).Please support my work as a reader-funded journalist! I’m currently trying to raise $2500 (£2000) to support my writing and campaigning on Guantánamo and related issues over the next three months of the Trump administration.

 

On Friday, I was delighted to attend a screening of ‘Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo’, the 2009 documentary film I co-directed with Polly Nash, at the University of Westminster, followed by a lively Q&A session with a packed room full of very engaged students.

My thanks to Sam Raphael, Senior Lecturer in Politics and International Relations, for arranging the event. Sam, with Ruth Blakeley, set up The Rendition Project, described on his university page as “an ESRC-funded project which works with NGOs and human rights investigators to uncover and understand human rights violations in the ‘War on Terror.’” Sam’s page also explains that the project “provides an unparalleled picture of the CIA’s torture programme, and has been described by the Guardian as ‘a groundbreaking research project which sheds unprecedented light on one of the most controversial secret operations of recent years.’”

Sam and I have worked together before, most recently last November at ‘Enshrined Injustice: Guantánamo, Torture and the Military Commissions’, a panel discussion at the University of Westminster, which I spoke at, and which Sam moderated, and which also featured Alka Pradhan, Human Rights Counsel at the Guantánamo Bay Military Commissions, and Carla Ferstmann, the director of REDRESS. My report about that and other Guantánamo-related events in London at that time was entitled Parliament and the People: Two Days of London Events About Guantánamo, Torture and the Military Commissions. Read the rest of this entry »

300 Days of Trump: Join Our Photo Campaign Calling for the Closure of Guantánamo

Andy Worthington calls on Donald Trump to close Guantanamo on his first full day in office, Jan. 21, 2017, during the massive women's march against his presidency in New York City.Please support my work as a reader-funded journalist! I’m currently trying to raise $2500 (£2000) to support my writing and campaigning on Guantánamo and related issues over the next three months of the Trump administration.

 

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.

What a disappointment Donald Trump is — something that many of us suspected when he was elected as the 45th President of the United States over a year ago, but that does not become any easier to bear with the passage of time.

Largely governing by tweet, Trump has nothing positive to show for his first 300 days in office (yesterday, Nov. 16), as he alienates allies and does nothing to improve the lives of ordinary Americans. His Muslim ban, which he still persists in trying to enforce, remains shockingly racist, xenophobic and Islamophobic, and it is clear that he also extends these prejudices to the men held at Guantánamo.

Uninterested in any nuances regarding Guantánamo  — the fact that indefinite detention without charge or trial ought to be fundamentally un-American, for example, or that there are men held at the prison who have been approved for release — Trump has always behaved as though the prison contained “the worst of the worst,” turning the clock back to the terrible hyperbole of Guantánamo’s early days under George W. Bush. 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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