Video: Guantánamo Attorney Shelby Sullivan-Bennis and I Discuss the Prison’s Ongoing Horrors for Revolution Books Online

18.1.21

A screenshot from “America’s Torture Colony: 19 Years of Guantánamo … It Must Be Closed NOW!”, an online event hosted by Revolution Books, featuring Andy Worthington and Shelby Sullivan-Bennis, and host Raymond Lotta.

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Yesterday, I was delighted to take part in a two-hour online discussion about Guantánamo, with the attorney Shelby Sullivan-Bennis, which was hosted by Revolution Books in New York, and live streamed on YouTube and Facebook.

Before the arrival of Covid, the Revolution Books event was one of the regular highlights of my annual visits to the US (every January from 2011 to 2020), to mark the anniversary of the prison’s opening on January 11, 2002 — and last year, Shelby joined me for the first time, in what was a highly-charged event, as we had just spent the day deep in discussion about Guantánamo, at an exhibition of art by the prisoners, at CUNY Law School in Queens, which Shelby had played a major part in organizing.

This year, of course, all live events on and around the anniversary were called off, and I wasn’t able to visit the US at all, but the Zoom event that replaced the in-store presentation was still a very powerful and emotional event, and while nothing quite compares to being in a room with an audience and interacting with them (and even going out for dinner in Harlem afterwards!), Zoom allows people to join an event from all round the world, and, as yesterday demonstrated, doesn’t necessarily hamper the ability to get a message across.

The video is below, via YouTube:

The video starts with an introduction by Raymond Lotta of Revolution Books, and I gave a summary of the current situation at Guantánamo, and a brief account of its history under George W. Bush, Barack Obama and Donald Trump, starting at 4:30. Shelby then took over, introducing her work and discussing some of her clients, at 18:00.

After Shelby spoke, Raymond was back at 28:00, and asked me to provide further background on Guantánamo throughout its history, which I did from 30:50 to 50:00. Raymond then opened up the discussion to further questions from viewers, with Shelby responding at length to a question about hunger strikes that helped to shed light on the fundamental cruelty and inhumanity of Guantánamo.

I don’t want to provide more of a breakdown of the event, because I really hope you have time to watch it — or to listen to it while doing something else. I think it was a powerful journey through the long, unforgivable and still ongoing story of Guantánamo, suffused with anger, indignation, sorrow and pain, especially, I have to say, from Shelby, who brings the horror of what is being done to the men still held at Guantánamo, like a wound, into her life in the US only to find that, 19 years after Guantánamo opened, the media and the American people have largely lost interest, if they were ever engaged in the first place.

Please help us make people remember, or to pay attention in the first place, in this first year of the Biden administration, as we approach an anniversary that really shouldn’t be allowed to happen — the 20th anniversary of the opening of Guantánamo, on January 11, 2022.

* * * * *

Andy Worthington is a freelance investigative journalist, activist, author, photographer, film-maker and singer-songwriter (the lead singer and main songwriter for the London-based band The Four Fathers, whose music is available via Bandcamp). He is the co-founder of the Close Guantánamo campaign (and see the latest photo campaign here) and the successful We Stand With Shaker campaign of 2014-15, and the author of The Guantánamo Files: The Stories of the 774 Detainees in America’s Illegal Prison 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, or you can watch it online here, via the production company Spectacle, for £2.55), and for his photo project ‘The State of London’ he publishes a photo a day from eight years of bike rides around the 120 postcodes of the capital.

In 2017, Andy became very involved in housing issues. He is the narrator of the documentary film, ‘Concrete Soldiers UK’, about the destruction of council estates, and the inspiring resistance of residents, he wrote a song ‘Grenfell’, in the aftermath of the entirely preventable fire in June 2017 that killed over 70 people, and he also set up ‘No Social Cleansing in Lewisham’ as a focal point for resistance to estate destruction and the loss of community space in his home borough in south east London. For two months, from August to October 2018, he was part of the occupation of the Old Tidemill Wildlife Garden in Deptford, to prevent its destruction — and that of 16 structurally sound council flats next door — by Lewisham Council and Peabody. Although the garden was violently evicted by bailiffs on October 29, 2018, and the trees were cut down on February 27, 2019, the resistance continues.

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, The Complete Guantánamo Files, 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.

2 Responses

  1. Andy Worthington says...

    When I posted this on Facebook, I wrote:

    Here’s my latest article, linking to the video of an online event about Guantanamo at Revolution Books in New York yesterday, in which I appeared with attorney Shelby Sullivan-Bennis, and host Raymond Lotta.

    It may have been online, but it was, nevertheless, a powerful and emotional event. I had the opportunity to discuss Guantanamo’s uniquely appalling history at length, and Shelby brought some heartbreaking stories from inside the prison.

    Joe Biden, it is time for this place of abominable cruelty to be brought to an end.

  2. Andy Worthington says...

    For a Spanish version on the World Can’t Wait’s Spanish website, see ‘Vídeo: La abogada de Guantánamo Shelby Sullivan-Bennis y yo discutimos los continuos horrores de la prisión en línea para Revolution Books’: http://worldcantwait-la.com/worthington-video-abogada-de-gitmo-shelby-sullivan-bennis-y-yo-discutimos-continuos-horrores-de-gitmo-rb-nyc.htm

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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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