I just wanted to let you know about a couple of Guantánamo events I’m taking part in, for anyone in London and the south east over the next few weeks, which are listed below. The first, on Wednesday November 13, is a screening by the Canterbury Amnesty Group of “Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo,” the documentary film that I co-directed with the filmmaker Polly Nash, and the second, on Saturday November 23, is a day of action for Shaker Aamer, the last British resident in the prison — who is also featured in the film — in Battersea, in south London, where his wife and children have been awaiting his return for 12 years.
Originally released in 2009, it remains relevant, in the first instance because it tells the story — which I first told in my book The Guantánamo Files, and have been writing about ever since — of how innocent men and boys ended up at Guantánamo with Taliban supporters and a handful of terrorists, in large part because the US was offering substantial bounty payments to its Afghan and Pakistani allies, and how a torture program was then introduced to secure evidence from these men, which, ever since, has been used by the US government to justify the men’s detention, even though most of it is worthless.
Another reason the film remains relevant is because it features the story of Shaker Aamer, who is still held, even though he was first cleared for release in the spring of 2007, two and a half years before the release of “Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo,” and was then cleared again under President Obama in January 2010, after the year-long deliberations of the inter-agency Guantánamo Review Task Force, which the president established shortly after taking office in January 2009. Read the rest of this entry »
Please sign the e-petition calling for the British government to secure the return to the UK from Guantánamo of Shaker Aamer, the last British resident in the prison, who has been cleared for release since 2007. 100,000 signatures are needed by April 20.
With a huge hunger strike taking place at Guantánamo, the prison is on the mainstream media’s radar more than it has been for many, many months, if not years — and, in the UK, it is also time for there to be a renewed focus on the case of Shaker Aamer, the last British resident in the prison.
Despite being cleared for release under President Bush and President Obama, Shaker is still held, even though he is the one prisoner, out of 86 prisoners cleared for release but still held, who could — and should — be released immediately. Congress has raised obstacles to the release of prisoners to any country that can be regarded as dangerous, but few, if any lawmakers would dare to argue that Britain fits that category.
In the UK, the ongoing detention of Shaker Aamer continues to appal those who have been campaigning for his release for many years — and the British government’s persistent claims that they are doing all they can to secure his return do not sound convincing. Last year, Shaker’s family launched an e-petition asking the British government to explain how, as America’s closest ally in the “war on terror,” it cannot secure Shaker’s return to the UK, to his British wife and four children, and there is now just one month to go for campaigners to try and ensure that the petition gets 100,000 signatures so that it is eligible for a Parliamentary debate. Please note that only British citizens and residents can sign it, although there is no lower age limit, so all family members can sign. Anyone anywhere in the world can sign the international petition here. Read the rest of this entry »
Brighton at Night, in the Rain, a set on Flickr.
On January 29, 2013, I travelled to Brighton, one of my favourite places in England, for “Freedom from Torture,” an event about Guantánamo organised by the University of Sussex Amnesty International Society, featuring myself, my friend Omar Deghayes, a former Guantánamo prisoner, and Elspeth Van Veeren, a researcher and writer about Guantánamo in the university’s International Relations Department.
The event was filmed, and I’ll publicise it here as soon as it has been edited and is made available, but I can confirm that it was a powerful evening, very well attended, in which the 120 students and other members of the public who turned up were left in no doubt about the shameful history of Guantánamo, and the even more shameful truth that it is still open because of the failures of all three branches of the US government to deal appropriately with the wretched legacy of the Bush administration — primarily through cowardice and/or laziness on the part of President Obama, and opportunistic fearmongering and obstruction on the part of Congress and the D.C. Circuit Court (the court of appeals dealing with the Guantánamo prisoners’ habeas corpus petitions), as well as indifference in the Supreme Court. For more on these issues, see my recent article, “Eleven Years of Guantánamo: End This Scandal Now!” and also see the videos of my speech outside the White House on January 11, and a panel discussion at the New America Foundation on the same day. Read the rest of this entry »
On Tuesday January 29, 2013, I will be in Brighton — and, specifically, the University of Sussex, in Falmer — for an event organised by the Sussex University Amnesty International Society entitled, “Freedom from Torture: Guantánamo Bay Panel Event with former detainee and leading world expert.” The event, which is free, begins at 6pm, and finishes at 8pm, and is taking place in Arts A1 (no. 22 on the map here).
This is the first event I’ve taken part in since my trip to the US, from January 7 to 16, to campaign for the closure of Guantánamo on the 11th anniversary of its opening, and I’m delighted to be bringing news of my visit to the enthusiastic students of Sussex University, in the company of my friend, the former Guantánamo prisoner Omar Deghayes, who I last shared a platform with at a peace conference in Sheffield in October, and also with Elspeth Van Veeren, a researcher and writer on Guantánamo Bay from Sussex University’s International Relations Department.
The Facebook page for the event is here, and I’m looking forward not only to a great event in the evening, but also to catching up with my friend Jackie Chase in the afternoon, and recording an interview for Radio Free Brighton, the community radio station based in Under the Bridge Studios, below the station. I’m also looking forward to staying the night, hanging out with Jackie and hopefully getting to cycle around Brighton a bit before returning on Wednesday afternoon. Read the rest of this entry »
Protestors Call for the Closure of Guantánamo outside the White House, a set on Flickr.
These photos, following on from the previous set, capture some of the key images and the principled, decent and tireless campaigners for justice involved in the protest in Washington D.C. on January 11, 2013 to mark the 11th anniversary of the opening of the “war on terror” prison at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, and to call on President Obama to fulfil the promise he made to close the prison when he took office in January 2009, or be remembered as a failure, who succumbed to political expediency and settled for a path of cowardice rather than confronting his political opponents, both in the Republican Party and in his own party, and doing what needed to be done.
This, of course, involved the still-pressing need to restore some semblance of justice in the wake of the horrors inflicted on the law, on America’s reputation, and on hundreds of thousands of Muslims in Afghanistan, Iraq and elsewhere in the so-called “war on terror,” but instead of addressing the issues, President Obama has expanded the US government’s drone program of extrajudicial assassinations, and has failed those in Guantánamo — especially the 86 men (out of 166 still held in total), who were cleared for release by the interagency Guantánamo Review Task Force that President Obama established after taking office in 2009. The Task Force spent a year reviewing the prisoners’ cases before reaching its sober and considered conclusions, and, in addition, some of these men were actually cleared by military review boards under the Bush administration, some as long ago as 2004. Read the rest of this entry »
These photos are from the protest in Washington D.C. on January 11, 2013 to mark the 11th anniversary of the opening of the “war on terror” prison at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, an annual event that becomes more shameful for the United States with every passing year, and which has also come to test the endurance of those opposed to the prison’s existence.
Four years after President Obama came to office promising to close Guantánamo within a year, the blunt and unforgivable truth is that the prison is still open, and that all three branches of the US government — the administration, Congress and the courts — have failed the 166 men still held, and particularly the 86 men who were cleared for release by the interagency Guantánamo Review Task Force, established by President Obama in 2009, which spent a year reviewing the prisoners’ cases before reaching its sober and considered conclusions. In addition, some of these men were actually cleared by military review boards under the Bush administration, some as long ago as 2004. Read the rest of this entry »
It’s over 24 hours since I arrived in the US, with the support of Witness Against Torture, World Can’t Wait and Close Guantánamo, for a series of events to mark the 11th anniversary of the opening of the “war on terror” prison at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, a shameful anniversary that should not have come to pass. Four years ago, when he took office, President Obama promised to close the prison within a year, but he failed to fulfil that promise. His lack of courage has been matched by opportunistic intervention from Congress, where lawmakers have passed legislation designed to thwart any efforts to close Guantánamo. To complete the failures of all three branches of the US government, the courts too have added their own contribution, with the D.C. Circuit Court gutting the habeas corpus rights of the prisoners, which lawyers spent many years fighting for, and the Supreme Court refusing to revisit the prisoners’ cases, when given the opportunity last year.
As I — and others who still care about the closure of Guantánamo — continue to point out, the ongoing existence of Guantánamo is an affront to all notions of justice and fairness. Distressingly, of the 166 men still held, 86 were cleared for release by President Obama’s interagency Guantánamo Review Task Force, and yet, through the combination of cowardice, indifference, opportunism and scaremongering outlined above, they remain held, even though one long-cleared prisoner, Adnan Farhan Abdul Latif, died at Guantánamo last September, and even though President Obama won reelection in November, and is now free to act to secure his legacy rather than focusing all his attention on campaigning — and not mentioning anything contentious. If he wants a legacy that doesn’t describe him, amongst other things, as the man who promised to close Guantánamo but then failed to do because it was politically inconvenient, he needs to act now. Read the rest of this entry »
I wrote the following article for the “Close Guantánamo” website, which I established in January 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.
CORRECTION: Please note that the panel discussion at the New America Foundation in Washington D.C. On January 11 will now take place at 10am, and not at 3pm, as listed below.
As the 11th anniversary of the opening of the “war on terror” prison at Guantánamo Bay approaches, we at “Close Guantánamo” are making our preparations for being in Washington D.C. to call on President Obama to fulfill the promise he made four years ago, when he took office, to close the prison for good.
At 12 noon on Friday January 11, 2013, the 11th anniversary of the opening of Guantánamo, the attorney Tom Wilner and the journalist Andy Worthington, who make up the steering committee of “Close Guantánamo,” will be joining members of 24 other groups outside the Supreme Court to call for the closure of Guantánamo. See Amnesty International’s page here, and the flyer here. Read the rest of this entry »
So here’s a quick message to invite anyone in Hull — or anywhere near — to come along to Hull University on Tuesday to hear me speak about Shaker Aamer, the last British resident in the prison, and the shameful responsibility of both the British and the American governments for continuing to hold him.
I have been invited to speak by the Hull University Amnesty Society, and the event, which is free, is taking place in the Wilberforce Building, Room LT-15, at 7pm on Tuesday November 27. A Facebook page is here. Please come along if you can! The Wilberforce Building is No. 60 on the map here.
Shaker remains held even though he was first cleared for release under George W. Bush in 2007, and was also cleared for release under President Obama in 2009, through the deliberations of the interagency Guantánamo Review Task Force, established by the President to decide who to release, who to try and who to continue holding indefinitely. Read the rest of this entry »
On Sunday October 21, 2012, almost three years since it first premiered in London, “Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo,” the documentary film I co-directed with Polly Nash, is being screened by Lewes Amnesty International Group, in a high-profile event that involves a panel discussion after the screening with myself, former Guantánamo prisoner Omar Deghayes, Caroline Lucas, the Green MP for Brighton Pavilion, and Norman Baker, the Liberal Democrat MP for Lewes. The event is at All Saints Community Centre, on Friars Walk in Lewes, and begins at 7 pm. Entry is free.
Although this was planned many months ago, the timing is particularly apt, because it was recently confirmed publicly, for the first time ever, that Shaker Aamer, the last British resident in Guantánamo, whose story features in the film, was cleared for release from the prison three years ago by President Obama’s interagency Guantánamo Review Task Force, which consisted of officials and lawyers from the relevant government departments and the intelligence agencies.
Anecdotally, it has been known since 2007 that Shaker was cleared for release — at the time under President Bush — and also that he was cleared under Obama, but such is the secrecy imposed on Guantánamo, and on lawyers for the prisoners, that his legal team were not allowed to speak about it until a month ago, when, unexpectedly, the US Justice Department, for the first time, released the names of 55 prisoners cleared for release, as part of a court case — a list that featured Shaker. Read the rest of this entry »
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