24th Periodic Review Board Held at Guantánamo for Yemeni Who Has Become A Health Adviser to His Fellow Prisoners

Guantanamo prisoner Yasin Ismail, a Yemeni, in a photo from 2005 included in the classified military files released by WikiLeaks in 2011. Last week — delayed for a week because of bad weather — the 24th Periodic Review Board took place at Guantánamo, for Yasin Ismail (aka Yassin Ismail), a Yemeni prisoner who is reportedly 36 years old — although, years ago, one of his lawyers stated that his year of birth had incorrectly been recorded as 1979, when he was actually born in 1982, which would mean that he is currently 33 years old. I note that no one, apart from Human Rights First, has actually written about this PRB.

The Periodic Review Boards were established in 2013 to review the cases of prisoners regarded as “too dangerous to release” by the the high-level, inter-agency Guantánamo Review Task Force that, in 2009, had reviewed the cases of all the prisoners held when Barack Obama took office. Alarmingly, these men — 46 in total — were given this description even though the task force acknowledged that insufficient evidence existed to put them on trial. In other words, rumor, hearsay and unreliable statements by the prisoners themselves, or by their fellow prisoners, hinted that they were dangerous, when that might not have been true at all.

25 other prisoners, initially recommended for prosecution, were also made eligible for the PRBs after the basis of their trials collapsed following a series of devastating rulings by the court of appeals in Washington, D.C., which ruled that Congress had invented a raft of war crimes, and had used them to illegally prosecute prisoners in Guantánamo’s already discredited military commission trial system. Read the rest of this entry »

For Feb. 4, Send Us A Photo for the “Countdown to Close Guantánamo,” Telling Obama He Now Has Just 350 Days to Close It

The musician David Knopfler supports the new Countdown to Close Guantanamo campaign, and stands with a poster telling President Obama that, on February 4, 2016, he has just 350 days left to close Guantanamo before he leaves office.I wrote the following article for the “Close Guantánamo” website, which I established in January 2012 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.

Two weeks ago, as the co-founder of “Close Guantánamo,” I launched a new initiative, the Countdown to Close Guantánamo, with music legend Roger Waters, on Democracy Now! with Amy Goodman. See the video of that show here.

We encouraged people to take photos of themselves with posters counting down to the end of the Obama presidency, urging President Obama to fulfill the promise he made to close the prison at Guantánamo Bay, as he promised on his second day in office in January 2009, and to send them to us — with personalized messages, if they wish. Supporters can also let us know where they are, to demonstrate the breadth of support across the US, and around the world.

Following the launch, we set up two dedicated pages for photos of supporters — Celebrity Photos and Public Photos — and also posted photos on social media, on our Facebook and Twitter pages. Read the rest of this entry »

“America’s Shame,” Rolling Stone’s Detailed – and Damning – Article About Guantánamo

Prisoners regarded as "compliant" sharing communal facilities inside Guantanamo's Camp Six (Photo: JTF GTMO Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Elisha Dawkins).As all eyes are focused on Iowa, on the first caucus of this year’s Presidential election race, I thought I’d cross-post an interesting article about Guantánamo that was recently published in Rolling Stone, written by Janet Reitman. This is a long and detailed article, taking as its springboard a visit to one of the pre-trial hearings in Guantánamo’s military commissions, the alternative trial system set up for the “war on terror,” at the particular instigation of Dick Cheney and his legal adviser David Addington, which seems able only to demonstrate, in its glacially slow proceedings, that it is unable to deliver justice.

I confess that, in recent years, I have rather taken my eye off the military commissions, although I commend those who still visit Guantánamo to write about them, chief amongst whom is Carol Rosenberg of the Miami Herald. I put together a detailed list of who has been charged — plus the eight convictions and the four verdicts that have subsequently been overturned — two years ago, and in that article I stated:

I’ve been covering the commissions since 2006, and I have never found that they have established any kind of legitimacy, compared to federal courts, where crimes should be tried. This conclusion has only been strengthened in recent years, as conservative appeals court judges in Washington D.C. have overturned two of the eight convictions on the basis that they were for war crimes that were invented by Congress rather than being internationally recognized.

Read the rest of this entry »

Radio: Andy Worthington Discusses the Potential Closure of Guantánamo with Chris Cook in Canada and on South African Radio

Andy Worthington (center) and Aliya Hussain of the Center for Constitutional Rights outside the White House on January 11, 2016, the 14th anniversary of the opening of the prison. Behind Andy is the giant inflatable figure of Shaker Aamer that was at the heart of the We Stand With Shaker campaign (Photo: Justin Norman for Witness Against Torture).It’s been a busy month — firstly, with my visit to the US to campaign for the closure of Guantánamo, focused on the 14th anniversary of the opening of the prison on January 11, and then with the launch of my new campaign, the Countdown to Close Guantánamo, on January 20. That campaign was officially launched on Democracy Now! with Amy Goodman, when I appeared with Roger Waters, a supporter of my work and of the campaign to get Guantánamo closed, who also played a major role in publicizing the We Stand With Shaker campaign that I launched in November 2014, with the activist Joanne MacInnes, to secure the release of Shaker Aamer, the last British resident in Guantánamo.

On Wednesday, I spoke to Chris Cook for his Gorilla Radio show in British Columbia. Chris and I last spoke a year ago, and our latest interview is available here as an MP3, beginning at 38:20.

Chris and I spoke about my tour, Roger Waters, the successful campaign to get Shaker released the Countdown to Close Guantánamo and how the prison might finally be closed, and I hope you have time to listen to the show. Read the rest of this entry »

The “Countdown to Close Guantánamo” Launches: Send in Your Photos Asking President Obama to Fulfill His Promise to Close the Prison

Former Guantanamo prisoner Shaker Aamer photographed outside the US Embassy in London supporting the new "Countdown to Close Guantanamo" initiative (Photo: Andy Worthington).I wrote the following article for the “Close Guantánamo” website, which I established in January 2012 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. In the photo here, former Guantánamo prisoner Shaker Aamer supports the new “Countdown to Close Guantánamo” initiative. See more on the Celebrity Photos page and also the Public Photos page, and please send in your own photos — see below for details!

January 20, 2016 marked the beginning of the last year of the Obama presidency, and tomorrow (January 22) marks the seventh anniversary of President Obama’s promise to close the lawless prison at Guantánamo Bay within a year, which he made on his second day in office in January 2009. To highlight the president’s last chance to fulfill his promise to close the prison, the “Close Guantánamo” campaign has launched a new initiative, the “Countdown to Close Guantánamo.”

The “Countdown to Close Guantánamo” encourages celebrities, lawmakers and concerned members of the public, from the US and around the world, to take photos of themselves holding signs counting down to the end of the Obama presidency, urging President Obama to close the prison before the inauguration of the next president on January 20, 2017.

Our first poster, reading, “President Obama, you have one year left to close Guantánamo,” was made available when the campaign launched, on Jan, 20. It is being followed, throughout the year, by posters counting down every 50 days — so “350 days” is on February 4, “300 days” will be on March 25, and so on.

Please print off the 350 days poster, take a photo of yourself holding it, and send it to: info@closeguantanamo.org. Read the rest of this entry »

Ten Yemenis Freed from Guantánamo, Given New Homes in Oman; Now 93 Men Remain

Fahd Ghazy, photographed before his capture and his rendition to Guantanamo.As the disgraceful US prison at Guantánamo Bay begins its 15th year of operations, President Obama has been busy attempting to show that, with just one year left in office, he is determined to close the prison, as he promised to do on his second day in office back in January 2009, when he promised to close it within a year. Last month, we heard that 17 men would be released in January, and the releases began just days before the 14th anniversary of the opening of the prison with the release of two Yemenis in Ghana and the return to Kuwait of Fayiz al-Kandari, the last Kuwaiti in the prison. On the actual anniversary, a Saudi was returned home, and two days after the anniversary ten more Yemenis were released in Oman, Yemen’s neighbor, to add to the ten Yemenis sent to Oman last year.

David Remes, who represents three of the men sent to Oman, said it was “a particularly good fit for them,” as the New York Times described it. “I’m sure that they are ecstatic just leaving Guantánamo,” he said. “But it’s even better than that. They’ve been sent to Oman, an Arab country, whose language, culture and religion are their own. Oman is also one of Yemen’s neighbors, so their families will be able to visit them often.”

Three more releases — of unidentified prisoners to unidentified countries — are expected soon, and, after the release of the ten men to Oman, Lee Wolosky, the Special Envoy for Guantánamo Closure in the State Department, said, “We expect to be in a position to empty Guantánamo of all detainees who are currently approved for transfer by this summer.” Including the three men who are expected to be freed soon, Wolosky’s description currently applies to 34 of the 93 men still held  — 25 since January 2010, who were approved for release by President Obama’s high-level, inter-agency Guantánamo Review Task Force, and nine in the last two years, by a new review process, the Periodic Review Boards. Read the rest of this entry »

Video: Will Guantánamo Ever Close? Andy Worthington, Karen Greenberg and Tom Wilner at New America on Jan. 11

The panel at New America for the discussion, "Guantanamo Bay: Year 14," on jan. 11, the 14th anniversary of the opening of the prison. From L to R: moderator Peter Bergen, panelists Karen Greenberg, Andy Worthington and Tom Wilner.Monday was the 14th anniversary of the opening of the dreadful, unforgivable “war on terror” prison at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, where men are held without charge or trial, in defiance of all the laws and treaties that the US swore to uphold until the 9/11 attacks derailed those beliefs — or allowed the country’s leaders to deliberately jettison them in favor of something far more brutal and unaccountable.

On Monday, I attended the annual protest outside the White House organized by over a dozen rights groups, as the co-founder and co-director of the We Stand With Shaker campaign, which played a part in securing the release from Guantánamo in October of Shaker Aamer, the last British resident in the prison, and as the co-founder of Close Guantánamo, a campaign I established in 2012 with the attorney Tom Wilner (who fought for the prisoners’ habeas corpus rights in the Supreme Court in 2004 and 2008). The video of my speech outside the White House is here.

That afternoon, just around the corner from the White House, at New America (formerly the New America Foundation), Tom Wilner and I were joined by the academic Karen Greenberg for a panel discussion, Guantánamo Bay: Year 14, moderated by New America’s Peter Bergen, author, journalist and an old college friend of mine, which is posted below via Ustream. I’ll also post a YouTube link when it becomes available. Read the rest of this entry »

Close Guantánamo Now: Andy Worthington’s US Tour on the 14th Anniversary of the Prison’s Opening, January 8-18, 2016

Andy Worthington calling for the closure of Guantanamo outside the White House on January 11, 2011. This year (2016) will be his sixth visit on the anniversary to call for the prison's closure as President Obama promised on his second day in office in January 2009.This Friday (January 8), I’m flying from London to Miami for a short US tour to coincide with the 14th anniversary of the opening of the prison at Guantánamo Bay on January 11. I’ll be flying up to Washington, D.C. on the 10th, protesting outside the White House on the 11th, and moving on to New York City on the 13th, where I have an event lined up in Harlem on the 14th, and where I will be staying until the 18th.

I’m traveling as an expert on Guantánamo, with nearly ten years of experience as a researcher, writer, campaigner and public speaker about the prison and the men held there, the author of The Guantánamo Files, the co-director of “Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo,” and the co-founder and co-director of two campaigns: Close Guantanamo and We Stand With Shaker. I’m also hoping to return to the US later in the year with a new book, collection the nest of my writing about Guantánamo over the last eight years, and if you’re a publisher, or have funding ideas, or would like to stage an event for me as part of a tour when the book is published, then please get in touch.

Please also get in touch if you want to contact me on my forthcoming tour, either to interview me (for TV, radio or online) or to arrange a last-minute event. You can also contact Debra Sweet, the national director of the World Can’t Wait, who, as in previous years, is organizing my visit. And while I’m in New York, I’ll have a guitar, and will be delighted to play some of my political songs, including “Song for Shaker Aamer” and “81 Million Dollars,” about the US torture program, which I normally play with my band The Four Fathers. If any musician would like to play with me, do get in touch. Read the rest of this entry »

President Obama on Closing Guantánamo

Code Pink activists use a photo of President Obama, and his own words, to make a powerful point about the need to close Guantanamo outside the White House on May 10, 2013 (Photo: Pat Benic/UPI).I wrote the following article for the “Close Guantánamo” website, which I established in January 2012 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.

A week before Christmas, at a press conference, President Obama spoke about Guantánamo, and we wanted to make sure that our supporters know exactly what he said, as it is significant for the coming year — Obama’s last in office — to know what he has planned, and what he thinks of the opposition to his plans in Congress, where Republicans have been imposing restrictions on his ability to release prisoners and to close the prison for most of his presidency, including a ban on bringing prisoners to the US mainland for any reason.

Below are President Obama’s comments, interspersed with our commentary. We hope you find it useful. The president’s comments came in response to a question by the journalist David Jackson.

David Jackson: Thank you, Mr. President. A Gitmo question. Congress has made it pretty clear that they’re just not going to let you transfer prisoners to the United States for trial. But some people think you already have the executive authority to transfer those prisoners and close Gitmo itself next year. My question is, do you believe you have that authority and are you willing to exercise it to close that place? Read the rest of this entry »

For Review at Guantánamo, DoD Acknowledges That 20th “Forever Prisoner” Is Case of Mistaken Identity, As He Seeks Release

Mustafa-al-Shamiri, in a photo included in the classified military files from Guantanamo that were released by WikiLeaks in 2011.The Periodic Review Boards at Guantánamo began two years ago, to review the cases of all the prisoners not already approved for release (48 of the 107 men still held) or put forward for trials (just ten men), and last week I put together the first full annotated list, to assist anyone interested in the reviews to work out who has already has had their cases looked at and who is still awaiting a review.

The PRBs were set up in response to the conclusions reached by the high-level, inter-agency Guantánamo Review Task Force, which President Obama established shortly after taking office in 2009. The task force suggested that 46 men were “too dangerous to release,” even though they acknowledged that insufficient evidence existed to put them on trial, and President Obama promised periodic reviews of their cases when he approved their ongoing imprisonment without charge or trial in an executive order in March 2011. 25 others — initially recommended for prosecution, were later added to the list, after the basis for trial largely collapsed following a handful of devastating appeals court rulings. The mainstream media have helpfully labelled these men “forever prisoners,” but in reality assessing men as “too dangerous to release” is irresponsible, and not justified by a close examination of the facts.

Shamefully, although President Obama declared, in his March 2011 executive order, that, “For each detainee, an initial review shall commence as soon as possible but no later than 1 year from the date of this order,” we are now nearing the five-year mark, and yet just 20 prisoners have had their cases reviewed, and another 44 are waiting. Of those 20, 18 cases have been decided, and 15 men have been recommended for release, which is a success rate of 83%. This quite solidly demonstrates that the “too dangerous to release” tag was the hyperbolic result of an over-cautious approach to what purported to be the evidence against the men held at Guantánamo by the Guantánamo Review Task Force. Read the rest of this entry »

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Andy Worthington

Writer, campaigner, investigative journalist and commentator. 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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