Julian Assange: 600+ Rights Groups and Individuals Condemn UK and Sweden for Failing to Recognize UN Arbitrary Detention Finding

A campaigner calling for the release of Julian Assange from his asylum in the Ecuadorian Embassy, June 19, 2014 (Photo: Andy Worthington).Yesterday, March 1, over 600 rights groups and prominent individuals — including Ai Weiwei, Pussy Riot, Naomi Klein, Arundhati Roy, Brian Eno, Ken Loach, Noam Chomsky, John Pilger, the former Greek finance minister Yanis Varoufakis, and the Northern Irish peace activist Mairead Maguire — delivered an open letter to the British and Swedish governments (via the EU reformist group DiEM25), at the 31st United Nations Human Rights Council meeting in Geneva, urging the two governments to respect the finding last month by the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention that Assange — the WikiLeaks founder, who, in 2010 and 2011, released the Iraq and Afghan war logs, a trove of US diplomatic cables from around the world, and the Guantánamo files, all originally leaked by Chelsea Manning — has been subjected to arbitrary detention. This was “partially,” as the Guardian explained, “on the grounds that Swedish prosecutors used disproportionate methods, including a European arrest warrant, rather than initially interviewing him in the UK.” The statement was delivered to the Swedish and UK Permanent Representatives to the United Nations.

Noam Chomsky said, “Julian Assange should have been freed a long time ago.  The judgment of the UN Working Group is welcome, and should be implemented forthwith.” Mads Andenas, professor of international law at Oxford All Souls, and the UN Special Rapporteur on Arbitrary Detention, said, “UK politicians [have] aimed at weakening the authority of the UN body for short-term opportunistic gain.”

Assange has been living for over three and a half years in the Ecuadorian Embassy, behind Harrod’s, in Knightsbridge, in London, where he first sought asylum in June 2012 to avoid extradition to Sweden to face questioning over rape and sexual assault allegations, which he has always denied. Read the rest of this entry »

Five Yemenis Freed from Guantánamo, Given New Homes in the United Arab Emirates

Three of the five prisoners released from Guantanamo and given new homes in the United Arab Emirates on November 13, 2015. From L to R: Ali al-Razihi, Khalid al-Qadasi and Sulaiman al-Nahdi.There’s good news from Guantánamo, as five Yemenis, approved for release from the prison in 2005, 2007 and 2014, have finally been freed, and given new homes in the United Arab Emirates.

As the New York Times reported, the resettlement “was the first of its kind to the United Arab Emirates, which had previously taken in just one former Guantánamo detainee, in 2008 — its own citizen,” Abdullah al-Hamiri, whose story I discussed here.

The Times also explained that, “In May, President Obama met at Camp David with leaders or representatives of the six Middle Eastern countries that make up the Gulf Cooperation Council, including a representative from the United Arab Emirates. The main topic of discussion was the nuclear agreement with Iran, but officials familiar with the deliberations said Mr. Obama had also pressed them to consider resettling groups of detainees. The deal announced on Sunday appears to be the first fruits of those talks.” Read the rest of this entry »

Video: Andy Worthington Discusses Shaker Aamer, Guantánamo and Fast For Shaker on the Victoria Derbyshire Show on BBC2

A screenshot of Andy Worthington appearing with Joanna Gosling on the Victoria Derbyshire show on BBC2 on October 13, 2015, discussing Shaker Aamer and the Fast For Shaker launching on October 15.Yesterday morning, I appeared on the Victoria Derbyshire show on BBC2, to discuss the launch of Fast For Shaker, the new initiative launched by activist Joanne MacInnes and I, the co-directors of the We Stand With Shaker campaign, calling for the release from Guantánamo of Shaker Aamer, the last British resident in the prison. I’m delighted to report that over 200 people — 188 on the calendar, plus others on the celebrity schedule — have so signed up to Fast For Shaker. The relay fast, with people pledging to fast for 24 hours on a day of their choice — and with a commitment to continue until Shaker is released — begins on Thursday October 15.

A two-minute clip from my interview, with Joanna Gosling, is here, on the Twitter feed for the show.

When I posted it on Facebook, I wrote, “Follow the link and see a two-minute clip of me on Victoria Derbyshire’s show on BBC2 this morning, talking about Shaker Aamer, as the co-founder of the We Stand With Shaker campaign, my hopes that he will be released from Guantánamo within the next two weeks, and our determination to keep pressure on the Obama administration to honour its commitment to release him as soon as the 30-day notification to Congress is up, which we’re doing by encouraging supporters to ‎Fast With Shaker, who is on a hunger strike, for a 24-hour period starting on Thursday.”

The entire show is also on iPlayer for the next month, starting at 36:15 and ending at 43:45. Read the rest of this entry »

14 Years After 9/11, It’s Time for Guantánamo to Be Closed

Campaigners with Witness Against Torture occupy the National Museum of American History in Washington D.C. on January 11, 2014, the 12th anniversary of the opening of Guantanamo (Photo: Andy Worthington).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.

Click here for Andy’s 20-minute interview on Cii Broadcasting, a Muslim radio station based in South Africa, discussing who is still held at Guantánamo, and how, on almost every front, justice is not being delivered to these men.

14 years after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, it is time to take stock of what has — or hasn’t — been achieved, and what the cost has been for America’s standing in the world, how it sees itself and its values.

Unfortunately, an honest audit delivers an alarming response. As Tom Engelhardt has written in “Mantra for 9/11: Fourteen Years Later, Improbable World,” an article to mark the anniversary:

Fourteen years of wars, interventions, assassinations, torture, kidnappings, black sites, the growth of the American national security state to monumental proportions, and the spread of Islamic extremism across much of the Greater Middle East and Africa. Fourteen years of astronomical expense, bombing campaigns galore, and a military-first foreign policy of repeated defeats, disappointments, and disasters. Fourteen years of a culture of fear in America, of endless alarms and warnings, as well as dire predictions of terrorist attacks. Fourteen years of the burial of American democracy (or rather its recreation as a billionaire’s playground and a source of spectacle and entertainment but not governance). Fourteen years of the spread of secrecy, the classification of every document in sight, the fierce prosecution of whistleblowers, and a faith-based urge to keep Americans “secure” by leaving them in the dark about what their government is doing. Fourteen years of the demobilization of the citizenry. Fourteen years of the rise of the warrior corporation, the transformation of war and intelligence gathering into profit-making activities, and the flocking of countless private contractors to the Pentagon, the NSA, the CIA, and too many other parts of the national security state to keep track of. Fourteen years of our wars coming home in the form of PTSD, the militarization of the police, and the spread of war-zone technology like drones and stingrays to the “homeland.”

Read the rest of this entry »

Progress Towards Closing Guantánamo, As Periodic Review Boards Resume with the Case of a Seriously Ill Egyptian

Guantanamo prisoner Tariq al-Sawah as a young man, prior to his capture and transfer to Guantanamo, where his weight has ballooned. Photo made available by his family.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.

The last three months have been a period of commendable progress at Guantánamo, as 27 prisoners have been released, reducing the prison’s population to just 122 men. On December 30, two Tunisians and three Yemenis were given new homes in Kazakhstan, and on January 14 five more Yemenis were given new homes — four in Oman, in the Gulf, and one in Estonia. All of these men had long been approved for release, having had their cases reviewed in 2009 by the high-level, inter-agency Guantánamo Review Task Force, which issued its final report in January 2010.

Obstacles raised by Congress — and the president’s unwillingness to spend political capital overcoming those obstacles — had led to these men being held for so long after the task force unanimously approved them for release, as well as a particular fear throughout the US establishment of repatriating Yemenis, because of unrest in their home country.

Two years ago, 86 of the men still held had been approved for release by the task force but were still held. That number is now down to 50, of whom 43 are Yemenis, and just seven are from other nations, including Shaker Aamer, the last British resident in the prison. Read the rest of this entry »

Photos: Vigil for Julian Assange outside the Ecuadorian Embassy in London, on the 2nd Anniversary of his Asylum Request, June 19, 2014

Please click here to see my photos of the vigil on Flickr.

On Thursday June 19, 2014, supporters of Julian Assange held a vigil outside the Ecuadorian Embassy in Knightsbridge in London (just behind Harrods), which I attended and photographed.

Supporters of the WikiLeaks founder and editor-in-chief have been holding vigils almost every day since he walked into the embassy seeking political asylum on June 19, 2012. He feared that he would end up being extradited to the US from Sweden, where he is accused of sexual offences (claims which he denies), and his asylum claim was accepted by the government of Ecuador on August 16, 2012.

WikiLeaks’ work, exposing US crimes through documents released by Bradley (now Chelsea) Manning — including the “Collateral Murder” video, featuring US personnel indiscriminately killing civilians and two Reuters reporters in Iraq, 500,000 army reports (the Afghan War logs and the Iraq War logs), 250,000 US diplomatic cables, and the Guantánamo files — has, of course, been enormously influential, and I am pleased to have worked with WikiLeaks as a media partner on the release of the classified military files from Guantánamo in April 2011. For further information, see my ongoing project to analyze all the files.

To mark the anniversary, Julian Assange released the following statement (I have added the links at the end): Read the rest of this entry »

Updated for 2014: Andy Worthington’s Definitive Guantánamo Prisoner List – Now in Six Parts

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See Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5 and Part 6 of Andy Worthington’s Definitive Guantánamo Prisoner List

Eight years ago, I began working full-time on exposing the truth about Guantánamo (essentially, as an illegal interrogation center using various forms of torture and abuse) and researching and telling the stories of the men — and boys — held there, first for my book The Guantánamo Files, and, since May 2007, as an independent investigative journalist and commentator writing about Guantánamo and related issues on an almost daily basis. I have published 2,175 articles since May 2007, and over 1,500 of those articles are about Guantánamo.

Five years ago, I decided that it would be useful to list the 779 prisoners who have been held at Guantánamo since it opened on January 11, 2002, and to provide links to articles in which I told their stories — and also references to where I told their stories in The Guantánamo Files (about 450 stories in total) or in in 12 additional online chapters I wrote between 2007 and 2009.

I updated the list in January 2010, in July 2010, in May 2011, and in April 2012, on the first anniversary of the release, by WikiLeaks, of “The Guantánamo Files,” classified military files relating to almost all of the 779 prisoners who have been held at Guantánamo since it opened. I worked as a media partner on the release of these files, and, as I noted in April 2012, when my update to the list coincided with the 1st anniversary of the release of those files, “We had the eyes of the world on us for just a week until — whether by coincidence or design — US Special Forces assassinated Osama bin Laden, and Guantánamo disappeared from the headlines once more, leaving advocates of torture and arbitrary detention free to resume their cynical maneuvering with renewed lies about the efficacy of torture and the necessity for Guantánamo to continue to exist.” Read the rest of this entry »

In Oxford, WikiLeaks Whistleblower Chelsea Manning Given Sam Adams Award for Integrity in Intelligence, Edward Snowden Speaks

Ray McGovern introduces the presentation to Chelsea Manning of the Sam Adams Award for Integrity in Intelligence in OxfordCraig Murray speaks at the presentation to Chelsea Manning of the Sam Adams Award for Integrity in Intelligence in OxfordCraig Murray presents the Sam Adams Award for Integrity in Intelligence to Aaron Kirkhouse on behalf of Chelsea Manning in OxfordAaron Kirkhouse speaks at the presentation to Chelsea Manning of the Sam Adams Award for Integrity in Intelligence in OxfordAnnie Machon speaks at the presentation to Chelsea Manning of the Sam Adams Award for Integrity in Intelligence in OxfordTodd Pierce speaks at the presentation to Chelsea Manning of the Sam Adams Award for Integrity in Intelligence in Oxford
Ann Wright speaks at the presentation to Chelsea Manning of the Sam Adams Award for Integrity in Intelligence in OxfordEdward Snowden speaks on video at the presentation to Chelsea Manning of the Sam Adams Award for Integrity in Intelligence in Oxford

Chelsea Manning Given Sam Adams Award for Integrity in Intelligence, Oxford, Feb. 19, 2014, a set on Flickr.

Last Wednesday (February 19), I was delighted to travel from London to Oxford to attend the presentation of the Sam Adams Associates Award for Integrity in Intelligence to Chelsea Manning — or rather, to Chelsea’s old school friend Aaron Kirkhouse, who received the award on Manning’s behalf. Chelsea Manning (formerly Bradley Manning) was, of course, given a 35-year sentence in August for the largest ever leak of classified documents, including the “Collateral Murder” video, featuring US personnel indiscriminately killing civilians and two Reuters reporters in Iraq, 500,000 army reports (the Afghan War logs and the Iraq War logs), 250,000 US diplomatic cables, and the Guantánamo files, released by WikiLeaks in April 2011, on which I worked as a media partner.

I had been invited by Ray McGovern, former CIA analyst and prominent peace activist, who I met for the first time in Berkeley, California in October 2010, as part of Berkeley Says No to Torture Week, and by Todd Pierce, a recently retired military defense attorney, who worked on a number of Guantánamo cases involving men facing military commissions trials, and who has been a friend for many years. Also speaking at the event for Chelsea Manning were Ann Wright, former US Army colonel and former State Department official, who was one of only three US officials to resign over the invasion of Iraq in 2003, and who I had also met in Berkeley in 2010, and two people I had not met before — the former British ambassador Craig Murray, and MI5 whistleblower Annie Machon.

It was a powerful event, presided over by Ray, who made us all feel at home in the Oxford Union, and introduced the various speakers prior to the presentation of the award to Aaron Kirkhouse on Chelsea’s behalf. Read the rest of this entry »

Poland and Lithuania Haunted by Their Involvement in Hosting CIA Torture Prisons

In the long search for accountability for the torturers of the Bush administration, which has largely been shut down by President Obama, lawyers and human rights activists have either had to try shaming the US through the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, or have had to focus on other countries, particularly those that hosted secret CIA torture prisons, or had explicit involvement in extraordinary rendition.

Successes have been rare, but hugely important — the conviction of CIA officials and operatives in Italy, for the blatant daylight kidnap of Abu Omar, a cleric, on a street in Milan in February 2003, and the court victory in Macedonia of Khaled El-Masri, a German citizen kidnapped in Macedonia, where he had gone on a holiday, and sent to a CIA “black site” in 2003 until the US realized that his was a case of mistaken identity. In the UK, the whiff of complicity in torture at the highest levels of the Blair government led to pay-offs for the British nationals and residents sent to Guantánamo.

Court cases were also launched in Spain, although they were suppressed, in part because of US involvement (under President Obama), and currently there are efforts to hold the US accountable before the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights for its use of Djibouti in a number of cases involving “extraordinary rendition” and “black sites.” Read the rest of this entry »

Video: Culture of Impunity Part Two – Andy Worthington on Bush’s War Crimes, Bradley Manning and Guantánamo

Six weeks ago, on June 26, the International Day in Support of Victims of Torture, initiated by the United Nations in 1997, on the 10th anniversary of the the day that the UN Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment came into force, I posted the first half of a newly released documentary film, “Culture of Impunity,” for which I was interviewed along with the law professor and author Marjorie Cohn, the professor, author and filmmaker Saul Landau, the author and activist David Swanson, Laura Pitter of Human Rights Watch and Stephen Rohde of the ACLU.

The documentary, which looks at the many ways in which the most senior figures in the Bush administration — including George W. Bush, Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld — have escaped accountability for the crimes committed in the “war on terror” declared after the 9/11 attacks, was produced by Alternate Focus, which describes itself as “working for peace and justice by offering the American public media which shows another side of Middle Eastern issues,” and I was interviewed for it in April.

The producer, John Odam, has just sent me a link to the second part of this powerful documentary, on YouTube, which I’ve made available below, along with the first part. It features all of the experts interviewed in the first half, as well as Stephen Zunes, a Professor of Politics and International Studies at the University of San Francisco. Read the rest of this entry »

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Andy Worthington

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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