With the prison-wide hunger strike at Guantánamo nearing the end of its third month (on Sunday), and even President Obama finally breaking his silence at a news conference on Tuesday — condemning the ongoing existence of the prison, but offering little in the way of solutions — I have been very busy with media appearances, as the mainstream media has woken up to the chronic injustice of Guantánamo in a convincing manner that — dare I say it — shows no sign of going away, as has the general public.
If you haven’t already signed it, please sign the petition calling for President Obama to close Guantánamo, which was launched this week by Col. Morris Davis, the former chief prosecutor of the military commissions, who resigned in protest at the Bush administration’s use of torture. In just a few days, the petition has already secured over 125,000 signatures, showing a depth of concern for the ongoing injustice of Guantánamo that has been imaginable for the last few years.
This is entirely appropriate, of course, as 166 men languish in Guantánamo, abandoned by all three branches of the US government — President Obama and his administration, Congress and the courts — including the 86 who were cleared for release at least three years ago by an inter-agency task force established the President Obama himself. Read the rest of this entry »
On Friday, following the publication of my article “America’s Disappeared” on the website of the Future of Freedom Foundation, I was interviewed by Scott Horton, with whom I have been talking since August 2007, when he first picked up on my Guantánamo work, and then followed up via an article about Jose Padilla, the US citizen imprisoned as an “enemy combatant” on the US mainland, and tortured until he lost his mind.
Scott and I have mostly discussed Guantánamo in the last five and a half years, although we have also dealt with related issues — the US prison at Bagram in Afghanistan, for example — and on Friday the initial topic of our discussion was torture, the CIA’s “black sites” and the lack of accountability for the Bush administration’s torture program — all of which was dealt with in my article. This followed the publication, by the Open Society Justice Initiative, of “Globalizing Torture: CIA Secret Detention and Extraordinary Rendition,” the first major report identifying the prisoners subjected to torture and disappearance since a UN report on disappearances in 2010, on which I was the lead author of the sections on disappearances in the “war on terror.” Read the rest of this entry »
It’s four days since I came back from a ten-day trip to the US to join other campaigners, on the 11th anniversary of the opening of Guantánamo, in calling for President Obama to revisit the promise to close Guantánamo that he made when he took office exactly four years ago, and this time to fulfill his promise, and not cave in to criticism, failing the prisoners as thoroughly as they have also been failed by the other branches of the US government.
As well as being failed by the President, the 166 men still in Guantánamo have been failed by Congress, where opportunistic lawmakers, bent on selling a message of fear to the US public, have imposed onerous restrictions on the President’s ability to release prisoners, and the courts, where pro-Guantánamo ideologues in the Court of Appeals in Washington D.C., who have gutted habeas corpus of all meaning for the Guantánamo prisoners, and have discovered that they are able to dictate detainee policy to the Supreme Court, which has refused to consider a single appeal from the prisoners.
As a result, on the 11th anniversary of the opening of Guantánamo, on January 11, those of us protesting the prison’s ongoing existence — and the inertia and indifference towards it that is more marked than ever before — found ourselves bound together closely by our concern for those still held, and for the system of indefinite detention without charge or trial that Guantánamo has become. We also discovered new levels of righteous indignation — see, for example, my speech outside the White House here (on the anniversary), and, earlier that day, the panel discussion I was part of, with the attorney Tom Wilner and Col. Morris Davis, the former chief prosecutor of the military commissions at Guantánamo, at the New America Foundation. Also check out my photos here and here. Read the rest of this entry »
This week the legacy of George W. Bush’s “war on terror” is under the spotlight, as is the response to it of his successor, Barack Obama. Tomorrow is the 11th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks that first prompted George W. Bush and his administration to discard all domestic and international laws and treaties regarding the treatment of prisoners, and to hold those seized in its “war on terror” not as prisoners of war, according to the Geneva Conventions, nor as criminal suspects, but as “enemy combatants,” who could, the administration contended, be held without them having any rights whatsoever.
Today is also significant for the fallout from the first war on which the Bush administration embarked — the invasion of Afghanistan, which began a month after the 9/11 attacks. As has been extensively reported, this morning US officials handed over formal control of the Parwan Detention Facility, the replacement for the notorious Bagram prison, where several prisoners were killed in the early days of the “war on terror,” to Afghan control.
This morning I was delighted to be asked by the BBC World Service to comment on the Bagram handover on the “Newshour” program with Robin Lustig, which was live at 1 pm, but is repeated regularly, and is available online. Although it was announced that the US had transferred 3,082 prisoners to Afghan control since reaching an agreement in March, I was particularly interested in commenting about those still held by the US, including recently captured prisoners, who will not be handed over until the US has screened them, and, more particularly, the foreign prisoners — thought to number around 50 — who will continue to be held by the US. Read the rest of this entry »
Every year, on the last weekend in July, WOMAD (World of Music, Arts and Dance), the world music festival, takes place in the UK — for the last few years, in Wiltshire, on a wonderful site in Charlton Park — and this year is its 30th anniversary. My wife has been running children’s workshops there since 2002, and every year a group of us — friends and our kids — get to hang out together for four days, to do the workshops and create a wonderful sculpture for the children’s procession on the Sunday, to eat great food (unlike the kind of catering that will be in place for the Olympics), to watch great music, and to chill out backstage, and also in the backstage camp. My guitar is tuned, and I’m looking forward to some strumming and singing.
I’m back on Monday, but while I’m away, please check out the photos I’ve been posting regularly over the last month, if you haven’t yet seen them, beginning with yesterday’s excursion to the Olympic Park in the blazing sun – and see below for a bonus photo from Greenwich, which I took on my way back home. Click on the photo to enlarge it — and I’ve also just added it to the Olympics set on Flickr. Read the rest of this entry »
On Friday, I was delighted to be asked by Scott Horton of Antiwar Radio to discuss the ongoing shame of a world in which the prison at Guantánamo continues to remain open for business. The springboard for our interview was last week’s plea deal in the trial by military commission of Majid Khan, a Pakistani and former US resident, who was held for three and a half years in secret CIA prisons, where he was subjected to torture, after his capture in Pakistan in March 2003, and has been held in Guantánamo, with 13 other supposed “high-value detainees,” since September 2006. His plea deal is noteworthy because it indicates that Khan will be a witness in the trials of other, much more significant figures than himself — specifically, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the supposed mastermind of the 9/11 attacks.
The interview is here, but in the end Scott and I spent most of our 18-minute interview discussing my visit to Kuwait, and also the detention situation in Afghanistan. I was very glad that Scott had asked me about my visit to Kuwait, as it had been such a great insight into the background of the two remaining Kuwaiti prisoners, Fayiz al-Kandari and Fawzi al-Odah, and the context of their capture.
I wrote about that visit here and here –and videos of a TV show I took part in with the attorney Tom Wilner are here — and Scott provided me with a great opportunity to discuss the exaggerated fears about releasing prisoners, and the outstanding problems for the majority of the men still held — the fact that the US government continues to rely on fundamentally unreliable evidence (the man who claimed that Fayiz was a spiritual advisor to Osama bin Laden, for example, was the most notorious liar in Guantánamo), and the fact that, even if people had been in Afghanistan as foot soldiers for the Taliban, that is not the same thing as being involved in international terrorism. Moreover, in the cases of Fayiz and Fawzi, although both men lost their habeas corpus petitions, nothing resembling proof was actually provided to demonstrate that they had ever been involved in any anti-American activities. Read the rest of this entry »
Last week, just after the arraignment at Guantánamo of Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, which I discussed in my article, Trial at Guantánamo: What Shall We Do With The Torture Victim?, I was delighted to speak about al-Nashiri’s case — and about the dispiriting history of the Military Commissions at Guantánamo — with Scott Horton of Antiwar Radio. The show is available here, and at the start of the interview, Scott asked me to explain how it is that the prison is still open, despite President Obama promising to close it within a year of taking office.
For the 171 men held, as I explained, the situation is bleak as we approach the 10th anniversary of the prison’s opening (in January 2012), as there now appears to be no way that any of them will ever leave the prison, given the indifference of the administration to their fate, and the hostility of lawmakers and certain crucial right-wing judges (who have been deciding detention policy in the D.C. Circuit Court). I also spoke about the current horror of the National Defense Authorization Act, which is being discussed in Congress, and which contains a vile proposal from lawmakers, insisting that, in future, all terror suspects be held in mandatory military custody, and not held as criminal suspects or given federal court trials.
As mentioned above, Scott and I also discussed the history of the Military Commissions and the six men who have been convicted or have accepted plea deals (David Hicks, Salim Hamdan, Ali Hamza al-Bahlul, Ibrahim al-Qosi, Omar Khadr and Noor Uthman Muhammed), and this provided me with an opportunity to mention that Omar Khadr is still being held, even though he was supposed to return to Canada two weeks ago, according to the the terms of his plea deal. Read the rest of this entry »
A few days ago, I was delighted to speak to Scott Horton of Antiwar Radio, in what was our 29th interview (available here) since he first sought me out over four years ago, but our first interview since June this year. Scott particularly wanted to discuss “You Don’t Like the Truth: 4 Days Inside Guantánamo,” the harrowing documentary about Omar Khadr, the Canadian citizen and former child prisoner, which is based on footage of his interrogations by Canadian intelligence agents in the summer of 2003, when he was just 16 years old.
I attended a Q&A session after a London screening of this film back in June, and also took part in a discussion about it on Press TV (available in two parts here and here), so I was pleased to be able to revisit it, especially as the story of Omar Khadr is so central to the injustices of Guantanamo, and also because, barring any last-minute horrors on the part of the Obama administration, he is due to be released from Guantanamo to Canada on October 31.
Khadr was only 15 when he was seized in July 2002, after a firefight in which he allegedly threw a grenade that killed a US soldier — although serious doubts have been expressed about whether he actually threw the grenade, as he was apparently unconscious, face down, and half-buried under rubble at the time, and his lawyers claimed that the initial reports of the firefight were amended afterwards to incriminate him. Read the rest of this entry »
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