Three US screenings of “Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo” – in Boulder, Philadelphia and Northampton


Outside the Law: Stories from GuantanamoI’m delighted to report that three screenings of the new documentary film, “Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo” (directed by Polly Nash and myself), which is currently on a UK tour, have been arranged by pioneering grass-roots activists in the US. All the screenings are free, and Polly and I, and the production company Spectacle, would like to encourage more people to arrange their own screenings. DVDs are available to buy here, and there’s an electronic press kit here, including a poster that you can adapt for your own screenings. Please let me know if you go ahead with a screening, and I’ll publicize it.

Screenings of “Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo” in the US, March 2010

On Tuesday March 16, at 7 pm, the Rocky Mountain Peace and Justice Center will be showing the film at Atlas Building 100, CU-Boulder, Boulder, Colorado. Email for further information, and see the website here.

On Wednesday March 17, at 6 pm, The World Can’t Wait (which supported my visit to the US in November, to show the film in New York, Washington D.C. and the Bay Area) presents a screening at Moonstone Arts Center, 110A S. 13th Street, Philadelphia, PA 19107. Email for further information, or phone 215-735-9598, and see the website here.

On Friday March 19, at 7 pm, the film will be shown at the Media Education Foundation (MEF) in Northampton, Massachusetts. The screening is organized by the Northampton Committee to Stop the War in Iraq and co-sponsored by the Pioneer Valley chapter of No More Guantánamos. Nancy Talanian, the director of No More Guantánamos, will speak and answer questions from the audience. For further information, please email Nancy Talanian, and see the MEF website here.

No More Guantánamos is the organization that, last November, lit the first sparks of what should be a national debate about the future of cleared Guantánamo prisoners who cannot be repatriated because they face the risk of torture of other ill-treatment, by supporting a resolution in Amherst, Massachusetts to welcome two men — Ahmed Belbacha and Ravil Mingazov — into the community, and to ask Congress to drop its opposition to cleared prisoners being resettled on the US mainland. The resolution was passed by Amherst Town Meeting on November 4, and a public forum was held in Northampton on November 19, featuring Guantánamo lawyers Zachary Katznelson and Gary Thompson, which was filmed and is available below:

Solving the Guantanamo Quagmire: One Town At a Time, 59 minutes from Ernest Urvater on Vimeo.

Please visit the website of No More Guantánamos to support its work, and, if possible, to find out how you can form a new chapter, or join an existing one, to help address the plight of prisoners who have been cleared for release but cannot return home, and to keep America talking about how the American people can put pressure on lawmakers to accept responsibility for the Bush administration’s terrible mistakes, and to dispel the ongoing lies about how Guantánamo holds “the worst of the worst.” Please see here and here for a few examples of why this propaganda is so disturbingly mistaken.

No More Guantánamos defines it aims as follows:

  • To engage the public in a fact-based dialogue about the planned closure of Guantánamo Bay prison and US detainee policy
  • To transform prisoners’ images in the US from faceless, nameless “terrorists” to human beings who deserve fair treatment and a presumption of innocence until proven guilty
  • To use prisoners’ stories to overcome unfounded fears of prisoners in your community
  • To enable prisoners cleared for release but who can’t return home to settle in the US or help them get where they want to go

In addition, on February 14, the Northampton Friends Meeting approved a minute (the Quakers’ term for a resolution), stating, “As Quakers we are spirit led by our Quaker values and confronted by our sense of justice, we declare to each other and our neighbors our profound desire to support all efforts to reestablish the lives and livelihood of those men wrongly incarcerated in Guantánamo Bay Prison who our government has determined pose no threat to our country.” The Northampton Friends’ Justice, Peace and Witness Committee drafted the minute and has sent it to all the Friends Meetings in their Quarter to affirm and send to the New England Yearly Meeting, for the consideration of all Friends Meetings in New England. Nancy Talanian, who spoke before the Justice, Peace and Witness Committee in January, called the minute “a positive step toward helping the men wrongly held to regain their freedom and rebuild their lives.”

About the film

“Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo” tells the story of Guantánamo (and includes sections on extraordinary rendition and secret prisons) with a particular focus on how the Bush administration turned its back on domestic and international laws, how prisoners were rounded up in Afghanistan and Pakistan without adequate screening (and often for bounty payments), and why some of these men may have been in Afghanistan or Pakistan for reasons unconnected with militancy or terrorism (as missionaries or humanitarian aid workers, for example).

The film is based around interviews with former prisoners (Moazzam Begg and, in his first major interview, Omar Deghayes, who was released in December 2007), lawyers for the prisoners (Clive Stafford Smith in the UK and Tom Wilner in the US), and journalist and author Andy Worthington, and also includes appearances from Guantánamo’s former Muslim chaplain James Yee, Shakeel Begg, a London-based Imam, and the British human rights lawyer Gareth Peirce.

Focusing on the stories of Shaker Aamer, Binyam Mohamed and Omar Deghayes, “Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo” provides a powerful rebuke to those who believe that Guantánamo holds “the worst of the worst” and that the Bush administration was justified in responding to the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 by holding men neither as prisoners of war, protected by the Geneva Conventions, nor as criminal suspects with habeas corpus rights, but as “illegal enemy combatants” with no rights whatsoever.

In the case of Shaker Aamer, readers may want to know that in December 2009, it emerged in a court case in the UK that British agents witnessed his abuse while he was held in US custody in Afghanistan, and in January 2010, for Harper’s Magazine, law professor Scott Horton reported that he was tortured in Guantánamo on the same night, in June 2006, that three other men appear to have been killed by representatives of an unknown US agency, and that a cover-up then took place, which successfully passed the deaths off as suicides.

Recent feedback

“I thought the film was absolutely brilliant and the most powerful, moving and hard-hitting piece I have seen at the cinema. I admire and congratulate you for your vital work, pioneering the truth and demanding that people sit up and take notice of the outrageous human rights injustices perpetrated against detainees at Guantánamo and other prisons.”
Harriet Wong, Medical Foundation for Care of Victims of Torture

“[T]hought-provoking, harrowing, emotional to watch, touching and politically powerful.”
Harpymarx, blogger

“Last Saturday I went to see Polly Nash and Andy Worthington’s harrowing documentary, “Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo” at London’s BFI. The film knits together narratives so heart-wrenching I half wish I had not heard them. Yet the camaraderie between the detainees and occasional humorous anecdotes … provide a glimpse into the wit, courage and normalcy of the men we are encouraged to perceive as monsters. Nash and Worthington’s film also explores the legal and pragmatic implications of our transatlantic freefall into ethical bankruptcy. It asks how we might navigate our way out of a situation that doesn’t legally exist. The answer is: with great difficulty. With lawyers like Clive Stafford Smith working tirelessly to defend people who have not been accused of a crime and have no evidence against them to refute, the courtroom has become the domain in which we watch the dream of European multiculturalism imploding. Here we see UK Muslims struggle to exert Enlightenment-based Common Law against a so-called civilized, liberal government who would apparently prefer the Magna Carta had never been written.”
Sarah Gillespie, singer/songwriter

For further information, interviews, or to inquire about broadcasting, distributing or showing “Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo,” please contact Polly Nash or Andy Worthington.

“Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo” is a Spectacle Production (74 minutes, 2009), and copies of the DVD are now available. As featured on Democracy Now!, ABC News and Truthout. See here for videos of the Q&A session (with Moazzam Begg, Omar Deghayes, Andy Worthington and Polly Nash) that followed the launch of the film in London on October 21, 2009.

Andy Worthington is the author of The Guantánamo Files: The Stories of the 774 Detainees in America’s Illegal Prison (published by Pluto Press, distributed by Macmillan in the US, and available from Amazon — click on the following for the US and the UK). To receive new articles in your inbox, please subscribe to my RSS feed (and I can also be found on Facebook and Twitter). Also see my definitive Guantánamo prisoner list, updated in January 2010, and, if you appreciate my work, feel free to make a donation.

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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 and We Stand With Shaker. Also, photo-journalist (The State of London), and singer and songwriter (The Four Fathers).
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