January 11, 2017 was the 15th anniversary of the opening of the “war on terror” prison at Guantánamo, and for the seventh year running I was in Washington, D.C. to call for the prison’s closure as the co-founder of the Close Guantánamo campaign, with representatives of other rights groups, Witness Against Torture, Amnesty International, the Center for Constitutional Rights and the National Religious Campaign Against Torture.
This year, the protest took place not outside the White House (which is off-limits in the run-up to presidential inaugurations), but outside the Supreme Court, and, as I explained in my speech to the gathered protestors and the media (those who could be bothered to take an interest), this year’s anniversary was, excruciatingly, a double disappointment, because President Obama is just days away from failing to fulfill the promise to close Guantánamo that he made on his second day in office nearly eight years ago, and Donald Trump is about to take the prison over with his wild promises to “load it up with some bad dudes.”
I urged those gathered to make it a priority, from Day One of the Trump presidency, to demand that Trump frees those men still held who have been approved for release (9 at present, with the release to Oman yesterday of ten men, although we are told that between 3 and 5 more will be freed by Obama in his last week), and also to demand that he continues with the latest review process, the Periodic Review Boards, for which 26 of the remaining 55 prisoners continue to be eligible. I will soon be launching a new initiative, aimed at Donald Trump, via the Close Guantánamo campaign, and I encourage you to sign up to receive further information, as I draw the year-long Countdown to Close Guantánamo, aimed at President Obama, to an end. Read the rest of this entry »
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 »
Yesterday was the 14th anniversary of the opening of the US prison at Guantánamo Bay, and I was honored to attend a powerful protest outside the White House, featuring representatives of over a dozen rights groups, and with prominent roles played by the activists of Witness Against Torture. I had spent much of the previous day at the church where many dozens of them are staying, engaged in a 10-day fast and daily actions across the capital aimed at raising awareness of the injustice of Guantánamo and the plight of the men held there, and, in the evening, had joined them and representatives of Code Pink, the Center for Constitutional Rights and other organizations at “Visions of Homecoming: Close Guantánamo!”
This was an event celebrating the groups’ visit to Cuba in November, where I also spoke about We Stand With Shaker (the campaign I co-founded in November 2014, with the activist Joanne MacInnes, to call for the release from Guantánamo of Shaker Aamer, the last British resident in the prison) and played “Song for Shaker Aamer,” the song I wrote that, with my band The Four Fathers, featured in the We Stand With Shaker campaign video (and on our album “Love and War“). Other performances on the night came from The Peace Poets, spoken word artists from the Bronx who I always find wonderfully uplifting, combining sharp rhymes and tough themes with an extraordinary humanity. I hope to post videos of performances from the evening in the near future — including my own!
At yesterday’s rally, I spoke about the success of the campaign to release Shaker Aamer, the last British resident in Guantánamo, from the prison, but stressed how hard it had been to get just one man freed to America’s closest ally, involving the concerted efforts of many dozens of MPs and a range newspapers from across the political spectrum, campaigners and members of the general public, and even a request for action from David Cameron to Barack Obama. Read the rest of this entry »
Tomorrow is the 14th anniversary of the opening of the US “war on terror” prison at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, and, as I have for the last five years, I will be outside the White House, as part of a protest involving over a dozen rights groups, calling for the closure of the prison as swiftly as possible.
My presence at the protest is part of a short US tour I’m undertaking to highlight the necessity to close Guantánamo without further delay. on Friday I flew into Miami form London — my first ever visit to Florida — where I was greeted by a great group of peace and social justice activists, and where, on Saturday, I attended a rally and march to the gates of US Southern Command, responsible for overseeing Guantánamo. Outside Southcom HQ, I spoke about the need for the prison to be closed, to end the torture of those held indefinitely without charge or trial, and to restore, to the US, some notion that this remains a country that respects justice and the rule of law, and that the illegality and brutality of the country’s response to 9/11 can finally be overcome. My thanks to the People’s Opposition to War, Imperialism, and Racism (POWIR) for organizing this event, and I’d like to say that what made it particularly impressive was the number of young people involved.
This year I have brought with me a giant inflatable figure of Shaker Aamer, the last British resident in Guantánamo, who was finally freed from the prison on October 30, eight years after he was first told that the US no longer wanted to hold him, under President Bush, and six years after he was also approved for release by the high-level, inter-agency Guantánamo Review Task Force that President Obama established shortly after first taking office in January 2009. Read the rest of this entry »
Monday January 11 is the 14th anniversary of the opening of the US prison at Guantánamo Bay, and, as over a dozen rights groups hold a protest outside the White House, calling for President Obama to close Guantánamo in his last year in office, seven former Guantánamo prisoners from the UK will gather outside the US Embassy to also demand the closure of the prison.
The seven former prisoners are Shaker Aamer, Moazzam Begg, Ruhal Ahmad, Asif Iqbal, Shafiq Rasul, Bisher al-Rawi and Tarek Dergoul.
Ruhal Ahmad, Asif Iqbal and Shafiq Rasul (the Tipton Three) and Tarek Dergoul were released in 2004, Moazzam Begg was released in 2005, Bisher al-Rawi in 2007, and, after extraordinary campaigning from activists, MPs and the media, Shaker Aamer was released on October 30, 2015, eight years after he was first told that the US no longer wanted to hold him.
As the co-founder and co-director of the We Stand With Shaker campaign (with Joanne Macinnes), I will be taking part in the protest outside the White House, as part of a short tour to coincide with the 14th anniversary of the opening of Guantánamo, and I have brought with from the UK the giant inflatable figure of Shaker Aamer that was the centerpiece of the campaign. The photo above is of Shaker outside the US Embassy on January 7, when Joanne MacInnes and I met up with him to take the photo with campaign photographer Stefano Massimo. 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 »
It’s rare that Guantánamo, and the plight of the men still held there — mostly for nearly 14 years, and nearly all without charge or trial — gets significant media coverage. The last time was in 2013, after the prisoners themselves grabbed the world’s attention by embarking on a prison-wide hunger strike. Two petitions launched at the time (on Avaaz and Change.org) secured, between them, nearly a million signatures, and contributed to the exertion of such pressure on President Obama, both domestically and internationally, that he promised to resume releasing prisoners, after nearly three years of inaction prompted by cynical obstructions raised by Congress and an unwillingness on the president’s part to spend political capital overcoming those obstructions, even though he had the means to do so.
Since then, President Obama has released 59 men, which is progress, but 107 remain, and 48 of those men have also been approved for release, most since 2009, when the high-level inter-agency Guantánamo Review Task Force, appointed by President Obama shortly after taking office, reviewed the cases of all the men still held, and recommended releasing them (156 men), putting them on trial (36 men, later reduced to 10), or continuing to hold them without charge or trial (48, later raised to 71), on the extremely flimsy basis that they were “too dangerous to release,” but that insufficient evidence existed to put them on trial.
Last week, activists from Witness Against Torture, a campaigning group that announced itself to the world in December 2005 by visiting Cuba and protesting outside Guantánamo, revisited its origins on its 10th anniversary, repeating its protest after 14 members of the group attended a peace conference in Havana. The Guardian covered the story, which was soon picked up on by other media outlets. Read the rest of this entry »
I’m in a hurry, so please see below for the press release for tomorrow’s launch, in London, of We Stand With Shaker‘s new initiative, Fast For Shaker. This morning, I was at a meeting of the All-Party Shaker Aamer Parliamentary Group with MPs David Davis, Andrew Mitchell, Andy Slaughter, Tania Mathias and others, plus lots of campaigners.
Then I was in Kensington for an interview on London Live, about the launch of Fast For Shaker, which I hope is online somewhere. More info later. For now, here’s the press release. if you’re in London, please come along! Otherwise, keep signing up for the fast, and send in photos!
MPs David Davis, John McDonnell, Caroline Lucas, Andy Slaughter, Tania Mathias, Tom Brake Attend, Plus Shaker’s Father-In-Law Saeed Siddique, representatives of Reprieve, Actor David Morrissey and Comedian Sara Pascoe 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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