President Obama Forcibly Repatriates Two Algerians from Guantánamo

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 disappointed to hear that Djamel Ameziane and Belkacem Bensayah, two Algerian prisoners at Guantánamo — amongst 84 men who have long been cleared for release — were repatriated last week. We are disappointed because both men did not wish to return home, as they fear ill-treatment by the government and threats from Islamist militants, and yet sustained efforts were not made to find new homes for them. We are also disappointed that other cleared prisoners, who do not fear repatriation, continue to be held.

Lawyers at the New York-based Center for Constitutional Rights, who represent Djamel Ameziane, have been fighting his enforced repatriation for years, taking his case to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR), which, last year, issued a damning verdict on the US government’s detention policies at Guantánamo. Ameziane’s lawyers also devoted a considerable amount of time to seeking a third country that would offer him a new home instead. However, as the New York Times noted in a powerful editorial criticizing the Obama administration for repatriating Ameziane and Bensayah: Read the rest of this entry »

On Guantánamo, the New York Times Abdicates Responsibility

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. 

This week, in its “Room for Debate” series, the New York Times invited six people to debate the question, “Time to End Military Tribunals?” and also to comment on whether, in his second term, President Obama should “finally close Guantánamo.”

On the one, hand, of course, there were some powerful arguments made for President Obama to drop the military commissions — especially after the recent ruling by the D.C. Circuit Court, quashing one of the only convictions in the system’s troubled history, that of Salim Hamdan — and finally fulfill his failed promise to close Guantánamo, and it was important to have these arguments made in the pages of the Times.

In “A Failed Experiment,” Andrea Prasow of Human Rights Watch stated bluntly, “The Guantánamo experiment has failed,” and added, “Those implicated in serious crimes should be prosecuted, but in time-tested judicial systems. If the president is serious about closing Guantánamo, he needs to work with Congress to lift the restrictions on transferring detainees. If Congress refuses, Obama should use his veto”– included in last year’s National Defense Authorization Act, which Tom Wilner wrote about here. Read the rest of this entry »

Center for Constitutional Rights: New Videos Plus Support for the “Close Guantánamo” Petition to President Obama

In the long struggle to close Guantánamo, protests took place in Washington D.C. and across America on the 10th anniversary of the opening of the prison on January 11, and the newly established “Close Guantánamo” campaign (of which I am a member of the steering committee) launched a petition on the White House’s “We the People” website, calling on President Obama to fulfill his promise to close the prison, which he made when he took office three years ago, and pointing out how fundamentally unjust it is that 89 of the remaining 171 prisoners have been cleared for release, and yet are still held.

That petition needs to secure 25,000 signatures by February 6, to oblige the President to respond, and at the time of writing, over 4,300 people had signed it. Many groups have been asking their supporters to sign it, and yesterday the Center for Constitutional Rights publicly added their voice to the campaign, sending out an email alert to all their supporters, asking them to sign the petition, and also asking visitors to the “Close Guantánamo” page on their website to sign it.

The embedded clock above [Note: removed after the petition reached its time limit] was also created by CCR, and, in further publicity, three videos featuring speeches made outside the Supreme Court on January 11 — by Andy Worthington, by conscientious objector Daniel Lakemacher, who worked as a guard at Guantánamo, and by CCR’s executive director Vince Warren — have also been made available on CCR’s “Close Guantánamo” page, and are posted below. Read the rest of this entry »

The Center for Constitutional Rights Marks “The 9/11 Decade and the Decline of US Democracy”

On the 10th anniversary of the horrendous terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001, I’m cross-posting an article published on the website of the Center for Constitutional Rights as part of a project entitled, “The 9/11 Decade.” The article, “The 9/11 Decade and the Decline of US Democracy,” was written by Vince Warren, CCR’s Executive Director, and provides an excellent overview of the erosion of liberties and the fundamental assault on domestic laws and international laws and treaties in the United States since the 9/11 attacks — from Guantánamo to the global torture program, from the PATRIOT Act to the widespread repression of dissent in America today. In addition, the article highlights the Bush administration’s unconstitutional power grab, Obama’s refusal or inability to thoroughly repudiate Bush’s crimes and excesses, and the general failures of the courts and the judiciary to play their part in preserving the balance of power and responsibility in the US.

I should note that my interest in the article is not entirely objective, as I was involved in it as a consultant, and I have also added links that were not included in the original article.

The 9/11 Decade and the Decline of US Democracy
By Vince Warren, Executive Director, Center for Constitutional Rights

In response to the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001, George W. Bush shredded the US Constitution, trampled on the Bill of Rights, discarded the Geneva Conventions, and heaped scorn on the domestic torture statute and the UN Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment.

As we mark the 10th anniversary of the terrible events of September 11, 2001, none of us has any desire to play down the horrors of that day, but two wrongs do not make a right, and, in response to the attacks, the Bush administration engineered and presided over the most sustained period of constitutional decay in our history. Read the rest of this entry »

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Andy Worthington

Investigative journalist, author, filmmaker, photographer and Guantanamo expert
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