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.
This week, the Supreme Court took a decision not to accept appeals by seven Guantánamo prisoners who, over the last few years, either had their habeas petitions denied, or had their successful petitions overturned on appeal. The ruling came the day before the 4th anniversary of Boumediene v. Bush, the 2008 case in which the Supreme Court granted the prisoners constitutionally guaranteed habeas corpus rights.
That led to a number of stunning court victories for the prisoners between 2008 and 2010, but in the last two years no prisoners have had their habeas petitions granted, because judges in the D.C. Circuit Court, a bastion of Bush-era paranoia about the “war on terror,” where the deeply Conservative Senior Judge A. Raymond Randolph holds sway, have unfairly rewritten the rules in the government’s favor, so that it is now almost impossible for a habeas petition to be granted. Read the rest of this entry »
On Monday, when the Supreme Court decided to turn down seven appeals submitted by prisoners held at Guantánamo, without providing any explanation, a particularly low point was reached in the prison’s history.
The decision came just one day before the fourth anniversary of Boumediene v. Bush, the hugely significant 2008 ruling granting the prisoners constitutionally guaranteed habeas corpus rights.
That ruling reaffirmed a previous Supreme Court ruling, Rasul v. Bush, in June 2004, granting the prisoners habeas rights, and involved the Court establishing that Congressional attempts to strip habeas rights from the prisoners — in the Detainee Treatment Act of 2005 and the Military Commissions Act of 2006 — had been unconstitutional.
Boumediene led to a flurry of activity, as long-frozen cases were revived. District Court judges in Washington D.C. then decided the evidentiary standards required, assessing that the government needed only to establish its case by a preponderance of the evidence, and not beyond a reasonable doubt, as is required in criminal cases. Read the rest of this entry »
Yesterday, I made my way to a TV studio opposite the Houses of Parliament to take part in an interview with Amy Goodman on Democracy Now! — my first since last April, when the classified military files released by WikiLeaks, on which I worked as a media partner, were first published.
I was joined by Shayana Kadidal, senior managing attorney of the Guantánamo Global Justice Initiative at the Center for Constitutional Rights, and I was delighted that the story was the main feature on yesterday’s show, and that so much time was devoted to it, and to analyzing the sweeping failures, across the entire US administration, that have led to a situation in which, although 87 of the remaining 169 prisoners have been cleared for release, only two prisoners have been freed in the last 18 months, and there are no signs of when — if ever — any of these 87 men will be released.
The interview, like my interview with RT on Monday, was scheduled last week, following the publication of my report, Guantánamo Scandal: The 40 Prisoners Still Held But Cleared for Release At Least Five Years Ago, but it assumed alarming new significance on Monday, when the Supreme Court refused to consider any of the appeals that had been submitted over the last year by seven of the 169 remaining prisoners in Guantánamo. It’s posted below, via YouTube: Read the rest of this entry »
Yesterday evening in London (and at 4pm Eastern time), I was delighted to be interviewed by Kristine Frazao, via Skype, for the news on RT (Russia Today) from Washington D.C., and specifically for an eight-minute feature entitled, “In Limbo at Gitmo,” which is available below. (Click to enlarge the photo on the left, showing me addressing campaigners for the closure of Guantánamo outside the Supreme Court, on the 10th anniversary of the opening of the prison, on January 11 this year, and see here for a video of my talk).
I was invited to appear on the show because of my report last week, Guantánamo Scandal: The 40 Prisoners Still Held But Cleared for Release At Least Five Years Ago, which was published exclusively on my website and on the website of “Close Guantánamo,” the campaign that I established in January with the attorney Tom Wilner. This report, establishing that at least 40 of the 87 prisoners cleared for release, but still held at Guantánamo, were cleared between 2004 and 2007, was discussed on RT last week, and my scheduled appearance also coincided with the depressing news that the Supreme Court had refused to accept any of the seven appeals submitted by various Guantánamo prisoners, on the eve of the fourth anniversary of Boumediene v. Bush, when a more principled Supreme Court ruled that the prisoners had habeas corpus rights. Read the rest of this entry »
Last Saturday, the New York Times published an article based on an interview with former Guantánamo prisoner Lakhdar Boumediene, an Algerian whose case, Boumediene v. Bush, was regarded at the time as one of the most significant legal victories in the whole of the Bush administration’s “war on terror,” reversing Congressional attempts to strip the prisoners of the habeas rights that the Supreme Court had first granted them in June 2004.
Lakhdar Boumediene went on to become one of 28 prisoners freed as a result of winning their habeas corpus petitions in the District Court in Washington D.C., although that impressive run of victories for the prisoners from October 2008 to July 2010 was abruptly stopped in the summer of 2010 by right-wing judges in the D.C. Circuit Court — the court of appeals — who have insisted, for nakedly political reasons, in rewriting the rules of detention to ensure that no prisoner can now secure a victory in court and be released through legal means.
As well as being a well-known name in legal circles, Lakhdar Boumediene was also noteworthy in Guantánamo, as one of six unfortunate Algerian men seized nowhere near the battlefields of Afghanistan, but kidnapped by US agents in Bosnia-Herzegovina and flown to Guantánamo in January 2002. The kidnapping took place after a disgraceful episode of US paranoia, in which he and the other men — who had all settled in Bosnia-Herzegovina after traveling there during the Bosnian War of 1992-95 — were imprisoned for three months by the Bosnian authorities at the request of the Bush administration. They were then kidnapped on Bosnian soil after their release had been ordered by a Bosnian court, because there was no evidence whatsoever that they were involved in terrorism, or had, as the US initially alleged, been involved in plotting to blow up the US embassy in Sarajevo. Read the rest of this entry »
Last summer, I wrote an article reviewing ten years of Guantánamo for the Future of Freedom Foundation, for whom I write a weekly column for their online Email Update. This article, however, was for their monthly magazine, Freedom Daily. It was published in the January 2012 issue, to coincide with the 10th anniversary of the opening of Guantánamo on January 11, 2012, and was published online on April 12, and I’m cross-posting it here in the hope that it will provide other readers with an understanding of the depth of the lawlessness that has prevailed at Guantánamo for the last ten years.
When the prison at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba opened on January 11, 2002 as part of the Bush administration’s global “war on terror,” in response to the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, it was not immediately apparent that it was a dangerous aberration from recognized laws and treaties that would tarnish America’s name forever.
There had been hints that this was the case — primarily, the fact that a war had been declared when a crime had taken place, and the military order issued by the President in November 2001, “Detention, Treatment, and Trial of Certain Non-Citizens in the War Against Terrorism,” in which he stated that members of al-Qaeda or those who harbored them could be held by the US military and, if required, subjected to military trials.
Also worrying, when Guantánamo opened, were the photos of the first prisoners to arrive at the prison, shackled in orange jumpsuits, and subjected to sensory depravation, with their eyes and ears closed with blackout goggles and headphones. The photos shocked many of America’s supporters, if not Americans themselves, who were used to orange jumpsuits from their domestic prisons, and had been primed relentlessly since the 9/11 attacks to enthuse over Wild West-style vengeance, and not to ask too many questions. Read the rest of this entry »
According to the US Justice Department, Obaidullah (also referred to as Obaydullah), one of 17 Afghan prisoners still held in Guantánamo, “was plainly a member of an Al-Qaeda bomb cell,” even though Obaidullah himself, and his lawyers, have always contended that, like so many of the 200 or so Afghans who have been repatriated from Guantánamo over the last ten years, he was actually seized by mistake.
In February, when discussions between the US government and the Taliban were underway, regarding the possibility that five of the 17 — all apparently significant figures in the Taliban — would be transferred to Qatar as part of the peace process in Afghanistan, the New York Times picked up on Obaidullah’s case, and reporter Charlie Savage recognized that, unlike the five senior Taliban figures, no one was pushing for his release, because he was “not an important enough figure to be a bargaining chip.”
As Charlie Savage also reported:
It is an accident of timing that Mr. Obaidullah is at Guantánamo. One American official who was formerly involved in decisions about Afghanistan detainees said that such a “run of the mill” suspect would not have been moved to Cuba had he been captured a few years later; he probably would have been turned over to the Afghan justice system, or released if village elders took responsibility for him. Read the rest of this entry »
Finally, five months after the Canadian citizen and former child prisoner Omar Khadr was supposed to leave Guantánamo, to be returned to Canada as a result of a plea deal agreed in October 2010, it appears that he may be back in the country of his birth by the end of May.
The delay has been a disgrace, as the plea deal was supposed to guarantee that Khadr, who is now 25, would be held for one more year at Guantánamo, and would then return to Canada, to serve seven more years in prison, although it is widely expected that he “will serve only a short time in a Canadian prison before being released,” as London Free Press described it, primarily because lawyers will be able to point out the court rulings in which judges ruled that the Canadian government had persistently violated Khadr’s rights.
That first year of Khadr’s post-plea deal detention ended on October 31 last year, but he was not repatriated from Guantánamo, primarily, it seemed, because of an unwillingness to speedily facilitate his return on the part of the Canadian authorities, who have a dreadful record when it comes to doing anything to secure his return since his capture at the age of 15, when he was severely wounded, in Afghanistan in July 2002. Read the rest of this entry »
Here at “Close Guantánamo,” we have been watching with interest the ongoing negotiations regarding five of the 17 remaining Afghan prisoners at Guantánamo. In December, it was revealed that, for the previous ten months, the US government and the Taliban had been conducting secret negotiations, and that the US was considering releasing the five men from Guantánamo, all of whom were allegedly significant Taliban prisoners.
It was not until January that it became clear that the men were to be exchanged for a US prisoner, Bowe Bergdahl, a 25-year-old US Army sergeant from Hailey, Idaho, who was taken prisoner on June 30, 2009 in Afghanistan, and that the negotiations would involve the five Taliban prisoners being released in Qatar, where they would be held under a form of house arrest, and, at the prisoners’ request, would be reunited with their families.
These releases are now on hold, as the Taliban suspended negotiations with the US last week, following the killing of 16 civilians, including nine children, by Staff Sgt. Robert Bales. Read the rest of this entry »
In January, when I visited the US for events to mark the 10th anniversary of the opening of the “war on terror” prison at Guantánamo Bay, and to renew calls for the prison to be closed, as President Obama promised on his second day in office, I paid a flying visit to San Francisco to take part in a conversation about Guantánamo past, present and future with my friend and colleague Jason Leopold, the lead investigative reporter for Truthout. Our hour-long conversation was filmed, and I posted an unedited version last month, but now I’m delighted to present an edited, 20-minute version, along with an insightful commentary, which was posted on Truthout yesterday.
The video was filmed and edited by Hans Bennett, a multi-media journalist whose work focuses on the movement to free Mumia Abu-Jamal and all political prisoners, and was produced in association with Angola 3 News, a project of the International Coalition to Free the Angola 3. As Angola 3 News noted, “In 2007 and 2011, Amnesty International issued statements in support of Herman Wallace and Albert Woodfox, the two members of the Angola 3 who remain in prison today, after more than 39 years of solitary confinement.”
I’m very pleased with the analysis of our conversation, which is posted below. I don’t want to flag up too much of it in this introduction, as I hope you have the time to read it — and to watch the video — but I was delighted with the explanation about Guantánamo’s “True Secret,” which was my response to a journalist suggesting, at a press conference in Washington D.C. on January 11, that “perhaps President Obama has not shut Guantánamo down because of some ‘dark secrets’ that cannot be made public for legitimate reasons of national security.” As I explained at the press conference, and again in San Francisco: Read the rest of this entry »
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