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.
Here at “Close Guantánamo,” we are deeply concerned about the prison-wide hunger strike at Guantánamo, which we first wrote about here, and its effect on prisoners already ground down by what, for the majority of them, is eleven years of indefinite detention without charge or trial, with no end to their imprisonment in sight after President Obama failed to fulfill his promise to close the prison.
The President has been hindered by the intervention of Congress, where lawmakers, for cynical reasons, intervened to impose almost insurmountable restrictions to the release of prisoners, but President Obama is also to blame — through his refusal to make Guantánamo an issue, since that promise to close it on his second day in office, and through his imposition of an unjustifiable ban on releasing Yemenis cleared for release by his own inter-agency Guantánamo Review Task Force.
Of the 166 men still held, 86 were cleared for release by the Task Force, and two-thirds of these men are Yemenis, consigned to Guantánamo, possibly forever, because, over three years ago, a Nigerian man, recruited in Yemen, tried and failed to blow up a plane bound for the US and a moratorium on releasing Yemenis was issued by President Obama. The others are either hostages of Congress, or men in need of third countries to offer them a new home, because they face torture or other ill-treatment their home countries. Read the rest of this entry »
Protestors Call for the Closure of Guantánamo outside the White House, a set on Flickr.
These photos, following on from the previous set, capture some of the key images and the principled, decent and tireless campaigners for justice involved in the protest in Washington D.C. on January 11, 2013 to mark the 11th anniversary of the opening of the “war on terror” prison at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, and to call on President Obama to fulfil the promise he made to close the prison when he took office in January 2009, or be remembered as a failure, who succumbed to political expediency and settled for a path of cowardice rather than confronting his political opponents, both in the Republican Party and in his own party, and doing what needed to be done.
This, of course, involved the still-pressing need to restore some semblance of justice in the wake of the horrors inflicted on the law, on America’s reputation, and on hundreds of thousands of Muslims in Afghanistan, Iraq and elsewhere in the so-called “war on terror,” but instead of addressing the issues, President Obama has expanded the US government’s drone program of extrajudicial assassinations, and has failed those in Guantánamo — especially the 86 men (out of 166 still held in total), who were cleared for release by the interagency Guantánamo Review Task Force that President Obama established after taking office in 2009. The Task Force spent a year reviewing the prisoners’ cases before reaching its sober and considered conclusions, and, in addition, some of these men were actually cleared by military review boards under the Bush administration, some as long ago as 2004. Read the rest of this entry »
It’s over 24 hours since I arrived in the US, with the support of Witness Against Torture, World Can’t Wait and Close Guantánamo, for a series of events to mark the 11th anniversary of the opening of the “war on terror” prison at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, a shameful anniversary that should not have come to pass. Four years ago, when he took office, President Obama promised to close the prison within a year, but he failed to fulfil that promise. His lack of courage has been matched by opportunistic intervention from Congress, where lawmakers have passed legislation designed to thwart any efforts to close Guantánamo. To complete the failures of all three branches of the US government, the courts too have added their own contribution, with the D.C. Circuit Court gutting the habeas corpus rights of the prisoners, which lawyers spent many years fighting for, and the Supreme Court refusing to revisit the prisoners’ cases, when given the opportunity last year.
As I — and others who still care about the closure of Guantánamo — continue to point out, the ongoing existence of Guantánamo is an affront to all notions of justice and fairness. Distressingly, of the 166 men still held, 86 were cleared for release by President Obama’s interagency Guantánamo Review Task Force, and yet, through the combination of cowardice, indifference, opportunism and scaremongering outlined above, they remain held, even though one long-cleared prisoner, Adnan Farhan Abdul Latif, died at Guantánamo last September, and even though President Obama won reelection in November, and is now free to act to secure his legacy rather than focusing all his attention on campaigning — and not mentioning anything contentious. If he wants a legacy that doesn’t describe him, amongst other things, as the man who promised to close Guantánamo but then failed to do because it was politically inconvenient, he needs to act now. Read the rest of this entry »
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.
CORRECTION: Please note that the panel discussion at the New America Foundation in Washington D.C. On January 11 will now take place at 10am, and not at 3pm, as listed below.
As the 11th anniversary of the opening of the “war on terror” prison at Guantánamo Bay approaches, we at “Close Guantánamo” are making our preparations for being in Washington D.C. to call on President Obama to fulfill the promise he made four years ago, when he took office, to close the prison for good.
At 12 noon on Friday January 11, 2013, the 11th anniversary of the opening of Guantánamo, the attorney Tom Wilner and the journalist Andy Worthington, who make up the steering committee of “Close Guantánamo,” will be joining members of 24 other groups outside the Supreme Court to call for the closure of Guantánamo. See Amnesty International’s page here, and the flyer here. Read the rest of this entry »
This article, published simultaneously here and on the “Close Guantánamo” website, contains information from a visit to Shaker Aamer, the last British resident in Guantánamo, by Ramzi Kassem, one of his lawyers, and was made available exclusively to Andy Worthington at Shaker’s request.
Shaker Aamer, the last British resident in the US “war on terror” prison at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, has a message to the world, which has been made available exclusively to me, at his request. He wants people to know that the treatment of the prisoners is “completely arbitrary,” and there are “no laws, rules or SOPs [Standard Operating Procedures] in Cuba.” Subjected to violence every day, he continues to demand “freedom and justice.”
In information from a visit on May 14 this year by Ramzi Kassem, one of his lawyers, Shaker, who has spent much of his time in Guantánamo in isolation, explained how, from December 2011 to April 2012, he was held in the maximum security cells of Camp V, where those regarded as troublesome have been held since the block was built in 2004, but was then returned to isolation in a block known as Five Echo.
The existence of Five Echo — where the cells are only half the size of those in Camp V — was first revealed by the US military in December 2011, when David Remes, another of Shaker’s lawyers, explained to the Associated Press that his client had been held there and that it was “a throwback to the bad old days at Guantánamo.” Read the rest of this entry »
Back in March 2009, three foreign prisoners seized in other countries and rendered to the main US prison in Afghanistan, at Bagram airbase, where they had been held for up to seven years, secured a legal victory in the District Court in Washington D.C., when Judge John D. Bates ruled that they had habeas corpus rights; in other words, the right to challenge the basis of their imprisonment under the “Great Writ” that prevents arbitrary detention.
The men — amongst dozens of foreigners held in Afghanistan — secured their legal victory because Judge Bates recognized that their circumstances were essentially the same as the prisoners at Guantánamo, who had been granted habeas corpus rights by the Supreme Court in June 2008.
Unfortunately, the Obama administration appealed Judge Bates’ careful and logical ruling, and the judges of the D.C. Circuit Court agreed, overturning the ruling in May 2010, and returning the three men to their legal black hole.
In April 2011, the Associated Press reported that the three men — Redha al-Najar, a Tunisian seized in Karachi, Pakistan in May 2002; Amin al-Bakri, a Yemeni gemstone dealer seized in Bangkok, Thailand in late 2002; and Fadi al-Maqaleh, a Yemeni seized in 2004 and sent to Abu Ghraib before Bagram — had all been cleared for release by review boards at Bagram, or, as it is now known, the Parwan Detention Facility. Read the rest of this entry »
On Tuesday April 24, from 6:30 to 8:30pm, I will be beamed into Room 407a of the New School, at 66 West 12th Street, in New York City, for a panel discussion, “The Human Face of Indefinite Detention: Shaker Aamer, Guantánamo and the NDAA,” with some good friends of mine — Col. Morris Davis, the former Chief Prosecutor at Guantánamo, and Ramzi Kassem, one of the lawyers for Shaker Aamer, the last British resident in Guantánamo. The moderator is Thenjiwe McHarris of Amnesty International USA, and the event will be introduced by another friend, Jeremy Varon, Associate Professor of History at the New School for Social Research and Eugene Lang College, and a member of Witness Against Torture, and by Steve Latimer — also of Amnesty International USA.
Morris Davis and I meet every January in Washington D.C. for panel discussions at the New America Foundation on the anniversary of Guantánamo’s opening, and Ramzi recently made available to me the unclassified exchanges between himself and Shaker, and a statement that Shaker had written, which I used as the basis for two world exclusive articles, “They Want Me to be Harmed”: Shaker Aamer, the Last British Resident in Guantánamo, Describes His Isolation and “I Affirm Our Right to Life”: Shaker Aamer, the Last British Resident in Guantánamo, Explains His Peaceful Protest and Hunger Strike.
The provisional running order has the event starting, after introductions, with a short clip from “Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo,” the documentary film I co-directed with Polly Nash, which deals with Shaker Aamer’s story, followed by Ramzi discussing Shaker’s case for 15 minutes, me discussing the history of Guantánamo and what’s happening there now for 15 minutes, and Col. Davis speaking about why Guantánamo and the abuses it symbolizes are human rights violations and must end — also for 15 minutes. Thenjiwe will then urge people to sign Amnesty’s Shaker Aamer petition — and also see the petition on the Care 2 Petition Site, and the UK e-petition to the British government — and this will be followed by a discussion. Read the rest of this entry »
This article is the second of two articles providing new commentary by Shaker Aamer, the last British resident in Guantánamo — and reproducing a statement he made about conditions in the prison, with additional notes by Ramzi Kassem, one of his lawyers. The two articles were published simultaneously — here and on the website of the “Close Guantánamo” campaign, and this is a cross-post of the article published on “Close Guantánamo.” Also, if you’re interested in seeing Shaker Aamer freed from Guantánamo, please sign the e-petition to the British government calling for his release (if you’re a UK citizen or resident — whatever your age), and the international petition on the Care 2 Petition Site, which will be delivered to both the US and UK governments.
In a letter dated July 15, 2011, which has recently been unclassified by the Pentagon, Shaker Aamer, the last British resident in Guantánamo, explained why he was embarking on a peaceful protest, which also involved a hunger strike. These reasons are posted below, because they provide a compelling snapshot of the current conditions in the prison, touching on the injustice of holding people for nine years — now ten — without charge or trial, so that they can be legitimately regarded as hostages; preventing them from having contact with their families; and not meeting their needs regarding healthcare and diet. He also criticized President Obama administration for not keeping his promise to close Guantanamo within a year of taking office.
These complaints are valid for all the prisoners still held at Guantánamo (171 in total), but from what we understand, Shaker Aamer is one of 89 prisoners who are still held despite being cleared for release over two years ago by an interagency Task Force established by President Obama. This, of course, is an absolute disgrace, and in Shaker’s case it is compounded by the fact that he was first told he was cleared under President Bush in 2007, and the British government has also been seeking his return for the last five years.
Following the points raised in the letter, below, Ramzi Kassem, a law professor at the City University of New York, who is one of Aamer’s attorneys, explained that, on a visit in January, his client described what took place during the widespread peaceful protest and hunger strike on the tenth anniversary of the opening of Guantánamo (on January 11 this year), and provided further background information regarding his complaints about the food and the lack of communication with his family, and also his frank and obviously very real fears about being killed. Read the rest of this entry »
This world exclusive is one of two articles providing new commentary by Shaker Aamer, the last British resident in Guantánamo — and also reproducing a statement he made about conditions in the prison, and additional notes by Ramzi Kassem, one of his lawyers. The two articles are being published simultaneously — here and on the website of the “Close Guantánamo” campaign. If you are interested in seeing Shaker Aamer freed from Guantánamo, please sign the e-petition to the British government calling for his release (if you’re a UK citizen or resident — whatever your age), and the international petition on the Care 2 Petition Site, which will be delivered to both the US and UK governments.
In newly unclassified commentary from Guantánamo, Shaker Aamer, the last British resident in the prison, who has been held for ten years without charge or trial, has described how, in the last eight months, he has been subjected to routine sleep deprivation, and has been regularly prevented from cleaning himself, and from receiving any medical care. He has also explained how he has been regularly subjected to “Forced Cell Extractions” by teams of armed guards, who have injured him, and has been on a hunger strike that has seen him lose 30 percent of his body weight.
Fearful of the authorities’ intentions, he has also explained: “I have no doubt they want me to be harmed.” However, he added: “I will never harm myself. I have a wife and kids I want to go back to.”
What is particularly depressing about this state of affairs is that Shaker Aamer is not, to the best of our knowledge, one of the 82 prisoners at Guantánamo (out of the 171 remaining prisoners) that the Obama administration has determined to be eligible for a trial or, more depressingly, as eligible to be held indefinitely without charge or trial because they are regarded as “too dangerous to release,” even though no evidence exists that could be used against them in a court. Read the rest of this entry »
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