Archive for December, 2021

Videos of ‘Guantánamo: 20 Years After’, the Brighton University Online Conference on Nov. 12-13, 2021

A header from the website of the online conference, ‘Guantánamo: 20 Years After’, hosted by the University of Brighton, which took place on Nov. 12-13, 2021

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. If you can help, please click on the button below to donate via PayPal.




 

With just twelve days to go until the 20th anniversary of the opening of the prison at Guantánamo Bay, this would seem like a good time to make available some of the videos from ‘Guantánamo: 20 Years After’, the online conference on November 12 and 13, hosted by the University of Brighton, which I helped to organize.

The conference featured two keynote speakers (myself and former prisoner Shaker Aamer, standing in at the last minute for Mohamedou Ould Slahi), guest speakers Mansoor Adayfi (another former prisoner) and Antonio Aiello (who worked with Mansoor on his memoir, Don’t Forget Us Here, published this summer), ten academics delivering papers, and three panel discussions.

I posted a report about the conference just after it had taken place, although at the time videos of the presentations weren’t available, so I’m delighted to be able to present them now for those of you who weren’t able to attend the conference — or even for those of you who were, and will appreciate seeing them again.

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“The Forever Prisoner”: Alex Gibney’s New Documentary About CIA Torture Victim Abu Zubaydah

The poster for Alex Gibney’s new documentary film, “The Forever Prisoner,” released by HBO on December 6, 2021.

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. 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.

In the long litany of torture and abuse inflicted by the US government on prisoners in the brutal “war on terror” that the Bush administration declared after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, few have suffered as much as Abu Zubaydah (Zayn al-Abidin Muhammad Husayn), for whom, mistakenly, the CIA’s post-9/11 torture program was invented.

For as long as I have been studying and writing about Guantánamo, it has been apparent that Abu Zubaydah’s story is one of the darkest in the entire sorry saga of how the US lost its moral compass after 9/11.

Seized in a house raid in Faisalabad, Pakistan, in March 2002, in which he was shot and badly wounded, he was then flown to the CIA’s first post-9/11 torture prison, in Thailand. This was the start four and a half years in CIA “black sites” — including in Poland, in a “black site” in Guantánamo Bay that existed for six months in 2003-04, in Morocco, in Lithuania and in Afghanistan — before his eventual transfer back to Guantánamo, with 13 other “high-value detainees,” in September 2006.

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Video: I Discuss Resistance and Creativity at Guantánamo and the Plight of Former Prisoners with Mansoor Adayfi

A screenshot of “Life After Guantánamo,” an online discussion between Andy Worthington and former prisoner Mansoor Adayfi, hosted by the Justice for Muslims Collective, which took place on December 9, 2021.

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. If you can help, please click on the button below to donate via PayPal.




 

Last week, I was delighted to take part in “Life After Guantánamo,” an online discussion with former prisoner Mansoor Adayfi, hosted by the Justice for Muslims Collective, which was also intended to raise funds for Mansoor, who, like the majority of former prisoners, remains haunted by the unjustifiable “taint” of Guantánamo, preventing them from getting paid work and supporting themselves.

The fundraising page is here, on Facebook, if you’re able to make a donation, although it closes in two days’ time. To date, around $5,700 has been raised towards the target of $20,000 — to cover Mansoor’s medical care, tuition fees and his work as a writer and advocate for Guantánamo’s closure.

The event, introduced by Maha Hilal, lasted for just over an hour, and the video of it is here. I’ve also embedded it below.

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Video: Senate Judiciary Committee Hearing Powerfully Endorses Closure of Guantánamo, But Republicans Still Mired in “War on Terror” Hysteria

A screenshot of Sen. Dick Durbin introducing the Senate Judiciary Committee’s hearing, “Closing Guantánamo: Ending 20 Years of Injustice,” on December 7, 2021.

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. If you can help, please click on the button below to donate via PayPal.




 

Last Tuesday (Dec. 7), the Senate Judiciary Committee held a powerful hearing, “Closing Guantánamo: Ending 20 Years of Injustice,” which presented an unerring case for the prison at Guantánamo Bay to be closed. The committee’s chair, Sen. Dick Durbin, the Senate Majority Whip, and the second most influential Democrat in Congress, is a longtime opponent of the existence of Guantánamo, and has been doing all he can to ensure its closure since Joe Biden became president in January.

in April, Sen. Durbin was the lead signatory of a letter to President Biden urging him to close the prison, which was also signed by 23 other Democratic Senators (a House version, in August, was signed by 75 Democratic members of the House of Representatives). The letters were particularly significant because the lawmakers recognized that holding prisoners indefinitely without charge or trial is unacceptable, and urged the Biden administration to release everyone still held who has not been charged (27 of the remaining 39 prisoners), with plea deals to be negotiated for the prisoners charged with crimes, to bring to an end the irredeemably broken military commission system in which they are currently trapped.

The lawmakers also called for a senior White House official to be appointed to be accountable for the prison’s closure, and for the role of the Special Envoy for Guantánamo Closure at the State Department, responsible for prisoner releases and post-release monitoring, to be revived, and they also urged the Justice Department to abandon its long-held position of resisting every legal challenge submitted by the prisoners, even in cases where the administration itself has endorsed their release. As the Senators explained, “If the Justice Department were not to oppose habeas petitions in appropriate cases, those detainees could be transferred more easily pursuant to court orders.”

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Quarterly Fundraiser: $2500 (£2000) Needed to Support My Work to Close Guantánamo As We Approach the 20th Anniversary of Its Opening

Andy Worthington calling for the closure of the prison at Guantánamo Bay outside the White House on January 11, 2020 (Photo: Witness Against Torture).

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 into 2021, and/or for my London photo-journalism project ‘The State of London’.





 

Dear friends and supporters,

Every three months, I ask you, if you can, to make a donation to support my ongoing work on Guantánamo — researching and writing about the shameful lawlessness of the prison and the plight of the men still held, and campaigning to get it closed down. I’ve been doing this work for nearly 16 years now, and, as a reader-funded journalist and activist, I rely on your support to enable me to keep running three websites (Andy Worthington, Close Guantánamo and the Gitmo Clock), maintaining the associated social media, and engaging in public speaking and events.

Shamefully, we’re just a month away from an anniversary that all of us opposed to Guantánamo’s existence hoped would never arrive — the 20th anniversary of the prison’s opening, on January 11, 2022. And sadly, despite huge efforts this year to push Joe Biden to take decisive action (including by Senators and Representatives in his own party), very little has actually happened. Just one man has been freed, and while eight of the 39 men still held have been approved for release by Periodic Review Boards (a high-level US government review process) since he took office, none of them have been freed, and five others approved for release before he took office are also still held.

As the anniversary approaches, I’m working on a number of online events to highlight the need for Guantánamo to be closed (and I’d also like to ask you to take photos with the Close Guantánamo campaign’s posters marking 7,300 days of the prison’s existence on Jan. 5, and 7,306 days on Jan. 11, and to send them to us), and I’ll let you know more about these plans as they develop.

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UK Judges Rule That WikiLeaks Founder Julian Assange Can Be Extradited to the US, Accepting Risible US Assurances Regarding His Mental Health and Suicide Risk

A protestor opposing WikiLeaks’ founder Julian Assange’s proposed extradition to the US outside the Old Bailey in London on October 1, 2020 (Photo: Andy Worthington).

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In a depressing but predictable ruling in the High Court in London today, two judges have overturned a lower court ruling preventing the extradition to the US of WikiLeaks’ founder Julian Assange, accepting US assurances that he will not be held in conditions that, as a result of his fragile mental state, would result in him committing suicide. The previous ruling, made in January this year by Judge Vanessa Baraitser, prevented his extradition because of the perceived suicide risk.

I happen to agree with his lawyers that the US assurances are fundamentally untrustworthy, as I explained in an article in October, Like a Wheedling Abuser, the US Makes Groundless Promises in Julian Assange’s Extradition Appeal, but what is particularly dispiriting about today’s ruling is how it wasn’t allowed to focus on the key reason why Assange shouldn’t be extradited, which had already been dismissed by Judge Baraitser; namely, that prosecuting a publisher for publishing confidential government documents (in this case leaked by Chelsea Manning) that highlight government wrongdoing — and even involvement in war crimes — is a necessary prerequisite for press freedom.

It is also worth noting, of course, that if Assange is to be prosecuted for publishing the material leaked by Chelsea Manning, then so too should the New York Times, the Washington Post, McClatchy, the Guardian, the Daily Telegraph and numerous other newspapers that worked with Assange on the publication of these documents.

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Join Me on Dec. 9 for an Online Discussion About Guantánamo with Mansoor Adayfi, Author and Former Prisoner

Promotional material for Andy Worthington’s online interview with former Guantánamo prisoner and author Mansoor Adayfi, hosted by the Justice for Muslims Collective on Thursday December 9, 2021.

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. If you can help, please click on the button below to donate via PayPal.





 

I’m honored to be interviewing former Guantánamo prisoner Mansoor Adayfi in an online event this Thursday, Dec. 9, hosted by the Justice for Muslims Collective. This free event is taking place on Zoom, and if you’re interested, please register here. The event is intended primarily as a fundraiser for Mansoor, so if you can help out at all, please visit this page.

Mansoor, a Yemeni, is the talented writer of an extraordinary Guantánamo memoir, Don’t Forget Us Here: Lost and Found at Guantánamo, which I reviewed on its release in August, when I described it as “a devastating account of Guantánamo’s cruelty, but one suffused with hope, humor and humanity.”

I’ll be asking Mansoor to talk about his experiences as one of the “red-eyes,” a group of a dozen young Yemenis, who resisted the brutality and injustice of their imprisonment through persistent hunger strikes and non-compliance, for which they were made to suffer through repeated isolation and considerable violence, all of which was fundamentally unrelated to whatever it was that they were — or were not — alleged to have done before they got to Guantánamo.

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Sen. Dick Durbin Files Amendment to National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) Calling for the Closure of Guantánamo

Sen. Dick Durbin calling for the closure of Guantánamo in the Senate on Nov. 30, 2021, and campaigners for the closure of Guantánamo outside the Capitol on January 11, 2012, the 10th anniversary of the prison’s opening.

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. 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.

On Tuesday (November 30), Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL), the US Senate Majority Whip, and the Chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, spoke in the Senate “about the importance of closing the Guantánamo Bay detention facility and announced he had filed an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) to close the facility once and for all”, as he explained on his website. Sen. Durbin has a long history of opposing the existence of the prison at Guantánamo Bay, and in April was the lead signatory of a letter to President Biden urging him to close the prison, which was also signed by 23 other Democratic Senators (a House version, in August, was signed by 75 Democratic members of the House of Representatives). In addition, in July, Sen. Durbin wrote to Attorney General Merrick Garland, urging him to bring to an end the Justice Department’s persistent efforts “to rationalize indefinite detention at Guantánamo.”

The annual NDAA has cynically prevented the use of government funds to close the prison — as well as the transfer of prisoners to the US mainland for any reason — since the Obama presidency, and while the transfer provisions have been dropped in the House’s version of the NDAA this year, they have not been dropped by the Senate. House and Senate representatives are meeting soon to agree a final version of next year’s Act, and you can write to them here to urge them to drop the transfer prohibition, but Sen. Durbin’s amendment obviously goes much further.

Sen. Durbin began his speech by honoring “the life and legacy of US Army Major Ian Fishback, who spoke out against America’s inhumane treatment of detainees after 9/11,” and who, sadly, passed away last month at the age of 42. He was, as Sen. Durbin explained, “integral in rallying support for the torture amendment that Durbin led with the late Senator John McCain” in 2005, “which explicitly banned inhumane treatment of any prisoner being held by the US government — on American soil, or abroad.”

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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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