Dear friends, I do hope you have time to read my first article for Al-Jazeera English, “It’s time to end the injustice of Guantánamo and Bagram,” in which, the day after the 12th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, I run through the story of America’s dreadful innovations in the wake of the attacks — with particular reference to Guantánamo, where 164 men remain, and Bagram in Afghanistan, where 67 non-Afghan prisoners are still held, despite the handover of the majority of the prisoners to the Afghan authorities.
In the article I point out how, by discarding the Geneva Conventions after 9/11, the Bush administration embraced indefinite detention without charge or trial, and also opened the floodgates to the use of torture. The latter was eventually curtailed (as official policy, at least), but the indefinite detention continues under President Obama, both at Guantánamo and Bagram, which is unacceptable policy under any circumstances.
I also point out how another baleful legacy of the Bush administration’s lawless policies is the largely worthless information masquerading as evidence, which is used to justify the ongoing imprisonment of the men at Bagram, and around half of the remaining men at Guantánamo. As I explain in the article: Read the rest of this entry »
Exactly a year ago, on September 8, 2012, Adnan Farhan Abdul Latif, a Yemeni prisoner at Guantánamo, died in circumstances that are still disputed. The US authorities claim that he committed suicide by overdosing on psychiatric medication that he had hoarded, but that has always seemed unlikely, given that the prisoners at Guantánamo are closely monitored, and it has become clear that he was moved around the prison on a number of occasions before his death, making the hoarding of medication even more unlikely.
Despite the inconsistencies in the US authorities’ account of Adnan’s death, it is undisputed that, throughout his ten years at Guantánamo, he had attempted to commit suicide on several occasions. A talented poet, and a father, Adnan also had severe mental health problems, the result of a car crash in Yemen many years before his capture. Adnan always claimed that he had traveled to Pakistan and Afghanistan in search of cheap medical treatment for his head wounds, in contrast to the US authorities’ attempts to portray him as a member of al-Qaeda.
Those claims, however, evaporated over the years of Adnan’s long and pointless imprisonment, as he was cleared for release on three occasions, only to discover that decisions to release prisoners meant very little, especially in the case of Yemeni prisoners. At the time of his death, 87 of the remaining 167 prisoners had been cleared for release, by an inter-agency Guantánamo Review Task Force that President Obama established when he took office in January 2009, but were still held, and 57 of these men were Yemenis. Read the rest of this entry »
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. The portrait on the left is by the artist Molly Crabapple, who has been visiting Guantánamo this year, and is one of seven portraits, with accompanying text, commissioned and published this week by Creative Time Reports and also published by the Daily Beast.
Last week, President Obama released the first two prisoners from Guantánamo since he promised to resume releasing cleared prisoners in a major speech on May 23. That speech was prompted by high-level domestic and international criticism, which, in turn, arose in response to a prison-wide hunger strike that the prisoners embarked upon in February, in despair at ever being freed or receiving justice.
The release of these two prisoners, both Algerians, is to be applauded, as President Obama has been so paralyzed by inertia for the last few years that only five prisoners were freed between October 2010 and July 2013 (either through court orders or through plea deals in their military commission trials) and the last prisoners to be freed as a result of the president’s own intentions were released three years ago, in September 2010, when two men who could not be safely repatriated were released in Germany.
Since then, Congress has raised serious obstacles to the release of prisoners, and the administration was required to certify to lawmakers that it was safe to release the men. As the Miami Herald reported after their release last week, “Last month, the White House announced that Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel, for the first time, had certified the release under requirements imposed by Congress’ current National Defense Authorization Act with the approval of Secretary of State John Kerry and the Director of National Intelligence James Clapper.” Read the rest of this entry »
Getting men released from Guantánamo has become more difficult than getting blood out of a stone, even though over half of the 164 men still held were approved for release in January 2010 by President Obama’s high-level, inter-agency Guantánamo Review Task Force.
Please visit, like, share and tweet the GTMO Clock website, which I launched a month ago, and which shows that it is now 100 days since President Obama promised to resume releasing prisoners from Guantánamo, in a major speech on national security issues on May 23, but, to date, just two men have been released.
President Obama only made his promise because he had been provoked into action by a barrage of domestic and international criticism, which was in turn prompted by the prisoners embarking on a prison-wide hunger strike in February, to raise awareness of their ongoing and unacceptable imprisonment without charge or trial.
The difficulty in releasing prisoners has arisen in part because of severe obstacles raised by Congress, and in part because of President Obama’s unwillingness to spend political capital overcoming these obstacles. Read the rest of this entry »
In the long and horrendous history of the “war on terror” prison at Guantánamo Bay, it has been noticeable that very few celebrities have challenged the myriad injustices of Guantánamo — the torture; the indefinite detention without charge or trial; the decision by the Bush administration to tear up every domestic and international law and treaty regarding the treatment of prisoners; the refusal to make a distinction between soldiers and terrorists; the bounty payments issued to America’s Afghan and Pakistani allies, which led to numerous civilians being rounded up and sent to Guantánamo; the pressure exerted on the prisoners to make them tell lies about themselves and their fellow prisoners, to create the majority of what passes for evidence at Guantánamo; the failure of President Obama to hold any Bush administration officials (up to and including President Bush) responsible for their actions; the failure of President Obama to close the prison as he promised; the failure of President Obama to resume releasing prisoners, as he promised in a major speech in May this year; the opportunistic fearmongering of Congress, which has raised almost insurmountable obstacles to prevent the release of prisoners or the closure of the prison; the decision by judges in the appeals court in Washington D.C. (the D.C. Circuit Court) to gut habeas corpus of all meaning in relation to the Guantánamo prisoners, and to shut the Great Writ down as a route out of the prison; and the decision by the Supreme Court to allow this cynical manipulation of the law to stand, and not to assert its authority over the appeals court.
As a result of the general indifference towards Guantánamo, it came as a great and pleasant surprise when, at the weekend, the author John Grisham, whose books have sold over 250 million copies, wrote an op-ed for the New York Times about the indefinite detention of prisoners at Guantánamo, focusing, in particular, on the case of Nabil Hadjarab, an Algerian national, and an orphan, with relatives in France who have been seeking his release for many years. Grisham found out about him because he was alerted to the fact that prisoners were being prevented from reading his books, and that Nabil was one of them — and I imagine he was made aware of this through his support for the Innocence Project, a non-profit organization in the US dedicated to exonerating wrongfully convicted people, which Nabil’s lawyers at Reprieve have also been involved in over many years.
Grisham, I’m glad to say, has understood perfectly the horrors of Guantánamo, as the following passages from his article show: Read the rest of this entry »
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.
As the hunger strike at Guantánamo reaches the six-month mark, it is, sadly, apparent that President Obama has failed to act swiftly to release prisoners following his major speech on national security issues on May 23, when he promised, “To the greatest extent possible, we will transfer detainees who have been cleared to go to other countries.”
Since then, there has been some progress, just not enough. Last week it was announced that President Obama has notified Congress of his intention to release two Algerian prisoners, but 86 of the remaining 166 prisoners have been cleared for release since January 2010, when an inter-agency task force established by the president when he took office issued its report regarding the disposition of the prisoners, and all 86 need to be released.
I understand that Congress has imposed onerous restrictions on the release of prisoners, insisting that the administration must provide assurances that any released prisoner must be unable to engage in terrorist acts against the US. However, Guantánamo must be closed, as President Obama promised when he took office in January 2009, and the hunger strike must be brought to an end. Read the rest of this entry »
Please click on the “GTMO Clock” image to visit the website and see how many days it has been since President Obama promised to resume releasing prisoners from Guantánamo, and how many men have been freed.
Today, the “Close Guantánamo” campaign, Witness Against Torture and the Center for Constitutional Rights are launching the “GTMO Clock,” to show how long it is since President Obama promised to resume releasing prisoners from Guantánamo, and how many men have been freed. This article is published simultaneously here and on the “Close Guantánamo” website.
It’s six months since the prisoners at Guantánamo embarked on a prison-wide hunger strike to protest about their seemingly endless detention. Although President Obama promised to close the prison within a year when he took office in January 2009, he failed to do so, and in February this year, the majority of the 166 men still held began refusing food, in the hope of attracting the world’s attention to their plight, and forcing President Obama to act.
In May, after the world’s media had picked up on the hunger strike, and international bodies including the UN, the EU and the International Committee of the Red Cross had put pressure on President Obama, he responded with a major speech on national security, in which he promised to resume releasing prisoners from Guantánamo. Today, however, it’s 75 days since that speech, and no prisoners have yet been released. The “GTMO Clock” will be keeping track of how many days it has been since President Obama made his promise, and how many men have been released. Read the rest of this entry »
On June 30, as I reported here, lawyers for four prisoners in Guantánamo — Shaker Aamer, the last British resident in the prison, Nabil Hadjarab and Ahmed Belbacha, both Algerians, and Abu Wa’el Dhiab, a Syrian — filed a motion with the District Court in Washington D.C., asking a judge to issue a ruling compelling the government to “stop force-feeding in the prison and stop force-medicating prisoners, particularly with Reglan, a drug used by the US during the force-feeding process that when used for extended periods of time can cause severe neurological disorders, including one that mimics Parkinson’s disease,” as it was described in a press release by Reprieve, the London-based legal action charity whose lawyers filed the motion, along with Jon B. Eisenberg in the US.
The men are amongst the 86 prisoners (out of the 166 men still held), who were cleared for release by the inter-agency Guantánamo Review Task Force, established by President Obama when he took office in 2009. In addition, all are involved in the prison-wide hunger strike that began six months ago, and both Nabil Hadjarab and Ahmed Belbacha are amongst the 41 prisoners who are being force-fed.
Although the prisoners made a compelling argument for the need for intervention, the judge ruling in Abu Wa’el Dhiab’s case, Judge Gladys Kessler, was unable to grant the motion, because of a legal precedent from February 2009, when, in the case of Mohammed al-Adahi, a Yemeni who sought to stop his force-feeding, a court ruled that “no court, justice, or judge shall have jurisdiction to hear or consider any other action against the United States or its agents relating to any aspect of the detention, transfer, treatment, trial, or conditions of confinement of an alien who is or was detained by the United States and has been determined by the United States to have been properly detained as an enemy combatant.” Read the rest of this entry »
Six weeks ago, on June 26, the International Day in Support of Victims of Torture, initiated by the United Nations in 1997, on the 10th anniversary of the the day that the UN Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment came into force, I posted the first half of a newly released documentary film, “Culture of Impunity,” for which I was interviewed along with the law professor and author Marjorie Cohn, the professor, author and filmmaker Saul Landau, the author and activist David Swanson, Laura Pitter of Human Rights Watch and Stephen Rohde of the ACLU.
The documentary, which looks at the many ways in which the most senior figures in the Bush administration — including George W. Bush, Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld — have escaped accountability for the crimes committed in the “war on terror” declared after the 9/11 attacks, was produced by Alternate Focus, which describes itself as “working for peace and justice by offering the American public media which shows another side of Middle Eastern issues,” and I was interviewed for it in April.
The producer, John Odam, has just sent me a link to the second part of this powerful documentary, on YouTube, which I’ve made available below, along with the first part. It features all of the experts interviewed in the first half, as well as Stephen Zunes, a Professor of Politics and International Studies at the University of San Francisco. Read the rest of this entry »
The prison at Guantánamo is such an extraordinarily lawless and unjust place that 86 prisoners cleared for release by an inter-agency task force established by President Obama when he took office in 2009 are still held.
Other prisoners recommended for trials languish, year after year, with no hope of justice, and 46 others were specifically recommended for indefinite detention without charge or trial, on the basis that they are too dangerous to release, even though there is insufficient evidence to put them on trial.
That means, of course, that the supposed evidence is fundamentally untrustworthy, a dubious melange of statements extracted through the use of torture and other forms of coercion, and unreliable intelligence reports, but the government refuses to acknowledge that unpalatable truth.
Instead, the men have been obliged to resort to a hunger strike, now in its sixth month, to wake the world up to their plight, and to put pressure on the administration to act. Eight weeks ago, President Obama delivered an eloquent speech about national security, in which he perfectly described how unjust and counter-productive Guantánamo is, and promised to resume releasing prisoners, but he has still not released a single cleared prisoner, and nor has he initiated reviews for the 46 men whose indefinite detention he authorized in March 2011, when he promised to establish Periodic Review Boards (PRBs) to review the men’s cases, to establish whether they continue to be regarded as too dangerous to release. Read the rest of this entry »
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