Guantánamo, The Torture Report and Human Rights Day: America’s Unaddressed Legacy of Torture and Arbitrary Detention

A graphic dealing with CIA torture report, whose executive summary was released in December 2014.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.

 

This time of year has always been a significant time for anyone concerned with human rights to reflect on what has or hasn’t been achieved in the last twelve months, and to make plans for the new year.

A crucial, and long established date is December 10, which the United Nations designated as Human Rights Day in 1950, on the second anniversary of the ratification by the UN of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), which, in a Facebook post on Human Rights Day, I described as “probably the most wonderful aspirational document in human history, born out of the soul-churning horrors of the Second World War.”

The UN, on its Human Rights Day page, says of the UDHR that it “sets out universal values and a common standard of achievement for all peoples and all nations. It establishes the equal dignity and worth of every person. Thanks to the Declaration, and States’ commitments to its principles, the dignity of millions has been uplifted and the foundation for a more just world has been laid. While its promise is yet to be fully realized, the very fact that it has stood the test of time is testament to the enduring universality of its perennial values of equality, justice and human dignity.”

Amongst the UDHR’s 30 articles are prohibitions on the use of torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, and arbitrary arrest, as well as the presumption of innocence and the right to a fair trial, all of which have long been of great significance to those like myself who have been writing about Guantánamo and working to get the prison closed. Read the rest of this entry »

On Human Rights Day, A Call for the US to Close Guantánamo, and for the UK to Defend the Human Rights Act

Eleanor Roosevelt holds up a copy of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948. Roosevelt, the wife of the former US president, who had a deep interest in the rights of refugees, was chosen to chair the UN Human Rights Commission, when it was established on February 16, 1946 to draft a Declaration of Human Rights.

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Over 60 years ago, in the wake of the horrors of World War II, when people with power and influence were determined to do whatever they could to prevent such barbarity from taking place again, the United Nations was established, the Geneva Conventions were rewritten, and representatives of 17 countries drafted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly exactly 67 years ago, on December 10, 1948. Human Rights Day itself was established 65 years ago, on December 10, 1950.

A powerful attempt to establish “a common standard of achievements for all peoples and all nations,” the UDHR set out, for the first time, and in 30 articles, fundamental human rights that were to be universally protected.

These include protection from torture and “cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment,” protection from “arbitrary arrest,” and the right 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.” The UDHR also stated, “Everyone charged with a penal offence has the right to be presumed innocent until proved guilty according to law in a public trial at which he has had all the guarantees necessary for his defence.” Read the rest of this entry »

Video: Juliet Stevenson and David Morrissey Star in New Film About Shaker Aamer for Human Rights Day, Calling for His Release from Guantánamo

A screen shot of Juliet Stevenson from the short film the We Stand With Shaker campaign made for Human Rights Day, of Shaker Aamer's Declaration of No Human Rights, written in Guantanamo.Watch the video of Juliet Stevenson and David Morrissey reading from Shaker Aamer’s “Declaration of No Human Rights” below.

Yesterday, December 10, was Human Rights Day, marking the 66th anniversary of the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights by the United Nations (on December 10, 1948). Its 30 articles provided a benchmark for decent behaviour following the atrocities of the Second World War, and they have been enormously influential, leading, for example, to the UN Convention Against Torture, which was ratified in 1987.

However, after the dreadful terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, the US swept aside laws and treaties dealing with the treatment of prisoners, embracing torture — as revealed on Tuesday in the executive summary of the Senate Intelligence Committee’s report on the CIA torture program, which I wrote about here — and engaging in a widespread program of kidnapping (“extraordinary rendition”) and indefinite detention without charge or trial.

A bleakly iconic manifestation of the US governments post-9/11 flight from the law is Guantánamo, where 136 men still languish, hoping that the uproar over the CIA’s torture program and its network of”black sites” will not mean that they — who have also suffered, and continue to suffer the torture of open-ended arbitrary detention, and, in some cases, brutal force-feeding — will be overlooked. Read the rest of this entry »

London Vigil for Shaker Aamer, the Last British Resident in Guantánamo, on Human Rights Day, December 10, 2011

This Saturday, December 10, which is UN Human Rights Day, I’ll be attending a vigil for Shaker Aamer, the last British resident in Guantánamo, outside Downing Street. The event, arranged by the Save Shaker Aamer Campaign, runs from 12 noon to 3 pm, and at 1 pm speakers — myself included — will be reading out the 30 articles of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, on the 63rd anniversary of its adoption by the United Nations. If you’re not familiar with the UDHR, I recommend reading them, as the 30 articles of the UDHR represent a concerted effort, after the horrors of the Second World War, to create guidelines for how to create a better world. Alarmingly, in Guantánamo — and elsewhere in the “war on terror” — the Bush administration trampled on the UDHR, and its guidelines — its important aspirations — have not been adequately reinstated by Barack Obama.

Speakers include:

Jeremy Corbyn MP (Lab, Islington North)
Jane Ellison MP (Con, Battersea — and Shaker’s MP)
Imam Suliman Gani (Tooting Mosque)
Lindsey German (Stop the War Coalition National Convenor)
Kate Hudson (Chair, CND)
Joy Hurcombe (Chair, Save Shaker Aamer Campaign)
Sabah Jawad (Iraqi Democrats Against Occupation)
Jean Lambert MEP
Bruce McKenzie (Wandsworth Green Party)
Carol Turner (Afghan Withdrawal Group Convenor)
Walter Wolfgang (Labour CND)
Andy Worthington (Journalist, author of “The Guantánamo Files”) 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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