Dear friends and supporters,
I’m delighted to be writing to you from Heathrow Airport — despite a seriously disruptive Tube strike in London — awaiting a flight to New York City, for what will be my seventh annual visit at this time of year, to campaign for the closure of the prison at Guantánamo Bay on and around the anniversary of its opening, on Jan. 11.
I’m not delighted to have to keep calling for Guantánamo’s closure, of course, and this year, the 15th anniversary of the prison’s opening is a particular difficult occasion: simultaneously, a definitive black mark against President Obama for having failed to fulfill the promise to close the prison — within a year! — that he made when he first took office eight years ago, and the introduction to Guantánamo under a third president, the worryingly unpredictable Donald Trump, who has vowed to keep Guantánamo open, and to “load it up with bad dudes,” and who, just days ago, tweeted that there should be no more releases from Guantánamo.
Trump’s comments came in spite of the fact that 19 of the 55 men still held have been approved for release by high-level, inter-agency review processes, and others may well be approved for release in future by the latest review process, the Periodic Review Boards, unless he decides, unwisely, to scrap them.
I will be talking about these topics, and reflecting on Guantánamo’s history, what it means, who is held, and why the closure of the prison remains so essential, during my visit. Read the rest of this entry »
Dear friends and supporters,
It’s horrible to realize that, next Wednesday, January 11, the prison at Guantánamo Bay will have been open for 15 years, and will begin its 16th year of operations with just a week left under President Obama’s control, prior to Donald Trump taking it over. Trump, notoriously, promised on the campaign trail to “load it up with bad dudes,” and, just two days ago, tweeted, “There should be no further releases from Gitmo. These are extremely dangerous people and should not be allowed back onto the battlefield.”
As I have done every January since 2011, I will be in Washington, D.C. next Wednesday to call for the prison’s closure— a call aimed at the outgoing president, but, more specifically, now, aimed at Donald Trump.
I arrive in New York City on January 9, and travel to Washington, D.C. the day after, and I’ll soon be posting a more detailed itinerary — although I can tell you that at 2.30pm on January 11 I’ll be at New America to discuss Guantánamo at 15, and what we can expect from Donald Trump, with the attorney Tom Wilner, with whom I co-founded the Close Guantánamo campaign five years ago, Jim Moran, former congressional representative for Virginia’s 8th district and one of the representatives who led opposition to Guantánamo Bay, and New America fellow Rosa Brooks, who was Counselor to the Under Secretary of Defense for Policy and Special Coordinator for Rule of Law and Humanitarian Policy in the Pentagon from 2009-2011. If you want to attend this free event, please RSVP here. Read the rest of this entry »
I’ve recently posted two sets of photos from my US visit last month to call for the closure of the US prison at Guantánamo Bay, which, shamefully, is still open, despite President Obama’s promise to close it within a year on his second day on office in January 2009. The visit, as with my January visits every year since 2011, was timed to coincide with the anniversary of the opening of Guantánamo, where 91 men are still held, almost all without charge or trial, in defiance of the values the US claims to uphold.
The two photo sets I have previously posted were of my first ever visit to Florida — a lightning visit to attend a protest outside the gates of the headquarters of US Southern Command — and the annual protest outside the White House on January 11, the 14th anniversary of the opening of Guantánamo, involving groups including Amnesty International, the Center for Constitutional Rights, Witness Against Torture and the World Can’t Wait. My thanks to Debra Sweet of the World Can’t Wait for organizing my trip, as she has every January since 2011.
I was representing two other groups I co-founded, Close Guantánamo, the campaign and website I set up four years ago with the US attorney Tom Wilner, and We Stand With Shaker, the campaign to free Shaker Aamer, the last British resident in Guantánamo, which played a part in securing Shaker’s release in October. To celebrate, I brought the giant inflatable figure of Shaker that was at the heart of the campaign to the US for the very first time. Read the rest of this entry »
Monday was the 14th anniversary of the opening of the dreadful, unforgivable “war on terror” prison at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, where men are held without charge or trial, in defiance of all the laws and treaties that the US swore to uphold until the 9/11 attacks derailed those beliefs — or allowed the country’s leaders to deliberately jettison them in favor of something far more brutal and unaccountable.
On Monday, I attended the annual protest outside the White House organized by over a dozen rights groups, as the co-founder and co-director of the We Stand With Shaker campaign, which played a part in securing the release from Guantánamo in October of Shaker Aamer, the last British resident in the prison, and as the co-founder of Close Guantánamo, a campaign I established in 2012 with the attorney Tom Wilner (who fought for the prisoners’ habeas corpus rights in the Supreme Court in 2004 and 2008). The video of my speech outside the White House is here.
That afternoon, just around the corner from the White House, at New America (formerly the New America Foundation), Tom Wilner and I were joined by the academic Karen Greenberg for a panel discussion, Guantánamo Bay: Year 14, moderated by New America’s Peter Bergen, author, journalist and an old college friend of mine, which is posted below via Ustream. I’ll also post a YouTube link when it becomes available. Read the rest of this entry »
This Friday (January 8), I’m flying from London to Miami for a short US tour to coincide with the 14th anniversary of the opening of the prison at Guantánamo Bay on January 11. I’ll be flying up to Washington, D.C. on the 10th, protesting outside the White House on the 11th, and moving on to New York City on the 13th, where I have an event lined up in Harlem on the 14th, and where I will be staying until the 18th.
I’m traveling as an expert on Guantánamo, with nearly ten years of experience as a researcher, writer, campaigner and public speaker about the prison and the men held there, the author of The Guantánamo Files, the co-director of “Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo,” and the co-founder and co-director of two campaigns: Close Guantanamo and We Stand With Shaker. I’m also hoping to return to the US later in the year with a new book, collection the nest of my writing about Guantánamo over the last eight years, and if you’re a publisher, or have funding ideas, or would like to stage an event for me as part of a tour when the book is published, then please get in touch.
Please also get in touch if you want to contact me on my forthcoming tour, either to interview me (for TV, radio or online) or to arrange a last-minute event. You can also contact Debra Sweet, the national director of the World Can’t Wait, who, as in previous years, is organizing my visit. And while I’m in New York, I’ll have a guitar, and will be delighted to play some of my political songs, including “Song for Shaker Aamer” and “81 Million Dollars,” about the US torture program, which I normally play with my band The Four Fathers. If any musician would like to play with me, do get in touch. Read the rest of this entry »
January 11, 2015 is the 13th anniversary of the opening of the prison at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba for prisoners seized in the brutal and fundamentally lawless “war on terror” that the Bush administration declared after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001.
779 men have been held at the prison — plus at least one other, Ibn al-Shaykh al-Libi, in the “black site” that the CIA ran briefly at Guantánamo. Over the years, that population has been reduced significantly. 532 men and boys were released by President Bush, and 110 have been released by President Obama. Nine others died at the prison, and one was transferred to the US mainland to face a trial, leaving 127 men still held.
This is still 127 men too many, because everything about Guantánamo is fundamentally unjust, and has been since the day the prison opened, and although President Obama has released 28 men in the last year, 59 of the 127 men still held have been approved for release (all but four by the Guantánamo Review Task Force that President Obama established shortly after taking office in 2009), and the other 68 men must either be tried or released. 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 »
Tomorrow (Wednesday June 26) is the International Day in Support of Victims of Torture, established by the United Nations in 1997 to mark the 10th anniversary of the day that the UN Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment came into force.
I have been marking this day since 2007 — also see my reports from 2009, 2010 (and here), 2011 and 2012 — and this year I note that UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called on Member States “to step up efforts to assist all those who have suffered from torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.”
He added, “This year is also the 25th anniversary of the Committee against Torture. This body — along with other UN human rights mechanisms such as the Subcommittee on Prevention of Torture and the Special Rapporteur on Torture — is vital to strengthening a victim-oriented approach that also includes a gender perspective. This effort was further strengthened by the adoption this year of a UN Human Rights Council resolution focussing on the rehabilitation of torture victims.”
He also stated, “I urge all Member States to accede to and fully implement the Convention against Torture and support the United Nations Voluntary Fund for Victims of Torture. Let us work together to end torture throughout the world and ensure that countries provide reparation for victims.” Read the rest of this entry »
On the 100th day of the prison-wide hunger strike at Guantánamo, please ask the US authorities to free prisoners and take concrete steps towards finally closing the prison. Call the White House (202-456-1111, 202-456-1414), US Southern Command (305-437-1213) and the Department of Defense (703-571-3343). You can say, “I support closing the prison at Guantánamo Bay. President Obama can and should resume transfers, today, for the 86 cleared prisoners who are still held. Indefinite detention without charge or trial is a human rights violation.” You can also call or e-mail your congressperson and senator to ask them to support swift executive action to close Guantánamo, and you can also send a letter to a prisoner.
To mark 100 days of the prison-wide hunger strike at Guantánamo, events are — or have been — taking place in the US, the UK and worldwide, involving, amongst others, my friends and colleagues in Witness Against Torture, Amnesty International, the Center for Constitutional Rights, World Can’t Wait and the National Religious Campaign Against Torture in the US, and the London Guantánamo Campaign and the Save Shaker Aamer Campaign in the UK.
In the US, the various groups delivered petitions to the White House containing over 370,000 signatures, including, in particular, the petition on Change.org initiated by Col. Morris Davis, which currently has over 200,000 signatures, and is still ongoing. In London, campaigners will be performing street theatre outside the US Embassy tomorrow (Saturday May 18) at 2pm. For further information, including other actions you can engage in, see the Witness Against Torture website, and Amnesty International’s Facebook page. Also see the video for “Hunger Strike Song” by the Peace Poets and Witness Against Torture.
Following the action in Washington D.C., the National Religious Campaign Against Torture sent out a press release, in which executive director Rev. Richard Killmer stated, “Years of detention without charge or trial have created a sense of desperation and hopelessness among the men at Guantánamo, which has led over 100 of them to join a hunger strike. The human crisis in Guantánamo is a moral one that needs to end immediately. The faith community calls on the President to close Guantánamo. It is the right thing to do.” 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 »
Investigative journalist, author, campaigner, commentator and public speaker. Recognized as an authority on Guantánamo and the “war on terror.” Co-founder, Close Guantánamo, co-director, We Stand With Shaker. Also, singer and songwriter (The Four Fathers) and photographer.
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