My Ninth Successive US Visit – for Events Marking the 17th Anniversary of the Opening of Guantánamo

Close Guantanamo co-founder Andy Worthington marks 6,200 days of Guantanamo's existence on January 1, 2019.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. If you can help, please click on the button below to donate via PayPal.

 

I wrote the following article (as “Close Guantánamo Events Marking the 17th Anniversary of the Opening of Guantánamo”) 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.

As 2019 began, the “war on terror” prison at Guantánamo Bay marked a shameful milestone. January 1 was the 6,200th day of operations at the prison, and we marked the occasion with the latest stage of our ongoing photo campaign, in which supporters take photos with posters showing how long Guantánamo has been open and urging Donald Trump to close it, based on our Gitmo Clock project, which counts in real time how long the prison has been open.

In seven days’ time, the prison will reach another appalling milestone: the 17th anniversary of its opening. This is on January 11, and to mark the occasion Close Guantánamo’s co-founders, the Washington, D.C.-based attorney Tom Wilner and the London-based journalist Andy Worthington (making his 9th annual visit for protest and events on and around the anniversary) will be taking part in a panel discussion at the New America think-tank, and will also be part of an annual vigil outside the White House organized by and attended by representatives of a dozen rights groups. Andy is also discussing Guantánamo in New York, two days after the anniversary, and both Andy and Tom are available for media interviews, and for further events, throughout the duration of Andy’s visit, from January 7-17.

Details of the events are below: Read the rest of this entry »

The Unending Punishment of Former Guantánamo Prisoner Omar Khadr

A screenshot from a video of former Guantanamo prisoner Omar Khadr on December 13, 2018, outside the curt in Edmonton where he was unsuccessful seeking a loosening of his bail conditions.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. If you can help, please click on the button below to donate via PayPal.

 

Canada, contrasting itself with its neighbor to the south, the United States, likes to present itself as a beacon of justice and fairness, and yet, when to comes to the high-profile case of its citizen Omar Khadr, who was held at Guantánamo for nearly ten years, the Canadian government’s behavior has been almost unremittingly appalling.

Khadr was a child — just 15 years old — when, gravely wounded, he was seized by US forces in July 2002 after a firefight in Afghanistan, where he had been taken by his father. However, instead of treating him as a child who was not responsible for his own actions, and rehabilitating him, rather than punishing him, according to the terms of the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the involvement of children in armed conflicts, which entered into force on February 12, 2002, and to which both the US and Canada are signatories, the US treated him appallingly, and, when Canadian agents were sent to Guantánamo to interview him, they failed to uphold his rights as a Canadian citizen.

The Canadian Supreme Court eventually delivered a powerful ruling regarding the violation of his rights, and, under Justin Trudeau, the government finally made amends for its behavior, paying him $10.5m in Canadian dollars (about $9m in US currency) in July 2017, following similar payments to other victims of Canada’s shameful post-9/11 behavior — a number of Canadian citizens of Syrian origin who were tortured in Syria (and in one case, that of Maher Arar, kidnapped in the US first, and then sent to Syria for torture) with the full collusion of the Canadian authorities. Read the rest of this entry »

The Forgotten Torture Report: It’s Ten Years Since the Publication of the Senate Armed Services Committee’s Pioneering ‘Inquiry into the Treatment of Detainees in US Custody’

George W. Bush, Donald Rumsfeld and Dick Cheney.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. If you can help, please click on the button below to donate via PayPal.

 

On December 9, I published an article marking the 4th anniversary of the publication of the executive summary of the Senate Intelligence Committee’s report into the CIA’s detention and interrogation program, a five-year, $40 million project that demonstrated that torture was “not an effective means of acquiring intelligence or gaining cooperation from detainees”, that the interrogations “were brutal and far worse than the CIA represented to policymakers and others,” that the CIA made “inaccurate claims” about the “effectiveness” of the programme in an attempt to justify it and that it “led to friction with other agencies that endangered national security, as well as providing false statements that led to costly and worthless wild goose chases,” as I explained in an article at the time for Al-Jazeera.

With peoples’ minds still, hopefully, focused on questions of accountability, I also wanted to flag up that December 11 marked the 10th anniversary of an earlier report, the Senate Armed Services Committee’s ‘Inquiry into the Treatment of Detainees in US Custody,’ released on December 11, 2008, that, rather than focusing on the CIA, specifically exposed wrongdoing at the highest levels of the Bush administration.

The bipartisan report, issued by the committee’s chairman, Sen. Carl Levin, and its senior Republican, Sen. John McCain, runs to 232 pages, with a 29-page executive summary, and was based on a two-year investigation. In the course of its investigations the committee “reviewed more than 200,000 pages of classified and unclassified documents, including detention and interrogation policies, memoranda, electronic communications, training manuals, and the results of previous investigations into detainee abuse.” The committee also “interviewed over 70 individuals in connection with its inquiry,” mostly DoD, but also DoJ and FBI, “issued two subpoenas and held two hearings to take testimony from subpoenaed witnesses,” sent “written questions to more than 200 individuals,” and also “held public hearings on June 17, 2008 and September 25, 2008,” the transcripts of which, running to 380 pages, can be found here. Read the rest of this entry »

Remembering Judge John J. Gibbons, The Man Who Brought Habeas Corpus to Guantánamo

Judge John J. Gibbons, who has died aged 94, and prisoners at Guantanamo on the prison's opening day, January 11, 2002. Judge Gibbons successfully argued for their habeas corpus rights before the Supreme Court in 2004.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. If you can help, please click on the button below to donate via PayPal.

 

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.

Here at “Close Guantánamo,” we are saddened to hear of the death, at the age of 94, of Judge John J. Gibbons, who was one of the signatories to our initial mission statement when we first launched “Close Guantánamo” on January 11, 2012, the 10th anniversary of the opening of the prison. Appointed in 1970 to the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit, in Philadelphia, by Richard Nixon, he served on that court for 20 years, the last three as Chief Judge. While at the court, he authored more than 800 opinions.

When he left the bench, Judge Gibbons became a Professor of Law at Seton Hall University School of Law in New Jersey, and also rejoined the firm he had been part of prior to becoming a judge, which become known as Gibbons, Del Deo, Dolan, Griffinger & Vecchione in 1997, and then Gibbons P.C. in 2007.

Although he was a Republican, and, as Chris Hedges noted in a New York Times profile in February 2004, “his politics tend[ed] to veer to the conservative,” he was also “at once an insider and an outsider,” something of a “gadfly” at his largely corporate firm, where he was “one of the state’s leading crusaders against the death penalty.” He had, he told Hedges, “always been outraged by the use of the death penalty,” which was why his firm “filed ‘friend of the court’ briefs in almost every death penalty case in New Jersey.” Read the rest of this entry »

Quarterly Fundraiser Day 4: Still Seeking $2200 (£1750) to Support My Guantánamo Work, My Housing Activism, Music and Photography

Three photos of Andy Worthington, as an anti-Guantanamo campaigner, singer-songwriter and housing activist.Please click on the ‘Donate’ button below to make a donation towards the $2,200 (£1,750) I’m still trying to raise to support my work on Guantánamo over the next three months of the Trump administration, and/or my housing activism, photography and music.

 

Dear friends and supporters, and any engaged passers-by,

It’s nearly 13 years since I started working full-time as an independent journalist researching and writing about Guantánamo, and working to get the prison closed down. In that time, I’ve been employed by various media and human rights organizations, and have also been fortunate to have the support of a few prominent human rights-supporting individuals, but I have also become — most significantly, I think — a reader-funded journalist, activist and creator.

Over the years, there have been times when Guantánamo has slipped off the radar — for nearly three years under President Obama, between 2010 and 2013, when Congress conspired to make it difficult for him to release prisoners, and he responded by sitting on his hands rathe than spending politics capital overcoming lawmakers’ obstruction, and, of course, in the nearly two years since Donald Trump became president.

Because Trump has effectively sealed the prison shut, refusing to release anyone, it has become increasingly difficult to keep Guantánamo in the public eye, although I have been doing my best to keep focusing on it. I’m currently working on profiles of the remaining 40 prisoners, in the run-up to the 17th anniversary of the opening of the prison, on January 11, when I will, as usual, be visiting the US to campaign for the prison’s closure — a visit for which your support will be very helpful — and I’m also looking into finding a way to focus on the rights of former prisoners, many of whom have ended up in extremely vulnerable positions because Donald Trump closed down the US government office that dealt with re-settlements, and monitored prisoners after their release. Read the rest of this entry »

It’s Human Rights Day – and Day One of My Quarterly Fundraiser, In Which I’m Trying to Raise $2500 (£2000) to Support My Guantánamo Work

Andy Worthington marks 6,000 days of Guantanamo on June 15, 2018.Please click on the ‘Donate’ button below to make a donation towards the $2,500 (£2,000) I’m trying to raise to support my work on Guantánamo over the next three months of the Trump administration.

 

Dear friends and supporters,

Every three months I ask you, if you can, to make a donation to support my ongoing work as an independent journalist, activist and commentator, working to try and secure the closure of the prison at Guantánamo Bay.

Today seems to be a particularly appropriate time to launch my latest fundraiser, as it is Human Rights Day, marking the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights by the General Assembly of the United Nations. That was exactly 70 years ago, on December 10, 1948, when, in response to the horrors of the Second World War, “representatives with different legal and cultural backgrounds from all regions of the world” created the UDHR “as a common standard of achievements for all peoples and all nations”, which set out, for the first time, “fundamental human rights to be universally protected”, as the UN explains on its website.

Human rights are central to the problems of Guantánamo — a place intended to be beyond the each of the US courts, where men and boys seized in the “war on terror” that the US declared in response to the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 were imprisoned without any rights whatsoever, held neither as criminal suspects, to be charged and tried, or as prisoners of war, and subjected to torture an other forms of abuse, contravening Article 5 of the UDHR — “No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment” — as well as Articles 9 and 10: “No one shall be subjected to arbitrary arrest, detention or exile” and “Everyone is entitled in full equality 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.” Read the rest of this entry »

Today Guantánamo Has Been Open For 6,175 Days, and on Jan. 1, 2019 It Will Have Been Open for 6,200 Days: Please Join Our Photo Campaign!

Nine photos from Close Guantanamo's 2018 photo campaign, with supporters holding up posters showing how long Guantanamo has been open, and urging Donald Trump to close it.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. If you can help, please click on the button below to donate via PayPal.

 

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.

Today December 7, 2018, the prison at Guantánamo Bay has been open for 6,175 days, or, to put it another way, 16 years, ten months and 26 days.

When it comes to thinking about how long that is, I recall that my son, who turns 19 in two weeks’ time, was just two years old when Guantánamo opened, and I try to imagine being held for all that time without any of the rights and protections that people deprived of their liberty in countries that claim to respect the rule of law normally take for granted — the right not to be held indefinitely without charge or trial, or, if seized in wartime, the right to be held unmolested until a definable end of hostilities.

At Guantánamo, the prisoners were fundamentally stripped of all their rights as human beings, and, despite various efforts to give them rights, that unacceptable position remains fundamentally true. As you read this, here and now, the only way anyone can get out of Guantánamo is at the whim of the president — and this particular president has no interest in releasing anyone at all. Read the rest of this entry »

Remembering Those Murdered by the US in the “War on Terror”

Gul Rahman, in a photo taken before his capture and death in US custody.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. If you can help, please click on the button below to donate via PayPal.

 

In the long quest for justice for the victims of the US’s “war on terror,” Guantánamo — the main focus of my work for the last 13 years, where men are held indefinitely without charge or trial, and where the use of torture was widespread in its early years — is not, by any means, the only venue for crimes that should shock the consciences of all decent people.

At Guantánamo, nine men died between 2006 and 2012, and many of those deaths are regarded as suspicious, but they are not the only deaths in US custody.

Several reports have sought to assess how many prisoners have died in US custody in Iraq and Afghanistan, with researcher John Sifton establishing in May 2009 that, at that time, “approximately 100 detainees, including CIA-held detainees, have died during US interrogations, and some are known to have been tortured to death.” The majority of these deaths were in Iraq, but, back in July 2009, I published an article, When Torture Kills: Ten Murders In US Prisons In Afghanistan, in which I sought to establish quite how many deaths had occurred in Afghanistan. Read the rest of this entry »

Guantánamo’s Periodic Review Boards: The Escape Route Shut Down by Donald Trump

Four of the Guantanamo prisoners currently going through the Periodic Review Board process. Clockwise from top left: Omar al-Rammah, Moath al-Alwi, Mohammed al-Qahtani and Abd al-Salam al-Hilah.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. If you can help, please click on the button below to donate via PayPal.

 

Anyone paying close attention to the prison at Guantánamo Bay will know that its continued existence, nearly 17 years after it first opened, is largely down to the success of some wildly inaccurate claims that were made about it when its malevolent business first began — claims that it held “the worst of the worst” terrorists, who were all captured on the battlefield.

In fact, as my research, and that of other researchers has shown, very few of the 779 men held by the US military at Guantánamo since the prison opened on January 11, 2002 can realistically be described as having had any meaningful involvement with al-Qaeda or the Taliban; perhaps just 3 percent, and certainly less than 5 percent. No one was captured on the battlefield, and the majority were either foot soldiers for the Taliban in an inter-Muslim civil war that predated 9/11, or civilians swept up in ill-advised dragnets. Many, if not most of those who ended up at Guantánamo were sold to the US by their Afghan and Pakistani allies for bounty payments, which averaged $5,000 a head, a huge amount of money in that part of the world.

Just 40 men are still held at Guantánamo, after George W. Bush released 532 men, and Barack Obama released 196. Nine men died, one was transferred to the US, to face a trial in which he was successfully prosecuted, and one more was reluctantly released by Donald Trump, or, rather, was transferred back to Saudi Arabia for ongoing imprisonment, as part of a plea deal negotiated in his military commission trial proceedings in 2014. Read the rest of this entry »

Guantánamo’s Lost Diaspora: How Donald Trump’s Closure of the Office Monitoring Ex-Prisoners is Bad for Them – and US Security

Four prisoners released from Guantanamo who have ended up in very different circumstances following the closure by Donald Trump of the office of the Special Envoy for Guantanamo Closure. Clockwise from top left: Abu Wa'el Dhiab, Omar Mohammed Khalifh, Abd al-Malik al-Rahabi and Ravil Mingazov.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. If you can help, please click on the button below to donate via PayPal.

 

I wrote the following article, as “Guantánamo’s Lost Diaspora: How Donald Trump’s Closure of the Office Monitoring Ex-Prisoners Endangers U.S. National Security,” 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.

The presence of Donald Trump in the White House has been an unmitigated disaster for anyone concerned about the ongoing existence of the prison at Guantánamo Bay, and any notion of justice regarding those held there, or, indeed, those freed from the prison over the years.

For Trump, the notion that there might be anything wrong — or un-American — about imprisoning people forever without any meaningful form of due process clearly doesn’t exist. Since he took office nearly two years ago, only one prisoner has been released, out of the 41 men still held at the prison when Obama took office; and that man, Ahmed al-Darbi, a Saudi, was only released, and transferred to ongoing imprisonment in Saudi Arabia, because of a plea deal he agreed to in his military commission trial proceedings back in 2014.

Trump, clearly, has no desire to meaningfully continue the parole-type process — the Periodic Review Boards — that Barack Obama initiated to release lower-level prisoners who could demonstrate that they didn’t pose a threat to the U.S. Indeed, his contempt for the process is such that he has shut down any possibility of the two men whose release was approved by Obama’s PRBs, but who didn’t get released before Obama left office, being freed by shutting down the State Department office that dealt with resettlements — the office of the Special Envoy for Guantánamo Closure. 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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