I’ve just written my first article for Al-Jazeera America, “Why is Shaker Aamer still at Gitmo?” and I’m very much hoping that you have the time to read it, and to share it on Facebook and Twitter.
In my article, I run through the history of the prison’s labyrinthine review processes and the reasons why the release of prisoners has become a shameful game of political football, and I look at the particular reasons why both the US and UK governments are not being honest about Shaker’s case.
I think this provides a succinct and powerful overview of why Shaker has not yet been released — and of what Guantánamo is and remains, and why it will always be a legal, moral and ethical abomination until it is shut down for good. Read the rest of this entry »
What a day it’s been! A great launch, for We Stand With Shaker, the new campaign to secure the release from Guantánamo of Shaker Aamer, the last British resident in the prison, including the launch of our website, which features photos of supporters all around the world holding their own signs that say “I Stand With Shaker.”
Also released today — and also on the website — is the campaign video, made by Billy Dudley, featuring my band The Four Fathers performing “Song for Shaker Aamer,” the song I wrote for the campaign, which is available below, via YouTube. Please watch it if you have three minutes to spare, and please share it if you like it:
Our special guest for the launch in Old Palace Yard, opposite Parliament, was Roger Waters (Pink Floyd’s chief songwriter), who told me last night that he was coming, but we were also delighted to welcome Clive Stafford Smith, the director of Reprieve (and Shaker’s lawyer for many years), Green MP Caroline Lucas, John McDonnell MP (who has organised a Parliamentary meeting tomorrow evening with the Save Shaker Aamer Campaign, at which I’m speaking), the comedian Jeremy Hardy and, unexpectedly, human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell. Read the rest of this entry »
On Saturday October 11, 2014, I attended a protest in Parliament Square, opposite the Houses of Parliament in London, against the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), a dangerous new EU-US trade deal, which, if passed, as the organisers of the London event explained, “would grant corporations the power to sue governments, threatening to lock-in the privatisation of our schools and NHS. Rules that protect workers, the environment, food safety, digital rights and privacy would be undermined, with harmful industries like fracking encouraged.” My article published just before the protest is here.
The London event was part of a day of action across Europe and the UK, and the events across all the countries were attended by a significant number of people, although only a few hundred people attended the London event, sharing Parliament Square with Kurdish campaigners.
I was delighted to speak to RT’s Harry Fear in Parliament Square for a televised broadcast, which is available below, and if you like it I hope you share it. Read the rest of this entry »
I’ve been meaning for some time to post a video of my friend Todd Pierce, a retired major in the US Army JAG (Judge Advocate General) Corps, being interviewed on the “London Real” show run by US ex-pat — and former banker — Brian Rose.
Todd retired from the US military in November 2012, but he had previously been involved in representing two prisoners charged in the military commissions at Guantánamo, which, for prosecuting alleged war criminals in the “war on terror,” were revived by the Bush administration in November 2001 based on their use on would-be Nazi saboteurs in World War II. They were then ruled illegal by the Supreme Court in June 2006, revived again by Congress in the fall of 2006, and revived again under President Obama in 2009.
Todd was part of the legal team for Ibrahim al-Qosi, from Sudan, who accepted a plea deal and was freed in July 2012, and Ali Hamza al-Bahlul, who refused all representation, and was given a life sentence in November 2008 after a disgraceful one-sided trial. Ironically, al-Bahlul is one of two prisoners (along with Salim Hamdan) who shook the tattered credibility of the commissions in October 2012 and January 2013, when the appeals court in Washington D.C. threw out the convictions against both men on the basis that the alleged war crimes for which they had been convicted were not war crimes at all, and had been invented by Congress. In al-Bahlul’s case, the government has appealed, but a ruling has not yet been delivered, and he remains held. Read the rest of this entry »
On Friday January 17, 2014, as the last public event of my two-week US tour calling for the closure of the prison at Guantánamo Bay, I spoke at a wonderfully well-attended event at California State Polytechnic (Cal Poly) in Pomona, California, attended by several hundred students and arranged by Dennis Loo, a professor of sociology at the university, and a member of the steering committee of the World Can’t Wait, the campaigning group whose national director is Debra Sweet, and who I am enormously grateful to for organizing the tour.
The event, I’m glad to note, was filmed, and the video is posted below, via YouTube. My talk begins around 10 minutes into the video, after Dennis introduced the event by reading out World Can’t Wait’s full-page advertisement that ran in the New York Times last year, and it ended at around 31 minutes.
In my talk, I ran through the history of the prison — explaining the horrible innovation of holding men neither as criminal suspects nor as prisoners of war protected by the Geneva Conventions, how torture was authorized at the prison (through George W. Bush’s Presidential memo of February 7, 2002, which I recently wrote about here), and what types of torture techniques were used on the prisoners. Read the rest of this entry »
Regular readers will know that I returned on Tuesday from an intense and rewarding two-week tour of the US, in which I visited New York, Washington D.C., San Francisco and Los Angeles calling for the closure of the “war on terror” prison at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba. The tour was supported by the campaigning group World Can’t Wait (see the report here), and was timed to coincide with the 12th anniversary of the opening of Guantánamo, marked by a protest in Washington D.C. outside the White House and in the National Museum of American History. Please see here for videos from New York, see here for videos and photos from Washington D.C., see here and here for the radio shows I took part in, and see here for a video of Jason Leopold and I speaking in Anaheim, California on January 16.
As the next step in providing a permanent record of the tour, I’m delighted to make available below the 57-minute video of the panel discussion that took place at Stanford University on Monday January 13, in which I was joined by my friend and colleague Jeff Kaye, a psychologist who has done some groundbreaking and genuinely pioneering work on the Bush administration’s torture program, former Stanford student and journalist Adam Hudson, who recently visited Guantánamo, and Stephanie Tang standing in for World Can’t Wait’s national director Debra Sweet, who missed all the action unfortunately because of an injury she had received in New York just before my arrival in the US.
This was a powerful event, and I’m very glad that it was recorded, as it provided a detailed analysis of Guantánamo past, present and future, as well as providing an overview of the torture program initiated by the Bush administration, which, of course, is inextricably tied in with the existence of Guantánamo, as well as having had its own malevolent life in the CIA’s global network of “black sites,” and living on, albeit in a reduced manner, in the torture techniques still available to US forces, under President Obama, in Appendix M of the Army Field Manual (as Jeff explained in his presentation). Read the rest of this entry »
On Saturday January 11, 2014, a coalition of groups involved in campaigns calling for the closure of Guantánamo — including Amnesty International, the Center for Constitutional Rights, the National Religious Campaign Against Torture, Witness Against Torture, World Can’t Wait, and my own group, the “Close Guantánamo” campaign, which I co-founded and run with the attorney Tom Wilner — met outside the White House in Washington D.C., in the pouring rain, to tell President Obama to revisit his failed promise to close the prison, to continue releasing cleared prisoners as a matter of urgency, including the Yemenis who make up the majority of the 77 cleared prisoners still held, and to bring justice to the 78 other men still held, either by putting them on trial or releasing them.
These are my photos of the day, and as well as including some of the speakers outside the White House, the set also includes photos of the march from the White House along Constitution Avenue to the Smithsonian National Museum of American History, where, as I explained in an article for “Close Guantánamo,” featuring a 10-minute video of the day’s events by Ellen Davidson (including clips of me and Tom), which I’m also posting below, activists with Witness Against Torture staged a creative and powerful occupation of the museum, under the clever slogan, “Make Guantánamo History.” Read the rest of this entry »
On Thursday evening, as part of my 12-day “Close Guantánamo Now” tour (supported by the World Can’t Wait), which came to an end at Cal Poly in Pomona yesterday, I was at the Unitarian Universalist Church in Anaheim, California with my friend and colleague Jason Leopold, speaking about Guantánamo, funnily enough. Jason and I have known each other for many years, and it’s always a pleasure to take part in events with him, and to hang out with him.
The full video of the event — at which I delivered a 20-minute speech, Jason spoke for half an hour, and there was then a lively Q&A session for 35 minutes — is posted below, and I thank the filmmaker, Ted Shapin, for recording it and making it available. For earlier events, see the videos of New York here, and of Washington D.C. here.
After two days in New York, two days in Washington D.C., and three days in San Francisco, I arrived in Los Angeles on an absurdly early flight on Wednesday morning, to be met at the airport by Jason and taken to his favourite coffee shop, Urth Caffe in Beverly Hills, followed by a bagel across the road at The Original Brooklyn Water Bagel Co., another Los Angeles institution. Read the rest of this entry »
I’ve now been in the US for a week, on the “Close Guantánamo Now” tour organized with the campaigning group the World Can’t Wait, and I’m writing this on after only a few hours’ sleep, an early morning flight from San Francisco to Los Angeles, a reunion with my old friend and colleague Jason Leopold, an inspiring lunchtime inter-faith event in L.A., and a few moments of relaxation with my L.A. hosts in the Hollywood Hills.
I’ll be reporting more details soon about events in Washington D.C. on the 12th anniversary of the opening of the prison (on Saturday January 11), and about my subsequent stay in San Francisco and the events there, as well as today’s lunchtime event, but to start my coverage of the tour I’m posting below videos of the first event I took part in, at All Souls Church on Lexington Avenue in New York City, where I took part in presentations and a Q&A session following a screening of the documentary film, “Doctors of the Dark Side,” about medical complicity in the torture of prisoners seized in the “war on terror,” which was directed by Martha Davis, a clinical psychologist who also attended the screening.
This powerful film addresses the torture programs introduced by the CIA, at their “black sites,” and by the military at Guantánamo, looking at important events like the reverse-engineering of the SERE program (Survival, Evasion, Resistance, Escape), which is used to train US personnel to resist interrogation if captured, for the actual torture of US prisoners. Throughout, the film retains an unerring focus on the medical personnel needed to monitor torture, to ascertain how to break prisoners, and to advise how far the torturers could go not to kill the men. Read the rest of this entry »
Late last year, as the coalition of groups calling for the closure of the “war on terror” prison at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba began deliberations for this year’s protest on the anniversary of the prison’s opening (on January 11), I reached out — as part of the “Close Guantánamo” campaign — to Reprieve, the London-based legal action charity, founded and led by Clive Stafford Smith, whose lawyers represent 15 prisoners still held at Guantánamo.
As we discussed ways to publicize the plight of the prisoners on the 12th anniversary of the opening of Guantánamo, Reprieve suggested asking Sami al-Haj, a Sudanese prisoner released in 2008, to record a video statement that could be used, and I’m delighted to note that Sami agreed, and his video message to President Obama is posted below.
Sami is the only journalist to have been held at Guantánamo, and he was working as a cameraman for Al-Jazeera when he was seized on assignment crossing from Pakistan to Afghanistan in December 2001. I subsequently covered his story, in particular in the months before his release, when he had embarked on a hunger strike and was providing information to the world about it via Clive. In this period, he also made a number of drawings about the hunger strike. When these were seized by the Pentagon’s censors, Reprieve described them to a British cartoonist, Lewis Peake, who recreated them based on the descriptions, and I told Sami’s story, and reproduced the drawings, in an article entitled, “Sami al-Haj: the banned torture pictures of a journalist in Guantánamo.” Read the rest of this entry »
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