On January 10, 2015, during my US tour to call for the closure of the prison at Guantánamo Bay on and around the 13th anniversary of its opening (on January 11), I joined activists with Code Pink and Witness Against Torture for a day of action in Virginia, outside Washington D.C.
I was staying with Code Pink coordinator Joan Stallard, along with Debra Sweet, the national director of the World Can’t Wait, who organized my tour (for the fifth January in succession). Debra and I had driven from New York the day before, where I had been since Tuesday evening (January 6), and where I had been staying with my old friend The Talking Dog in Brooklyn. I indulged in some socializing at a Center for Constitutional Rights event on January 7, visited a high school and spoke to some students with Debra, and spoke at another event on January 8, with two Guantánamo lawyers, Ramzi Kassem and Omar Farah of CCR. I described We Stand With Shaker, the campaign to free Shaker Aamer, the last British resident in the prison, and we also watched the promotional video, featuring my “Song for Shaker Aamer,” as well as CCR’s film about Fahd Ghazy, one of their Yemeni clients. A video of my talk is available here.
I also had the opportunity to walk the streets of Manhattan — and to cross the Brooklyn Bridge on foot — in spite of the seriously cold weather, but just as I was getting used to being in New York City, Washington D.C. beckoned. On the evening of January 9, after a drive full of animated chatter about politics and the state of the world, we (anti-drone activist Nick, our driver, film-maker/photographer Kat Watters, Debra and I) stopped by at the church where Witness Against Torture activists were staying — and fasting — and I gave a short and hopefully constructive speech and played my song for Shaker on an acoustic guitar. Read the rest of this entry »
At lunchtime on Monday January 12, the day after the 13th anniversary of the opening of the “war on terror” prison at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba (when I was speaking outside the White House), I took part in “Leaving the Dark Side? Emptying Guantánamo and the CIA Torture Report,” a panel discussion at New America.
With me at New America (formerly the New America Foundation) was Tom Wilner, who represented the Guantánamo prisoners before the Supreme Court in their habeas corpus cases in 2004 and 2008, and with whom I co-founded the Close Guantánamo campaign in January 2012, on the 10th anniversary of the opening of Guantánamo, and Col. Morris Davis, the former chief prosecutor of the military commissions at Guantánamo, who resigned in 2007, in protest at the use of torture, and has since become an outspoken critic of the prison and the “war on terror.”
The moderator was journalist and author Peter Bergen, the Director of the International Security, Future of War, and Fellows Programs at New America, who I have known since the early 1890s, when we were both at Oxford together. Read the rest of this entry »
Good news from Uruguay, where five of the six men released from Guantánamo on December 7 and given new lives in Montevideo have been photographed out and about in the city. From left to right, in the photo, they are: Ali Hussein al-Shaaban, Ahmed Adnan Ahjam and Abdelhadi Omar Faraj (all Syrians), Tunisian Abdul Bin Muhammad Abbas Ouerghi (aka Ourgy) and Palestinian Mohammed Abdullah Taha Mattan, photographed by Pablo Porciuncula, after eating lunch at a house in Canelones department, near Montevideo on December 14. See more photos here.
The sixth man, Abu Wa’el Dhiab, the Syrian who became confined to a wheelchair whilst at Guantánamo, had been on a hunger strike and had challenged the US authorities in the courts, has not yet been seen publicly, but is apparently recovering from his long ordeal. His lawyer, Cori Crider of Reprieve, commented that he “had difficulty believing he would ever be released until he boarded the plane out of the US military base,” as the Guardian put it. Crider said, “You inhale the air for the first time as a free man and only then it’s real. It’s going to take some time for him to come down from his hunger strike, he’s six foot five and only weighs about 148 pounds, he’s extremely thin, in pain, emaciated and still confined to a wheelchair.”
Immediately after their arrival, the Associated Press reported that Michael Mone, Ali al-Shaaban’s Boston-based lawyer, said that, with the exception of Abu Wa’el Dhiab, “The other men are all up on their feet. They have big smiles on their faces and they are very happy to be in Uruguay after 12 plus years of incarceration.” As the AP described it, Mone was “accustomed to his client being shackled and strictly monitored during meetings in Guantánamo,” and said it was “an emotional experience to see al-Shaaban experiencing freedom for the first time in years.” The AP also reported that al-Shaaban “spoke by phone with his parents, who are in a refugee camp in a country Mone declined to identify, fleeing the turmoil of their homeland.” 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.
It’s a week now since the 500-page executive summary of the Senate Intelligence Committee’s 6,700-page report into the post-9/11 CIA torture program was published, and here at “Close Guantánamo,” we are concerned that (a) the necessary calls for accountability will fall silent as the days and weeks pass; and (b) that people will not be aware that the use of torture was not confined solely to the CIA’s “black sites,” and the specific program investigated by the Senate Committee, and that it was a key element of the Bush administration’s post-9/11 detention program — in Afghanistan, in Iraq, and in Guantánamo, where elements of the current operations can still be defined as torture.
The Senate Committee report contains new information, of course — much of it genuinely harrowing — but journalists and researchers uncovered much of the program over the last ten years, and that body of work — some of which I referred to in my article about the torture report for Al-Jazeera last week — will continue to be of great relevance as the executive summary is analyzed, and, hopefully, as the full report is eventually made public.
Mainly, though, as I mentioned in the introduction to this article, it is crucial that the news cycle is not allowed to move on without an insistence that there be accountability. The Senate report chronicles crimes, authorized at the highest levels of the Bush administration, implemented by the CIA and two outside contractors, James Mitchell and Bruce Jessen, who had worked for a military program designed to train soldiers how to resist torture if captured, but who had no real-life experience of interrogations, or any knowledge of Al-Qaeda or the individuals involved (see Vice News’ extraordinary interview with Mitchell here). Read the rest of this entry »
As I mentioned yesterday when I posted two videos of TV coverage of the We Stand With Shaker campaign, which aims to secure the release from Guantánamo of Shaker Aamer, the last British resident in the prison, it’s been a busy three-week period — firstly with the launch of the campaign outside Parliament on November 24, and then, last week, with the release of our short film for Shaker for Human Rights Day, featuring Juliet Stevenson and David Morrissey, reading from Shaker’s Declaration of No Human Rights, which he wrote in Guantánamo in response to the US betrayal of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and also, last Tuesday, with the release of the executive summary of the Senate Intelligence Committee’s report into the CIA torture program, which I wrote about here for Al-Jazeera.
Last week I undertook a couple of radio interviews to discuss all of these issues, speaking for on the Scott Horton Show, with the Texas-based interviewer with whom I have been talking about the horrors of Guantánamo, executive overreach, arbitrary dentition and torture for more than seven years — a duration of time that has probably come as a surprise to both of us.
Our latest encounter — 23 minutes in total — is here, and I hope you have time to listen to it.
On Friday, I spoke to British ex-pat Pippa Jones, for her show on Talk Radio Europe. Pippa and I have spoken before — although we don’t have quite the history that Scott and I have. It was a pleasure to talk to Pippa as well — about the torture report and We Stand With Shaker — and our 20-minute interview is here. The interview begins at about 7:45 and runs through to 28:15. Read the rest of this entry »
What a busy three weeks it has been — first with the launch of the We Stand With Shaker campaign outside Parliament on November 24, and then, this week, with the release of our short film for Shaker for Human Rights Day (featuring Juliet Stevenson and David Morrissey) and, rather tending to overshadow everything else, the release of the executive summary of the Senate Intelligence Committee’s report into CIA torture; in other words, the report examining — and condemning — the Bush administration’s torture program.
My first thoughts about that report are here, in an article for Al-Jazeera, entitled, “Punishment, not apology after CIA torture report,” which I’m glad to say has had over 6200 likes so far.
In addition, the We Stand With Shaker campaign continues to make waves. Just as revulsion at the torture inflicted in the “war on terror” seems to have become somewhat fashionable, so the unjust imprisonment of Shaker Aamer is awakening indignation within the British establishment. This week the Daily Mail got on board, calling for Shaker’s release from its front page!
Below I’m posting a short interview I did on RT, on the day of the launch, which was only made available a few days ago, but which, I believe, captures well Shaker’s plight and the unjustifiable nature of his ongoing imprisonment: Read the rest of this entry »
Dear friends and supporters,
Can you help to support my work on Guantánamo and torture — including the case of Shaker Aamer, the last British resident in the prison?
My work — my writing, my campaigning, my media appearances and personal appearances — is largely unfunded: or, to put it another way, is only funded if you, my readers and supporters, provide donations to support me.
If you can help out at all, please click on the “Donate” button above to donate via PayPal (and I should add that you don’t need to be a PayPal member to use PayPal). Read the rest of this entry »
I hope you have time to read my new article for Al-Jazeera English, “Punishment, not apology after CIA torture report” looking at yesterday’s release of the 500-page executive summary of the Senate Intelligence Committee’s 6,700-page report into the CIA’s “Detention and Interrogation Program,” which took five years to complete, and cost $40m; or, in other words, the release of the summary of the Committee’s report about the Bush administration’s torture program, as run by the CIA.
In the article, I run through the history of the secretive program and how knowledge of it became public, from 2004 onwards (and including a mention of the report on secret detention for the UN in 2010, on which I was the lead writer and researcher), and I also look at a few of the genuinely shocking stories that emerge from the executive summary, some of which are shocking even for those of us who have spent years — in my case nearly nine years — researching and writing about the torture program.
I remain worried, however, that the Committee’s important work will be swept under the carpet, and that no one will be held accountable — by which I don’t just mean CIA officials, and James Mitchell and Bruce Jessen, the former SERE psychologists who designed the program (and earned $81m as a result!), as much as those who gave them their orders in the first place; namely, President George W. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney, and the various lawyers around them — David Addington, William J. Haynes II, John Yoo and Alberto Gonzales, for example — who did so much to initiate the torture program and to attempt to justify it. Read the rest of this entry »
I’ve been so busy lately with the launch of We Stand With Shaker, the new campaign to secure the release from Guantánamo of Shaker Aamer, the last British resident in the prison, that I haven’t had time to write anything — until now — about the United States’ recent appearance before the United Nations Committee Against Torture to explain its position on the torture and ill-treatment of prisoners in its custody.
The session — which took place on November 12 and 13, and was the first US report to the Committee Against Torture since 2006, when George W. Bush was president — led to numerous criticisms in the Committee’s response, adopted on November 20; in the Guardian‘s words, of “indefinite detention without trial; force-feeding of Guantánamo prisoners; the holding of asylum seekers in prison-like facilities; widespread use of solitary confinement; excessive use of force and brutality by police; shootings of unarmed black individuals; and cruel and inhumane executions.”
The Committee was also concerned about the US record on torture, expressing “its grave concern over the extraordinary rendition, secret detention and interrogation programme operated by the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) between 2001 and 2008, which involved numerous human rights violations, including torture, ill-treatment and enforced disappearance of persons suspected of involvement in terrorism-related crimes” — concerns expressed in a 2010 UN report about secret detention on which I was the lead author (and also see here, here and here) — and reminded the US about “the absolute prohibition of torture reflected in article 2, paragraph 2, of the Convention [Against Torture], stating that ‘no exceptional circumstances whatsoever, whether a state of war or a threat of war, internal political instability or any other public emergency, may be invoked as a justification of torture.'” The Committee also called for the long-delayed Senate Intelligence Committee torture report — or, more accurately, its executive summary — to be issued without further delay. Read the rest of this entry »
Nine human rights groups in the UK are boycotting the official British inquiry into the treatment of “detainees” in the “war on terror” and the UK’s involvement in rendition, “grievously undermining the controversial inquiry,” as the Guardian described it.
The nine groups, who have written a critical letter to Parliament’s Intelligence and Security Committee, stating that they “do not propose to play a substantive role in the conduct of [the] inquiry,” are Amnesty International, the AIRE Centre (Advice on Individual Rights in Europe), Cage (formerly Cageprisoners), Freedom from Torture (formerly the Medical Foundation for the Care of Victims of Torture), JUSTICE, Liberty, Redress, Reprieve and Rights Watch (UK).
Britain’s treatment of prisoners and its involvement in rendition was a matter of concern to Conservative MP William Hague when he was the shadow foreign secretary, prior to the Tories forming a coalition government with the Liberal Democrats in May 2010. Hague seemed genuinely appalled by what had taken place since 9/11 — a litany of broken laws and human rights abuses, including, most noticeably, the torture of Binyam Mohamed, whose case had reached the High Court in 2008, causing embarrassment to both the UK and US governments. Read the rest of this entry »
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