The Latest Scandal of the Military Commissions at Guantánamo: A Death Penalty Case Without a Death Penalty Lawyer

The US flag, seen through barbed wire, at Guantanamo.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.


The military commissions at Guantánamo, since they were ill-advisedly dragged out of the history books by the Bush administration, have persistently failed to demonstrate anything more than a tangential relationship to justice, as I have been reporting for over ten years. Last September, I summarized the trial system’s many failures in an article entitled, Not Fit for Purpose: The Ongoing Failure of Guantánamo’s Military Commissions.

Under Donald Trump, there has been no improvement. Pre-trial hearings drag on, seemingly interminably, as defense lawyers seek to expose evidence of the torture of their clients in CIA “black sites,” while prosecutors, for the government, do everything they can to hide that evidence. Earlier this month, however, as I explained in a recent article, a new low point was reached when, astonishingly, the chief defense counsel, Brig. Gen. John Baker, was briefly imprisoned for defending the right of three civilian defense attorneys to resign after they found out that the government had been spying on them.

The loss of the attorneys led to a disgraceful situation in which the government insisted on limping on with the capital case — against Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, a victim of CIA torture, and the alleged mastermind of the bombing of the USS Cole in 2000 — even though it is illegal to pursue a capital case without a qualified death penalty lawyer on board. That role was filled by Rick Kammen, who had been on al-Nashiri’s case for nine years. Read the rest of this entry »

Echoes of Ancient Rome: Photos of the Roman Forum, the Colosseum and the Palatine Hill

The Forum of Caesar, from the road to the ColosseumStatue of Nero and Trajan's MarketFirst view of the Roman ForumThe Arch of Septimius SeverusThe Temple of VestaThe Temple of Saturn and the Capitoline Hill
The Temple of RomulusThe giant arches of the Basilica of Maxentius and ConstantineThe Arch of Titus and the Colosseum from the Palatine HillSculpture on the Arch of TitusThe house of the Vestal VirginsThe remains of the Temple of Castor and Pollux
The Roman Forum from the Temple of SaturnThe ColosseumThe Arch of ConstantineThe Colosseum close upLooking into the ColosseumInside the Colosseum
Looking along the axis of the ColosseumInside the Colosseum from the south eastThe awe-inspiring scale of the ColosseumLooking west inside the ColosseumDoorways inside the ColosseumThe Arch of Constantine and the Palatine Hill from the Colosseum

Echoes of Ancient Rome: The Roman Forum, the Colosseum and the Palatine Hill, a set on Flickr.

My two-week family holiday in Italy is at an end, and I am now back in London, slightly cold and pining for the heat, the cooking, the fresh fruit, the culture of Rome and the mountains and lakes of Abruzzo province. All holidays must come to an end, however, and as I reacquaint myself with my home, and my friends, and try to focus once more on Guantánamo and the parlous state of British politics, and look forward to cycling in search of new and unexplored parts of London as part of my ongoing project to photograph the whole of London by bike, I will also be posting more photos of Rome and of our travels in Abruzzo province.

I have already posted four sets of photos of Rome (here, here, here and here), and this fifth set takes up where the last one left off — with a visit to the Roman Forum, on August 15, followed by a visit to the Colosseum and the Palatine Hill on August 16. These three sites — the heart of Ancient Rome, and consisting of its civic and religious centre, the hill on which several emperors made their home, and the colossal blood-stained amphitheatre where murder was turned into sport — offer an unparalleled insight into Ancient Rome, and for visitors, from the UK at least, the fact that access to all three sites is open for two days and costs just 12 Euros is a bonus, as my wife and I joked that in the UK each site would probably cost £27.90, with a ticket for all three offered at “just” £75. Read the rest of this entry »

The Guantánamo Files: An Archive of Articles — Part Ten, July to September 2011

The Guantanamo Files

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For nearly six years, I have been researching and writing about Guantánamo and the 779 men (and boys) held there over the last ten years, first through my book The Guantánamo Files, and, since May 2007, as a full-time independent investigative journalist. For three years, I focused on the crimes of the Bush administration and, since January 2009, I have analysed the failures of the Obama administration to thoroughly repudiate those crimes and to hold anyone accountable for them, and, increasingly, on President Obama’s failure to charge or release prisoners, and to show any sign that Guantánamo will eventually be closed.

As the 10th anniversary of the opening of Guantánamo approaches, this is an intolerable situation, as the prison remains as much of an aberration, and a stain on America’s belief in itself as a nation ruled by laws, as it was when it was opened by George W. Bush on January 11, 2002. Closing the prison remains as important now as it did when I began this work in 2006.

Over the last six years of researching Guantánamo and writing about it on an almost daily basis, my intention has been to puncture the Bush administration’s propaganda about Guantánamo holding “the worst of the worst” by telling the prisoners’ stories and bringing them to life as human beings, rather than allowing them to remain as dehumanized scapegoats or bogeymen. Read the rest of this entry »

RIP Troy Davis: Your Killers Should Be Ashamed

Despite an eleventh hour appeal to the US Supreme Court, Troy Davis, on death row in Georgia for 20 years, was executed last night, by lethal injection, at 11pm, local time. The Supreme Court took four hours to turn down his appeal for clemency, even though rumors had spread that his execution would be stayed, for up to a week, and that Justice Clarence Thomas — not a man generally known for his humanitarianism — was particularly interested in his case.

Troy Davis’s execution was not an isolated incident in the US. 34 death row prisoners had already been executed in America this year, and although the number of executions in the US is declining (from a 30-year high of 98 in 1999), there were still 46 executions last year. In addition, at the start of this year, there were 3,251 prisoners on death row in the US, and when it comes to executions, only three countries have more institutional vengeance than the US — China, Iran and Iraq.

Even so, Troy Davis’s case was particularly noteworthy for two reasons: firstly, because of the breadth of support he received from around the world, with nearly a million people calling for him not to be executed, in petitions that were delivered to Chatham County District Attorney Larry Chisolm (with many more also signing online petitions), and also because of the widespread protests around the world as the date for his execution approached; and secondly, because there were such profound doubts about his guilt. This, again, is no obstacle to execution in the US, but it was made a particular issue by the state of Georgia, as Amnesty International explained eloquently in a blog post on Tuesday. Read the rest of this entry »

The Horror of America: Georgia Set to Execute Troy Davis, Despite His Conviction Being Riddled with Doubt

Today (September 20), the Georgia Board of Pardons and Paroles denied clemency to Troy Davis. He is scheduled to die by lethal injection tomorrow (Wednesday, September 21, 2011) at 7 pm EST. To take action for Troy Davis, please visit this Amnesty International page and send urgent emails to the Pardons Board and the District Attorney.

Troy Davis was convicted of murdering a Georgia police officer in 1991, based upon the testimony of nine witnesses, seven of whom have recanted their testimony entirely, and has been on death row since his conviction. Three previous attempts to execute him were stayed at the last minute.

As Amnesty International explained today:

The case against him consisted entirely of witness testimony which contained inconsistencies even at the time of the trial. Since then, all but two of the state’s non-police witnesses from the trial have recanted or contradicted their testimony.

Many of these witnesses have stated in sworn affidavits that they were pressured or coerced by police into testifying or signing statements against Troy Davis.

One of the two witnesses who has not recanted his testimony is Sylvester “Red” Coles — the principle alternative suspect, according to the defense, against whom there is new evidence implicating him as the gunman. Nine individuals have signed affidavits implicating Sylvester Coles. 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 and We Stand With Shaker. Also, photo-journalist (The State of London), and singer and songwriter (The Four Fathers).
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