Shaker Aamer’s Universal Declaration of No Human Rights, Part of Vice’s Compelling New Feature on Guantánamo


An edited version of the banner for Vice's important feature on Guantanamo, "Behind the Bars: Guantanamo Bay," published on November 10, 2014. Congratulations to Vice, which describes itself as “an ever-expanding galaxy of immersive, investigative, uncomfortable, and occasionally uncouth journalism,” who have shown up the mainstream media by publishing a major feature on November 10, “Behind the Bars: Guantánamo Bay,” consisting of 18 articles published simultaneously, all of which are about Guantánamo — some by Guantánamo prisoners themselves, as made available by their lawyers (particularly at Reprieve, the legal action charity), others by former personnel at the prison, and others by journalists. “Behind the Bars” is a new series, with future features focusing on prisoners in the UK, Russia and beyond.

Following an introduction by Vice’s Global Editor, Alex Miller, there are five articles by three prisoners, as follows:

  • The Declaration of No Human Rights” (cross-posted below) and “Colonel John Bogdan Has No Nose” by Shaker Aamer, the last British resident in Guantánamo, long cleared for release but still held. In the second of these articles, Shaker focuses on Guantánamo’s recently retired warden, who oversaw a period of particular turmoil at the prison; in particular, the prison-wide hunger strike last year that finally awakened widespread outrage domestically and internationally about the plight of the prisoners.
  • What Happens When I Try to Give My Guantánamo Guards Presents” and “An Obituary for My Friend, Adnan Abdul Latif” by Emad Hassan, a Yemeni, cleared for release in 2009 by President Obama’s high-level, inter-agency Guantánamo Review Task Force, but still held, who as been on a hunger strike since 2007. Adnan Abdul Latif, a Yemeni who had serious mental health issues, was the last prisoner to die at Guantánamo, in September 2012, even though he too had long been cleared for release, so this tribute by Emad Hassan is particularly poignant.
  • My Road to Guantánamo” by Younous Chekkouri (aka Younus Chekhouri), a Moroccan prisoner, also cleared for release in 2009, who tells the story of his capture and explains why he cannot return to Morocco and is seeking a third country to offer him a new home. In February this year, Reprieve made available a love letter by Younus to his wife Abla.

In addition, in “Pakistan Since Guantánamo,” Pakistani journalist and author Saba Imtiaz responds to a question by a Pakistani prisoner who is still held about the situation in Pakistan over the last 13 years, and in “Cooking Ahmed Rabbani’s Biryani at Tayyab’s East London Curry House,” the journalist Oscar Rickett visits a famous curry house in London’s East End to sample the favourite meal of Pakistani prisoner Ahmed Rabbani (aka Ahmad Rabbani or Mohammed Ahmad Ghulam Rabbani), who has not been approved for release and is waiting for a review board to assess his case.

In another powerful article, “The Banned Books of Guantánamo,” John le Carré, Frederick Forsyth, Ian Cobain, John Kampfner, John Pilger and Irvine Welsh explain what they think about their books being banned in Guantánamo, as does torture supporter Alan Dershowitz, whose book ‘Blasphemy’ is also banned.

In addition, there are articles discussing the banning of other books, including ‘A People’s History of the United States’ by Howard Zinn, ‘An American Slave’ by Frederick Douglass, ‘Crime and Punishment’ by Fyodor Dostoyevsky, ‘The Diary of a Young Girl’ by Anne Frank and ‘Waiting for Godot’ by Samuel Beckett, as well as Jeremy Paxman discussing the banning of ‘Futility’ by Wilfred Owen, and Melvyn Bragg discussion the banning of ‘The Merchant of Venice’ by William Shakespeare.

Vice’s Guantánamo feature also includes Muslim convert Terry Holdbrooks describing “My Time as a Guard at Guantánamo Bay,” former chaplain James Yee’s article, “The Trials of Being the Only Imam at Guantánamo Bay,” Col. Morris Davis’s account of his time as the chief prosecutor of the military commissions, before he remerged from the “dark side” into the light, and some journalists — Carol Rosenberg On Covering Guantánamo, Jason Leopold on Obama and Bush: How Do the Presidents Compare on Guantánamo Bay?, an article on adolescents at Guantánamo (and please feel free to read my article from 2011, “WikiLeaks and the 22 Children of Guantánamo“), Marc Ambinder on Why Hasn’t Obama Closed Guantánamo?, an article about how Yemen’s Proposed GTMO Rehab Centre Isn’t Making Much Progress, and Guantánamo lawyer Ramzi Kassem asking, “Why Are Prisoners Who Have Been Cleared for Release Still in ​Guantánamo?

Shaker Aamer in Guantanamo, in a photo made available by his family in November 2012.Cross-posted below, as mentioned above, is Shaker Aamer’s powerful article, “The Declaration of No Human Rights,” his forensic analysis of how every article of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights — adopted by the United Nations on December 10, 1948 (now commemorated every year as Human Rights Day), and forming the basis of a universal agreement on human rights following the horrors of the Second World War — has been overturned by the US government at Guantánamo.

This is very sharp, and occasionally very funny, and on a few occasions Shaker also mentions how the US wants to send him to Saudi Arabia, rather than to his family in the UK — a position that is not taken publicly by either the US or UK governments, but that is widely understood by Shaker’s supporters to be a major stumbling block to his release. This is because, of course, if he isn’t returned to the UK there will be a major outcry by the significant number of prominent individuals and organizations in the UK who are adamant that the UK retains an inviolable obligation to return Shaker to his family in London.

This obligation is for both legal and moral reasons — for legal reasons because he was granted indefinite leave to remain in the UK, and being kidnapped, sold to US forces and imprisoned without charge or trial in Afghanistan and Guantánamo is no reason to overturn that decision, and for moral reasons because British agents were complicit in his torture in Afghanistan, and because the British government was initially happy for all the British citizens and residents seized in the “war on terror” in Afghanistan, Pakistan and elsewhere (Zambia and the Gambia, for example) to be taken to Guantánamo, which they knew to be a lawless experimental prison run by the Bush administration, and where, moreover, they sent agents to interrogate those men they had so shamefully abandoned.

Of all those British citizens and residents — 15 in total — Shaker is the last to be held, and, as the 13th anniversary of his capture in Afghanistan approaches — on November 24, when he was first seized by Afghan bounty hunters — there can be no more excuses, and Shaker must be brought home as soon as possible.

For further information, see here for the first publicity for a campaign that I am launching on November 24, with the support of Reprieve. Please follow us. A Facebook page will follow, as will a powerful website.

The Declaration of No Human Rights
By Shaker Aamer, Vice, November 10, 2014

I have been in Guantánamo Bay for 12 years now. George W Bush’s administration cleared me to leave in 2007, Barack Obama’s in 2009. I am still here. By generously providing me with additional time in a “Single Cell Operation” [that’s solitary confinement by another, more obfuscatory, name], the US military has allowed me time to make a closer study of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), as it was adopted by the UN General Assembly in 1948.

Various senior members of the Bush administration periodically asserted that international human rights and humanitarian law was “outmoded” and needed to be updated to face modern challenges. However, the longer I have remained in this terrible prison, the more I have come to realise that the US has already amended the UDHR by imposing their own addendum to each Article. Here, then, is a recently declassified copy of the Declaration of No Human Rights (DNHR):

Article 1

In its original format, Article 1 reads as follows: “All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.”

By its actions in Guantánamo Bay, however, the US has inserted an addendum to Article 1 that reads as follows: “BUT, all Muslim men held in Guantánamo Bay are considered to be something rather less than human, the worst of the worst of America’s enemies. Indeed, the detainees should have fewer rights than the iguanas that roam the naval base. Because these 148 men are not considered human beings, they should be subjected to as many indignities as the perverse human mind is capable of imagining.”

Article 2

Original: “Everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration, without distinction of any kind, such as race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status…”

Addendum: “This rule shall not be applied to the US naval base at the tip of Cuba, which the US coerced from Cuba in 1903. This should be given a special status with rigid distinctions made on whatever grounds the American military can dream up, but especially on grounds of religion.”

Article 3

Original: “Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person.”

Addendum: “Everyone who is Muslim, and insists on growing a beard, has the right to three inedible meals and 24-hour detention in a cell.”

Article 4

Original: “No one shall be held in slavery or servitude; slavery and the slave trade shall be prohibited in all their forms.”

Addendum: “But any inmate of Guantánamo Bay has to be shackled and cuffed for any step he takes outside of his cell.”

Article 5

Original: “No one shall be subjected to torture.”

Addendum: “But everyone in Guantánamo shall be subjected to as many different forms of torture as Donald Rumsfeld or whoever is playing the part of Donald Rumsfeld can imagine, and this shall continue until they are released.”

Article 6

Original: “Everyone has the right to recognition everywhere as a person before the law.”

Addendum: “Everyone in Guantánamo Bay should be recognised only as a number and will be referred to as a ‘package’ when being taken from one ‘reservation’ to the next.”

Article 7

Original: “All are equal before the law and are entitled without any discrimination to equal protection of the law.”

Addendum: “The men held in Guantánamo are not equal before the law and therefore are not protected by any law at all.”

Article 8

Original: “Everyone has the right to an effective remedy by the competent national tribunals for acts violating the fundamental rights granted him by the constitution or by law.”

Addendum: “But with respect to those Muslim men with beards who are in Guantánamo, it would be less embarrassing to President Barack Obama if everyone would turn a blind eye to the injustice they face daily.”

Article 9

Original: “No one shall be subjected to arbitrary arrest, detention or exile.”

Addendum: “In light of this rule, the US prefer it if the world (and particularly the media) would ignore the fact that the men in Guantánamo have been arbitrarily detained and exiled for many years.”

Article 10

Original: “Everyone is entitled in full equality to a fair and public hearing by an independent and impartial tribunal, in the determination of his rights and obligations and of any criminal charge against him.”

Addendum: “Still, hundreds of men shall be held beyond the law on an island prison for over a decade. None of these men shall be brought before an independent and impartial tribunal, since the dozen men charged will be put before what Lord Bingham has called a ‘kangaroo court’. These are the fortunate few. The others will never be charged at all.”

Article 11

Original: “Everyone charged with a penal offence has the right to be presumed innocent until proved guilty according to law in a public trial at which he has had all the guarantees necessary for his defence.”

Addendum: “Those held in Guantánamo are guilty until proven guilty, and are also guilty after proven innocent. It would be inconvenient to be as liberal as a medieval king, so we will not guarantee basic rights recognised since the signing of the Magna Carta in 1215.”

Article 12

Original: “No one shall be subjected to arbitrary interference with his privacy, family, home or correspondence, nor to attacks upon his honour and reputation.”

Addendum: “Surely the UN was kidding here? The authorities at Guantánamo Bay shall interfere with each detainee’s privacy, family, home and correspondence in every way possible. They will censor a young son’s correspondences to his father because it says, ‘I love you.’ They will degrade the detainees’ honour and reputation as much as possible, including watching them shower or use the toilet. They’ll insist on groping the detainees’ genitals in a ‘scrotum search’ any time they leave their cells.”

Article 13

Original: 1. “Everyone has the right to freedom of movement and residence within the borders of each state.”

2. “Everyone has the right to leave any country, including his own, and to return to his country.”

Addendum: 1. “Guantánamo detainees shall occasionally have the right to freedom of movement within their cells. Should they leave their cells, they have the inalienable right to be shackled tightly.”

2. “Guantánamo detainees can leave their cell to go to the small rec cage for two hours daily, although the authorities reserve the right to take detainees they don’t like there in the middle of the night.”

Article 14

Original: “Everyone has the right to seek and to enjoy in other countries asylum from persecution.”

Addendum: “The only asylum we recognise for most of these detainees is the mental asylum they will end up in if we are allowed to continue abusing them.”

Article 15

Original: “No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his nationality nor denied the right to change his nationality.”

Addendum: “Shaker Aamer had better be told that he needs to be sent to Saudi Arabia because that is the only way to ensure that complicity by British intelligence agents in his torture never gets to a British court of law.”

Article 16

Original: “The family is the natural and fundamental group unit of society and is entitled to protection by society and the State.”

Addendum: “But this really must not be allowed with Guantánamo prisoners. While lots of delusional radicals like UK Prime Minister David Cameron seem to think Shaker should be reunited with his family in London, this shall be refused indefinitely. Guantánamo shall continue to tell him that he cannot be returned to Britain and can only live in Saudi Arabia without his family.”

Article 17

Original: 1. “Everyone has the right to own property alone as well as in association with others.”

2. “No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his property.”

Addendum: 1. “Guantánamo detainees do not have any right to property, including pictures of their children, family and legal correspondence, medical prescriptions, hygienic items, and even their own underwear.”

2. “At every chance possible, Guantánamo guards shall raid and search detainees’ cells, taking everything they can. If the detainees irritate the guards with their peaceful hunger strikes, even the mats on which the men sleep should be taken, forcing the detainees to sleep on the bare concrete.”

Article 18

Original: “Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion.”

Addendum: “It would be absurd for the world to think the US military is going to apply this to Guantánamo. Prayer time shall be interrupted regularly and other Islamic religious requirements shall be ignored or wilfully violated.”

Article 19

Original: “Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.”

Addendum: “But we will censor every word that a detainee says, and every time his opinion is heard in the outside world, he shall be punished. In particular, Shaker Aamer shall be held in isolation most of the time, because he keeps on trying to express himself and this can be quite embarrassing to the military.”

Article 20

Original: “Everyone has the right to freedom of peaceful assembly and association.”

Addendum: “If the men in Guantánamo attempt to peacefully assemble, they shall be punished and placed in isolation (which should never be called that, because it looks bad, so let’s call it a ‘single cell operation’ or SCO). If the man who is trying to peacefully assemble is Shaker Aamer, he shall be FCE’d immediately and put back into his SCO. (FCE means a ‘Forcible Cell Extraction’, which covers up the fact that we’ll just beat him up.)”

Article 21

Original: 1. “Everyone has the right to take part in the government of his country, directly or through freely chosen representatives.”

2. “Everyone has the right to equal access to public service in his country.”

Addendum: “There’ll be no representation for the detainees. Detainees will not be allowed to go back to the country where they lived. Far better that they are allowed to gradually fall apart here in Cuba.”

Article 22

Original: “Everyone, as a member of society, has the right to social security and is entitled to realization, through national effort and international co-operation and in accordance with the organization and resources of each State, of the economic, social and cultural rights indispensable for his dignity and the free development of his personality.”

Addendum: “BUT everyone at Guantánamo is ordered to mind his own business, or suffer the consequences. Okay, so we’ve wasted $5 billion of US taxpayers’ money on the place so far, and are currently spending $2.7 million every year per prisoner in Guantánamo, but we would not want this spent on anything constructive; better by far that their culture should be mocked as much as possible.”

Article 23

Original: “Everyone has the right to work.”

Addendum: “The men in Guantánamo would like to work. After all, it’d be nice to have something to do. It’d be nice to earn a little money in order to buy clothing that fits, for example. But we can’t let that happen. These men are Muslims. We can’t trust them with the work programmes we provide in other prisons.”

Article 24

Original: “Everyone has the right to rest and leisure, including reasonable limitation of working hours and periodic holidays with pay.”

Addendum: “Sure, but not in Guantánamo. We’ll interrupt their sleep as much as we possibly can, sometimes even moving them from cell to cell to keep them awake. But, again, let’s not call this ‘sleep deprivation’; we’ll call it the ‘frequent flier programme’ as then maybe the media won’t work out what we’re doing.”

Article 25

Original: “Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services.”

Addendum: “You’ve got to be kidding me if you think this kind of socialist ‘benefits programme’ is going to be in the DNHR. Medical care shall be denied to the maximum extent possible and doctors shall take their orders from the military. If a detainee is prescribed medication, these will be given out at random, on a whim. Detainees will routinely be given old, worn, and ill-fitting clothing (one of our favourite ways to irritate people is to give small-sized clothing to larger men).”

Article 26

Original: “Everyone has the right to education. Education shall be free, at least in the elementary and fundamental states.”

Addendum: “The only education provided to Guantánamo detainees shall be regular lessons on doing precisely what they are told, when they are told to do it. Friendships between guards and detainees are strictly forbidden.”

Article 27

Original: 1. “Everyone has the right to freely participate in the cultural life of the community, to enjoy the arts and to share in scientific advancement and its benefits.”

2. “Everyone has the right to the protection of the moral and material interests resulting from any scientific, literary or artistic production of which he is the author.”

Addendum: 1. “The authorities at Guantánamo will snatch the photos detainees’ children have taken for their fathers. When a father draws a picture for his children, to show his love from afar, this picture will be destroyed. Detainees have the right to always give up their works of art to the authorities.”

2. “Books will be censored or not allowed in. For example, The Innocent Man by that little-heard of American author John Grisham, shall be banned.”

3. “The detainees do have the inalienable right to be subjected to our experiments, both to assess the best way to break them during interrogation sessions, and to see what impact the involuntary and secretive use of drugs might have on them.”

Article 28

Original: “Everyone is entitled to a social and international order in which the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration can be fully realized.”

Addendum: “Every man detained in Guantánamo is entitled to the prohibition of any rights set forth in the original UDHR, unless those rights have been reinterpreted in the Guantánamo Declaration of No Human Rights. If the men demand that the United Nations come to Guantánamo and enforce the UDHR, we can all be very sure it will not be permitted.”

Article 29

Original: 1. “Everyone has duties to the community in which alone the free and full development of his personality is possible.”

2. “In the exercise of his rights and freedoms, everyone shall be subject only to such limitations as are determined by law solely for the purpose of securing due recognition and respect for the rights and freedoms of others and of meeting the just requirements of morality, public order and the general welfare in a democratic society…”

Addendum: “A Guantánamo detainee shall be duty bound to do precisely as he is told. His personality should be developed to ensure he expresses no personal opinion whatsoever, but becomes an automaton guided solely by the authoritarian will of the United States of America.”

Andy Worthington is a freelance investigative journalist, activist, author, photographer and film-maker. He is the co-founder of the “Close Guantánamo” campaign, and 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) and of two other books: Stonehenge: Celebration and Subversion and The Battle of the Beanfield. He is also the co-director (with Polly Nash) of the documentary film, “Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo” (available on DVD here — or here for the US).

To receive new articles in your inbox, please subscribe to Andy’s RSS feed — and he can also be found on Facebook (and here), Twitter, Flickr and YouTube. Also see the six-part definitive Guantánamo prisoner list, and “The Complete Guantánamo Files,” an ongoing, 70-part, million-word series drawing on files released by WikiLeaks in April 2011. Also see the definitive Guantánamo habeas list, the full military commissions list, and the chronological list of all Andy’s articles.

Please also consider joining the “Close Guantánamo” campaign, and, if you appreciate Andy’s work, feel free to make a donation.

5 Responses

  1. Andy Worthington says...

    On Facebook, Bob Levin wrote:

    Shaker Aamer for President in 2016! Free circumcision using Costco plastic picnic knives without anesthesia for the neocon fascist vermin of the military industrial complex! I’m not a doctor, but I have some good ideas about giving circumcisions and volunteer to try and make Mitch McConnell’s shriveled wiener kosher! LOL

  2. Andy Worthington says...

    Thanks, Bob, for that particular perspective on the “neocon fascist vermin of the military industrial complex.” I like the idea of Shaker Aamer for President in 2016. That would make a good T-shirt – as would Shaker Aamer for Prime Minister in 2015!

  3. Andy Worthington says...

    So the intro to this article is the same as the one I published yesterday on Close Guantanamo, but the cross-posted article is different. Just clarifying to avoid any confusion. This is what I posted yesterday:

  4. Andy Worthington says...

    Musa Adams wrote:

    You MUST comprehend the major difference between inalienable rights and statutory rights.
    REFUSE to accept statutory rights in place of your inalienable rights!
    Statutory rights are made, given and can be manipulated by man. Therefore accepting them means you accept by tacit agreement that because they were defined by men from square one they can also be taken away by men, reinterpreted by men, etc.

  5. Andy Worthington says...

    Thanks, Musa. Good points.

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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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