Archive for December, 2018

Celebrating 600 Days of My Photo-Journalism Project ‘The State of London’, as 2018 Ends

The most recent photos from Andy Worthington's photo-journalism project 'The State of London.'

Please support my work as a reader-funded journalist, photographer and activist. If you can help, please click on the button below to donate via PayPal.




 

Over six and a half years ago — in fact, 2,426 days ago, on May 11, 2012 — I embarked on a project that provided me with a new creative outlet, and that would, in many ways, re-define my life. With a point-and-shoot digital camera in my pocket, given to me by my wife for Christmas at the end of 2011, I started a photo-journalism project that, in time, I gave a name that I think has a powerful resonance — ‘The State of London’, and that I soon conceived of as a personal photo-journalistic record of the fabric of the city, in which I intended to visit and take photos in all 120 of its postcodes (those beginning SE, E, N, NW, W, SW, EC and WC), as well as in some of the outlying boroughs.

Five years after I started the project, on May 11, 2017, with tens of thousands of photos sitting on my computer (and, yes, on a separate hard drive), and with a skeletal website lying dormant because of my inability to find time to populate it with images and stories, I decided instead to start posting a photo a day on Facebook — and later on Twitter. Today marks 600 days since that project began, and I’m delighted that I now have over a thousand followers on Facebook. 

See all the photos here!

On that first day, as I cycled from my home in Brockley, in south east London, down through Deptford and Greenwich, looking at everything with a photo-journalist’s eye, I had no real concept of quite how big London is, and how immense a project would be that involved visiting and taking photos in all 120 of its postcodes. It took me until September 2014 to visit all 120 postcodes — and although I’ve managed to post photos from the majority of these postcodes in the last 600 days it’s only fair of me to admit that there are some areas of London that I’ve still only visited once or twice — although, ever enthusiastic for journeys to far-flung corners of the capital where I can still get lost, as I used to do wherever I went in the early days, I hope to remedy that in 2019! Read the rest of this entry »

Lewisham Council Narrowly Avoids Defeat of Its Tidemill Plans by the Constituency Labour Party

'Criminal damage': graffiti on the hoarding erected around the Old Tidemill Wildlife Garden in Deptford after its violent eviction on October 29, 2018 (Photo: Ruby Radburn).Please support my work as a reader-funded investigative journalist, commentator and activist. If you can help, please click on the button below to donate via PayPal.




 

On December 18, Lewisham Council narrowly avoided a humiliating defeat regarding its bitterly contested plans for the Tidemill development site in Deptford, when the Constituency Labour Party General Committee almost passed a powerful motion tabled by member Bill Jefferies. The final vote was 24:24 with the Chair casting the vote that lost it.

Bill Jefferies’ ‘Motion on the Tidemill Gardens Security Operation’ called on Lewisham Council to immediately take four actions in relation to the Tidemill development site:

1) To put a halt on the Tidemill scheme while new plans are developed that meet the needs of residents and people in need of council housing
2) To honour its commitment to ballot council house residents affected by the Tidemill scheme
3) To immediately sever all links with County Enforcement
4) To end the occupation by bailiffs of the Tidemill site now

The Tidemill site consists of the old Tidemill primary school, which closed in 2012, the 16 council flats of Reginald House, which the council wants to destroy, and the Old Tidemill Wildlife Garden, formerly part of the school, which the council also wants to destroy. Read the rest of this entry »

The Unending Punishment of Former Guantánamo Prisoner Omar Khadr

A screenshot from a video of former Guantanamo prisoner Omar Khadr on December 13, 2018, outside the court in Edmonton where he was unsuccessfully seeking a loosening of his bail conditions.Please support my work as a reader-funded journalist! I’m currently trying to raise $2500 (£2000) to support my writing and campaigning on Guantánamo and related issues over the next three months of the Trump administration. If you can help, please click on the button below to donate via PayPal.




 

Canada, contrasting itself with its neighbor to the south, the United States, likes to present itself as a beacon of justice and fairness, and yet, when to comes to the high-profile case of its citizen Omar Khadr, who was held at Guantánamo for nearly ten years, the Canadian government’s behavior has been almost unremittingly appalling.

Khadr was a child — just 15 years old — when, gravely wounded, he was seized by US forces in July 2002 after a firefight in Afghanistan, where he had been taken by his father. However, instead of treating him as a child who was not responsible for his own actions, and rehabilitating him, rather than punishing him, according to the terms of the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the involvement of children in armed conflicts, which entered into force on February 12, 2002, and to which both the US and Canada are signatories, the US treated him appallingly, and, when Canadian agents were sent to Guantánamo to interview him, they failed to uphold his rights as a Canadian citizen.

The Canadian Supreme Court eventually delivered a powerful ruling regarding the violation of his rights, and, under Justin Trudeau, the government finally made amends for its behavior, paying him $10.5m in Canadian dollars (about $9m in US currency) in July 2017, following similar payments to other victims of Canada’s shameful post-9/11 behavior — a number of Canadian citizens of Syrian origin who were tortured in Syria (and in one case, that of Maher Arar, kidnapped in the US first, and then sent to Syria for torture) with the full collusion of the Canadian authorities. Read the rest of this entry »

Why the Conviction of the Stansted 15, on Terrorism-Related Charges, Must Be Overturned

The Stansted 15 (Photo: Kristian Buus / Getty Images).Please support my work as a reader-funded investigative journalist, commentator and activist. If you can help, please click on the button below to donate via PayPal.




 

As someone who has spent the last 13 years working to end imprisonment without charge or trial at Guantánamo, it has always been chilling to see these institutional crimes echoed in the UK. Under Tony Blair, foreign-born, alleged terror suspects were held without charge or trial on the basis of secret evidence, while other foreign nationals, and British nationals too, also regarded as terror suspects, were subjected to a form of house arrest, also on the basis of secret evidence, under what were known as “control orders.”

Unfortunately, throughout this period, the use of immigration detention was also on the rise. As the Guardian explained in an article in October based on a survey of its history, “The power to detain was created in the 1971 Immigration Act – however, it was not until the Labour government under Tony Blair that the detention estate expanded to become what it is today. In 2000, detention centres could hold 475 people, with another 200 or so held under immigration powers in prisons. Capacity has now expanded to about 3,500 spaces.”

The Guardian article noted that “[m]ore than 27,000 people were detained in 2017, according to the most recent figures”, adding, “Detention is now a significant part of the UK’s immigration enforcement efforts, but locking up immigrants without a time limit is a relatively recent phenomenon.” Read the rest of this entry »

The Forgotten Torture Report: It’s Ten Years Since the Publication of the Senate Armed Services Committee’s Pioneering ‘Inquiry into the Treatment of Detainees in US Custody’

George W. Bush, Donald Rumsfeld and Dick Cheney.Please support my work as a reader-funded journalist! I’m currently trying to raise $2500 (£2000) to support my writing and campaigning on Guantánamo and related issues over the next three months of the Trump administration. If you can help, please click on the button below to donate via PayPal.




 

On December 9, I published an article marking the 4th anniversary of the publication of the executive summary of the Senate Intelligence Committee’s report into the CIA’s detention and interrogation program, a five-year, $40 million project that demonstrated that torture was “not an effective means of acquiring intelligence or gaining cooperation from detainees”, that the interrogations “were brutal and far worse than the CIA represented to policymakers and others,” that the CIA made “inaccurate claims” about the “effectiveness” of the programme in an attempt to justify it and that it “led to friction with other agencies that endangered national security, as well as providing false statements that led to costly and worthless wild goose chases,” as I explained in an article at the time for Al-Jazeera.

With peoples’ minds still, hopefully, focused on questions of accountability, I also wanted to flag up that December 11 marked the 10th anniversary of an earlier report, the Senate Armed Services Committee’s ‘Inquiry into the Treatment of Detainees in US Custody,’ released on December 11, 2008, that, rather than focusing on the CIA, specifically exposed wrongdoing at the highest levels of the Bush administration.

The bipartisan report, issued by the committee’s chairman, Sen. Carl Levin, and its senior Republican, Sen. John McCain, runs to 232 pages, with a 29-page executive summary, and was based on a two-year investigation. In the course of its investigations the committee “reviewed more than 200,000 pages of classified and unclassified documents, including detention and interrogation policies, memoranda, electronic communications, training manuals, and the results of previous investigations into detainee abuse.” The committee also “interviewed over 70 individuals in connection with its inquiry,” mostly DoD, but also DoJ and FBI, “issued two subpoenas and held two hearings to take testimony from subpoenaed witnesses,” sent “written questions to more than 200 individuals,” and also “held public hearings on June 17, 2008 and September 25, 2008,” the transcripts of which, running to 380 pages, can be found here. Read the rest of this entry »

Remembering Judge John J. Gibbons, The Man Who Brought Habeas Corpus to Guantánamo

Judge John J. Gibbons, who has died aged 94, and prisoners at Guantanamo on the prison's opening day, January 11, 2002. Judge Gibbons successfully argued for their habeas corpus rights before the Supreme Court in 2004.Please support my work as a reader-funded journalist! I’m currently trying to raise $2500 (£2000) to support my writing and campaigning on Guantánamo and related issues over the next three months of the Trump administration. If you can help, please click on the button below to donate via PayPal.




 

I wrote the following article for the “Close Guantánamo” website, which I established in January 2012, on the 10th anniversary of the opening of Guantánamo, with the 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.

Here at “Close Guantánamo,” we are saddened to hear of the death, at the age of 94, of Judge John J. Gibbons, who was one of the signatories to our initial mission statement when we first launched “Close Guantánamo” on January 11, 2012, the 10th anniversary of the opening of the prison. Appointed in 1970 to the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit, in Philadelphia, by Richard Nixon, he served on that court for 20 years, the last three as Chief Judge. While at the court, he authored more than 800 opinions.

When he left the bench, Judge Gibbons became a Professor of Law at Seton Hall University School of Law in New Jersey, and also rejoined the firm he had been part of prior to becoming a judge, which become known as Gibbons, Del Deo, Dolan, Griffinger & Vecchione in 1997, and then Gibbons P.C. in 2007.

Although he was a Republican, and, as Chris Hedges noted in a New York Times profile in February 2004, “his politics tend[ed] to veer to the conservative,” he was also “at once an insider and an outsider,” something of a “gadfly” at his largely corporate firm, where he was “one of the state’s leading crusaders against the death penalty.” He had, he told Hedges, “always been outraged by the use of the death penalty,” which was why his firm “filed ‘friend of the court’ briefs in almost every death penalty case in New Jersey.” Read the rest of this entry »

Quarterly Fundraiser Day 4: Still Seeking $2200 (£1750) to Support My Guantánamo Work, My Housing Activism, Music and Photography

Three photos of Andy Worthington, as an anti-Guantanamo campaigner, singer-songwriter and housing activist.Please click on the ‘Donate’ button below to make a donation towards the $2,200 (£1,750) I’m still trying to raise to support my work on Guantánamo over the next three months of the Trump administration, and/or my housing activism, photography and music.




 

Dear friends and supporters, and any engaged passers-by,

It’s nearly 13 years since I started working full-time as an independent journalist researching and writing about Guantánamo, and working to get the prison closed down. In that time, I’ve been employed by various media and human rights organizations, and have also been fortunate to have the support of a few prominent human rights-supporting individuals, but I have also become — most significantly, I think — a reader-funded journalist, activist and creator.

Over the years, there have been times when Guantánamo has slipped off the radar — for nearly three years under President Obama, between 2010 and 2013, when Congress conspired to make it difficult for him to release prisoners, and he responded by sitting on his hands rathe than spending politics capital overcoming lawmakers’ obstruction, and, of course, in the nearly two years since Donald Trump became president.

Because Trump has effectively sealed the prison shut, refusing to release anyone, it has become increasingly difficult to keep Guantánamo in the public eye, although I have been doing my best to keep focusing on it. I’m currently working on profiles of the remaining 40 prisoners, in the run-up to the 17th anniversary of the opening of the prison, on January 11, when I will, as usual, be visiting the US to campaign for the prison’s closure — a visit for which your support will be very helpful — and I’m also looking into finding a way to focus on the rights of former prisoners, many of whom have ended up in extremely vulnerable positions because Donald Trump closed down the US government office that dealt with re-settlements, and monitored prisoners after their release. Read the rest of this entry »

It’s Human Rights Day – and Day One of My Quarterly Fundraiser, In Which I’m Trying to Raise $2500 (£2000) to Support My Guantánamo Work

Andy Worthington marks 6,000 days of Guantanamo on June 15, 2018.Please click on the ‘Donate’ button below to make a donation towards the $2,500 (£2,000) I’m trying to raise to support my work on Guantánamo over the next three months of the Trump administration.




 

Dear friends and supporters,

Every three months I ask you, if you can, to make a donation to support my ongoing work as an independent journalist, activist and commentator, working to try and secure the closure of the prison at Guantánamo Bay.

Today seems to be a particularly appropriate time to launch my latest fundraiser, as it is Human Rights Day, marking the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights by the General Assembly of the United Nations. That was exactly 70 years ago, on December 10, 1948, when, in response to the horrors of the Second World War, “representatives with different legal and cultural backgrounds from all regions of the world” created the UDHR “as a common standard of achievements for all peoples and all nations”, which set out, for the first time, “fundamental human rights to be universally protected”, as the UN explains on its website.

Human rights are central to the problems of Guantánamo — a place intended to be beyond the each of the US courts, where men and boys seized in the “war on terror” that the US declared in response to the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 were imprisoned without any rights whatsoever, held neither as criminal suspects, to be charged and tried, or as prisoners of war, and subjected to torture an other forms of abuse, contravening Article 5 of the UDHR — “No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment” — as well as Articles 9 and 10: “No one shall be subjected to arbitrary arrest, detention or exile” and “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.” Read the rest of this entry »

It’s Four Years Since the Executive Summary of the Senate Torture Report Was Published: Where’s the Full Report?

A cleaner at CIA headquarters.Please support my work as a reader-funded journalist! I’m currently trying to raise $2500 (£2000) to support my writing and campaigning on Guantánamo and related issues over the next three months of the Trump administration. If you can help, please click on the button below to donate via PayPal.




 

Today, December 9, marks four years since the executive summary of the Senate Intelligence Committee’s report into the CIA’s post-9/11 torture program was published. Although this 500-page document was quite heavily redacted, its release was nevertheless something of a triumph for America’s notion of itself as having a government whose actions are subjected to checks and balances.

The full 6,000-page report, which took five years and $40 million to compile, was approved by nine members of the committee to six on December 13, 2012, and the executive summary was released eight months after the committee voted to release significant parts of the report — key findings and an executive summary.

What was released was devastating for the CIA.

As I explained in an article for Al-Jazeera, entitled, ‘Punishment, not apology after CIA torture report’, which was published the day after the executive summary was published: Read the rest of this entry »

Today Guantánamo Has Been Open For 6,175 Days, and on Jan. 1, 2019 It Will Have Been Open for 6,200 Days: Please Join Our Photo Campaign!

Nine photos from Close Guantanamo's 2018 photo campaign, with supporters holding up posters showing how long Guantanamo has been open, and urging Donald Trump to close it.Please support my work as a reader-funded journalist! I’m currently trying to raise $2500 (£2000) to support my writing and campaigning on Guantánamo and related issues over the next three months of the Trump administration. If you can help, please click on the button below to donate via PayPal.




 

I wrote the following article for the “Close Guantánamo” website, which I established in January 2012, on the 10th anniversary of the opening of Guantánamo, with the 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.

Today December 7, 2018, the prison at Guantánamo Bay has been open for 6,175 days, or, to put it another way, 16 years, ten months and 26 days.

When it comes to thinking about how long that is, I recall that my son, who turns 19 in two weeks’ time, was just two years old when Guantánamo opened, and I try to imagine being held for all that time without any of the rights and protections that people deprived of their liberty in countries that claim to respect the rule of law normally take for granted — the right not to be held indefinitely without charge or trial, or, if seized in wartime, the right to be held unmolested until a definable end of hostilities.

At Guantánamo, the prisoners were fundamentally stripped of all their rights as human beings, and, despite various efforts to give them rights, that unacceptable position remains fundamentally true. As you read this, here and now, the only way anyone can get out of Guantánamo is at the whim of the president — and this particular president has no interest in releasing anyone at all. 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 (The State of London).
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