In Kuwait, Looking for American Justice — and Showing “Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo” on Alrai TV

Please note that the screening has been postponed until Friday evening (February 24) at 10:30 pm.

Greetings from Kuwait, where the weather is fresh and warm, and the people are very friendly. Although I have been studying Guantánamo and the “war on terror” for the last six years, this is my first visit to the Middle East, and I’m here to play whatever part I can to secure the return from Guantánamo of Fayiz al-Kandari and Fawzi al-Odah, the last two Kuwaitis in the prison.

I’m here with Lt. Col. Barry Wingard, the Pentagon-appointed military defense attorney for Fayiz al-Kandari, and his colleagues Lt. Cmdr. Kevin Bogucki and Sgt. Chad Darby, and also with the civilian attorney Tom Wilner, my colleague in the new “Close Guantánamo” campaign. I am also grateful for the support of Adel Abdulhadi of the Al-Oula law firm, and am delighted to have finally met the journalist Jenifer Fenton, who has recently been focusing on the stories of the Kuwaiti prisoners. The centerpiece of my visit is the screening, at 9.30 pm on Thursday (February 23), on Alrai TV, of the documentary film, “Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo,” which I co-directed with Polly Nash, followed by a studio discussion with Tom Wilner and myself. Both Tom and I feature in the film, and we had a very productive question and answer session today, when we pre-recorded the studio talk to accompany the broadcast of the film tomorrow evening.

This is a great occasion, as it is not only the biggest audience by far for the film, but also its first screening in Arabic, following a heroic mission by Polly and a number of Arabic speakers in the UK and Canada to complete the sub-titling of the film in the days before my flight to Kuwait on Monday. I hope — and anticipate — that the film’s comprehensive analysis of the many crimes and failures of the Bush administration’s “war on terror,” and the compelling human stories of the men affected by America’s journey to the “dark side,” will be as informative for the Kuwaiti audience as they have been for the Western audiences who have seen the film in screenings in the US, the UK and Europe over the last two years. Read the rest of this entry »

On the 10th Anniversary of the Opening of Guantánamo, Kuwaiti Mothers Appeal for Release of Their Sons

Note: See here for an Amnesty International petition calling for the release of Fayiz al-Kandari and Fawzi al-Odah.

Just a few days ago, Jenifer Fenton, who used to work for CNN, but has recently started working for Al-Jazeera, followed up on the excellent work she was doing for CNN last year, focusing on the stories on the Kuwaiti prisoners held at Guantánamo, with a new article focusing on the mothers of the two remaining Kuwaitis in the prison, Fayiz al-Kandari and Fawzi al-Odah. The publication of the article is timely, as, in just nine days, the “war on terror” prison at Guantánamo Bay will have been open for ten years.

I discussed the first of Jenifer’s articles in August, in an article entitled, “Can Kuwait Break the Guantánamo Deadlock?” and cross-posted a second, in October, under the heading, “Life After Guantánamo: Kuwaitis Discuss Their Tortured Confessions,” and this third article continues Jenifer’s important work, as it is even clearer now than it was in August that Fayiz and Fawzi will only be released through outside pressure on the Obama administration, and not through any mechanisms within the United States.

Despite the lack of evidence against Fayiz and Fawzi, both men lost their habeas corpus petitions — Fayiz in September 2010 and Fawzi in August 2009. Fawzi then had his appeal turned down by the D.C. Circuit Court, where, after victories by the prisoners from 2008 to 2010, right-wing judges have, shamefully, been rewriting detention policies so that no prisoner can expect to have his habeas petition granted, and also by the Supreme Court, which, just as shamefully, has refused to tackle the Circuit Court’s meddling on purely ideological grounds. Read the rest of this entry »

Life After Guantánamo: Kuwaitis Discuss Their Tortured Confessions

For the 171 prisoners remaining in Guantánamo, a burning question — when, if ever, will any of them ever leave? — has apparently become unanswerable. The Obama administration failed to act swiftly and decisively enough during President Obama’s first year in office, and, ever since, lawmakers in Congress have repeatedly passed legislation to prevent prisoners being released. Their release has also been prevented in the courts by right-wing judges in the D.C. Circuit Court, who have, as I have repeatedly explained, gutted habeas corpus of all meaning.

This situation has been complicated by the fact that, under President Obama, the Justice Department has continued to deal with habeas corpus claims as though the Bush administration was still in office, and has not cross-referenced its cases with the findings of the President’s own Guantánamo Review Task Force, a sober collection of career officials, lawyers and representatives of the intelligence services, who concluded, after a year-long review of the prisoners’ cases, that only 36 of those still held should be tried, and that 89 should be released.

Add to that the President’s systematic aversion to confrontation on “national security” issues, and it becomes more comprehensible why we have reached a situation whereby the only prisoners to have left Guantánamo in the last nine months left in coffins, and why only three living prisoners have been released in the last 15 months. Read the rest of this entry »

Can Kuwait Break the Guantánamo Deadlock?

As the tenth anniversary of the 9/11 attacks approaches, those hoping for the closure of the “War on Terror” prison at Guantánamo, which was, and remains the most notorious emblem of the Bush administration’s excessive and misguided response to the attacks, are wondering how the prison will ever close.

Through a combination of cowardice on the part of President Obama and ferocious opposition in Congress to his plans to close Guantánamo, 171 men remain at the prison, even though the President initially promised to close it within a year of taking office, and even though a Task Force he convened to review the prisoners’ cases, comprising career officials and lawyers in government departments and the intelligence agencies, recommended that only 36 of those men should be tried, and 89 others should be released.

With a Congress-imposed ban on bringing prisoners to the US mainland for any reason, and lawmakers insisting that they have the right to interfere in any plans to release prisoners, those campaigning to close Guantánamo have been obliged to seek out new angles in the effort to reawaken awareness about the ongoing injustice of Guantánamo.

To this end, a recent feature on CNN, dealing with the two remaining Kuwaiti prisoners in Guantánamo, highlighted some of the problems outlined above, as well as casting a baleful eye on the failure of the US judiciary to secure the release of prisoners. Importantly, however, it also provided a possible route out of the current paralysis regarding the closure of the prison, if the Obama administration can locate any political backbone. 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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