Standing the Test of Time: “Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo”

The poster for the documentary film “Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo”, directed by Polly Nash and Andy Worthington, which recently marked the tenth anniversary of its release.

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On Friday, I was delighted to take part in one of the few regular Guantánamo-related events that are left in my calendar, as the prison becomes something of a footnote in the history books.

This amnesia is, to be blunt, genuinely alarming, because the prison is as malignantly alive as ever, a pointless zombie facility still holding 40 men, mostly without charge or trial, for whom no legal mechanism to secure their release exists, and who will all die there unless there is a change of government, and an awakened sense of outrage in the three bodies that supposedly provide checks and balances to prevent any manifestation of executive overreach in the US — the White House, Congress and the Supreme Court, all of whom have failed the men still held.

The event on Friday was a screening of “Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo” — the documentary film I co-directed with Polly Nash, which was released ten years ago, in October 2009 — to second-year students at the University of Westminster, who are studying International Relations under Sam Raphael, followed by a lively discussion about Guantánamo past, present and future.

Read the rest of this entry »

After Powerful Screening of ‘Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo’ at Westminster University, I’m Available for Further Events

A screenshot of former Guantanamo prisoner Omar Deghayes in 'Outside the Law: Stories from Guantanamo', shown at the University of Westminster on November 17, 2017 (Photo: Andy Worthington).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.


On Friday, I was delighted to attend a screening of ‘Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo’, the 2009 documentary film I co-directed with Polly Nash, at the University of Westminster, followed by a lively Q&A session with a packed room full of very engaged students.

My thanks to Sam Raphael, Senior Lecturer in Politics and International Relations, for arranging the event. Sam, with Ruth Blakeley, set up The Rendition Project, described on his university page as “an ESRC-funded project which works with NGOs and human rights investigators to uncover and understand human rights violations in the ‘War on Terror.’” Sam’s page also explains that the project “provides an unparalleled picture of the CIA’s torture programme, and has been described by the Guardian as ‘a groundbreaking research project which sheds unprecedented light on one of the most controversial secret operations of recent years.’”

Sam and I have worked together before, most recently last November at ‘Enshrined Injustice: Guantánamo, Torture and the Military Commissions’, a panel discussion at the University of Westminster, which I spoke at, and which Sam moderated, and which also featured Alka Pradhan, Human Rights Counsel at the Guantánamo Bay Military Commissions, and Carla Ferstmann, the director of REDRESS. My report about that and other Guantánamo-related events in London at that time was entitled Parliament and the People: Two Days of London Events About Guantánamo, Torture and the Military Commissions. Read the rest of this entry »

Deptford Screening of “Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo” + Q&A with Andy Worthington, March 6

The poster for a screening of "Outside the Law: Stories from Guantanamo" at the Deptford Cinema on March 6, 2015.It’s been some time since there’s been a screening of “Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo,” the documentary film I co-directed, with Polly Nash, which was released in 2009, so I’m delighted that, next Friday, the Deptford Cinema, “a new, not-for-profit, volunteer-run cinema focusing on art film and experimental film,” located at 39 Deptford Broadway, London SE8 4PQ (see the map on the Facebook page here), is showing it, and that I’ll be doing a Q&A session after the screening.

The Facebook page for the event is here. It begins at 7pm, when I will be around to talk to people before the screening begins, and the film itself will be shown at 8pm, with the Q&A beginning at 9.15. Tickets cost £5 (or £3 concessions) and can be bought online here.

This is my description of the film: Read the rest of this entry »

Andy Worthington Attends Amnesty Film Screening About Guantánamo in Canterbury, and a Day for Shaker Aamer in Battersea, Nov. 13 and 23

I just wanted to let you know about a couple of Guantánamo events I’m taking part in, for anyone in London and the south east over the next few weeks, which are listed below. The first, on Wednesday November 13, is a screening by the Canterbury Amnesty Group of “Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo,” the documentary film that I co-directed with the filmmaker Polly Nash, and the second, on Saturday November 23, is a day of action for Shaker Aamer, the last British resident in the prison — who is also featured in the film — in Battersea, in south London, where his wife and children have been awaiting his return for 12 years.

Originally released in 2009, it remains relevant, in the first instance because it tells the story — which I first told in my book The Guantánamo Files, and have been writing about ever since — of how innocent men and boys ended up at Guantánamo with Taliban supporters and a handful of terrorists, in large part because the US was offering substantial bounty payments to its Afghan and Pakistani allies, and how a torture program was then introduced to secure evidence from these men, which, ever since, has been used by the US government to justify the men’s detention, even though most of it is worthless.

Another reason the film remains relevant is because it features the story of Shaker Aamer, who is still held, even though he was first cleared for release in the spring of 2007, two and a half years before the release of “Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo,” and was then cleared again under President Obama in January 2010, after the year-long deliberations of the inter-agency Guantánamo Review Task Force, which the president established shortly after taking office in January 2009. Read the rest of this entry »

Six Years in Hell: Former Prisoner Omar Deghayes Recalls Bagram and Guantánamo

Former Guantánamo prisoner Omar Deghayes (seized in Pakistan in May 2002 and released to the UK in December 2007) is a friend and colleague of mine, who featured in the documentary film, “Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo,” which I co-directed with filmmaker Polly Nash, and he traveled around the country with me two years ago, showing the film and taking part in Q&A sessions in numerous locations. Omar’s story is central to the impact of “Outside the Law,” and video clips of him speaking about his experiences in Pakistani custody, and in US custody in Bagram and Guantánamo, from the long interview that Polly and I drew on for “Outside the Law” are here.

Omar also conducted a detailed interview with the Guardian in January 2010, which I cross-posted here, and a wealth of information about him is available in my archive of articles about him (or by following the links in my entry about him in my definitive Guantánamo prisoner list, which I updated last week (Omar’s prisoner number at Guantánamo was 727). On Sunday, an article based on an interview with him was published in the Express Tribune in Pakistan, and I’m cross-posting it below, for those who didn’t see it, both to provide a reminder of the violence to which prisoners in Guantánamo have been subjected over the last ten years, and — hopefully — to allow new readers to become acquainted with Omar’s story, and his particular approach to the injustices to which he was subjected.

Like all of the former prisoners I have met, Omar is not consumed with hatred towards those who imprisoned him and brutalized him for so many years, and continues to accentuate the positive, stating that, amongst his fellow prisoners, there were teachers, linguists and journalists, and “there was a lot to learn from them.” However, he does warn the US government that “[t]he only thing these kind of prisons achieve is more hatred, turning more youngsters toward extremism,”  which, I believe, is sadly true. Read the rest of this entry »

The Human Face of Indefinite Detention: Shaker Aamer, Guantánamo and the NDAA – Panel Discussion in New York, April 24

On Tuesday April 24, from 6:30 to 8:30pm, I will be beamed into Room 407a of the New School, at 66 West 12th Street, in New York City, for a panel discussion, “The Human Face of Indefinite Detention: Shaker Aamer, Guantánamo and the NDAA,” with some good friends of mine — Col. Morris Davis, the former Chief Prosecutor at Guantánamo, and Ramzi Kassem, one of the lawyers for Shaker Aamer, the last British resident in Guantánamo. The moderator is Thenjiwe McHarris of Amnesty International USA, and the event will be introduced by another friend, Jeremy Varon, Associate Professor of History at the New School for Social Research and Eugene Lang College, and a member of Witness Against Torture, and by Steve Latimer — also of Amnesty International USA.

Morris Davis and I meet every January in Washington D.C. for panel discussions at the New America Foundation on the anniversary of Guantánamo’s opening, and Ramzi recently made available to me the unclassified exchanges between himself and Shaker, and a statement that Shaker had written, which I used as the basis for two world exclusive articles, “They Want Me to be Harmed”: Shaker Aamer, the Last British Resident in Guantánamo, Describes His Isolation and “I Affirm Our Right to Life”: Shaker Aamer, the Last British Resident in Guantánamo, Explains His Peaceful Protest and Hunger Strike.

The provisional running order has the event starting, after introductions, with a short clip from “Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo,” the documentary film I co-directed with Polly Nash, which deals with Shaker Aamer’s story, followed by Ramzi discussing Shaker’s case for 15 minutes, me discussing the history of Guantánamo and what’s happening there now for 15 minutes, and Col. Davis speaking about why Guantánamo and the abuses it symbolizes are human rights violations and must end — also for 15 minutes. Thenjiwe will then urge people to sign Amnesty’s Shaker Aamer petition — and also see the petition on the Care 2 Petition Site, and the UK e-petition to the British government — and this will be followed by a discussion. Read the rest of this entry »

Video (in Arabic): On Kuwaiti TV, Tom Wilner and Andy Worthington Discuss the Last Two Kuwaitis in Guantánamo

Following up on my visit to Kuwait last week, to assist the lawyers and activists and family members pushing for the release from Guantánamo of the last two Kuwaiti prisoners, Fayiz al-Kandari and Fawzi al-Odah, I’m pleased to make available below a series of videos of the 70-minute program that was broadcast on Friday evening on Al-Rai TV. In the show, alongside subtitled excerpts from the documentary film, “Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo,” which I co-directed with Polly Nash, the attorney Tom Wilner and I had, as I explained in an article yesterday, “a chance to explain why, shamefully, Guantánamo is still open, despite President Obama’s promise to close it, why Fayiz and Fawzi are still held, how they are surviving their long ordeal, and, most crucially, why the Kuwaiti people need to keep exerting pressure on their government to do more to secure their return.”

As I also noted:

We were able to explain how it is insulting for such a close ally of the US as Kuwait to be treated so badly when it comes to securing the return of Fayiz and Fawzi, how, sadly, Guantánamo has become normalized under President Obama, and the remaining 171 prisoners are now, effectively, subjected to arbitrary and indefinite detention, and how no one will be released without great effort on the part of those who, like the Kuwaiti people, have prisoners still held.

We were also able to explain how the 10th anniversary of the opening of Guantánamo, just last month, provides a spur for renewed calls for the prison’s closure — and for calling for an end to the continued detention of men like Fayiz and Fawzi, against whom nothing in the way of evidence has actually been presented. We also had the opportunity to explain how another new possibility for bringing this dark chapter of US-Kuwaiti relations to an end has been presented in recent legislation passed in the US (the National Defense Authorization Act), in which the President and his administration now have the opportunity to bypass restrictions on the release of prisoners that were imposed by Congress and have prevented the release of any prisoner from Guantánamo since January 2011. Read the rest of this entry »

After a Wonderful Visit to Kuwait, New Plans to Close Guantánamo and to Free the Last Two Kuwaiti Prisoners

Now that my first ever visit to Kuwait has come to an end — in which I was involved in events and discussions designed to raise the profile in Kuwait, and internationally, of the two remaining Kuwaitis in Guantánamo, Fayiz al-Kandari and Fawzi al-Odah — I feel as though I have been away from my home in London for weeks, and not just for five days, as the time was so busy.

I recorded an interview for the Al-Rai TV station along with the attorney Tom Wilner, which was aired along with a subtitled version of “Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo,” the documentary film that I co-directed with Polly Nash, and I also traveled out to Kuwait’s main prison, to visit the rehabilitation center which was established for the four remaining prisoners in 2009, but which, after two of these four were freed that year, has been lying empty ever since, its staff and facilities awaiting the return of Fayiz and Fawzi, who, like the majority of the 171 prisoners stili in Guantánamo, 89 of whom have been cleared for release, remain trapped because of the cynical twists and turns of American politics — in the Obama administration, in Congress and in the courts.

I was also driven through the desert, on the highway to Iraq, to visit the grand and spacious farm of a prominent sheikh, in order to discuss the cases of Fayiz and Fawzi, and I also attended two dewaniyas (social events described by Wikipedia as being “the core of Kuwait’s social, business and political life, the places where topics of interest are discussed, associates introduced, alliances formed, and similar networking activities undertaken”), with lawyers and with the family of Fayiz. In addition, I met up with the former prisoner Fouad al-Rabiah and with Khalid al-Odah, Fawzi’s father, and briefly met another former prisoner, Adel al-Zamel. Read the rest of this entry »

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 »

Three New UK Screenings of “Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo,” with Co-Director Andy Worthington

“‘Outside the Law’ is a powerful film that has helped ensure that Guantánamo and the men unlawfully held there have not been forgotten.”
Kate Allen, Director, Amnesty International UK

“[T]his is a strong movie examining the imprisonment and subsequent torture of those falsely accused of anti-American conspiracy.”
Joe Burnham, Time Out

As featured on Democracy Now!ABC News and Truthout. Buy the DVD here (£10 + £2 postage in the UK, and worldwide) or here if in the US ($10 post free).

With the “war on terror” prison at Guantánamo Bay now in its 11th year of existence, and with no sign of when, if ever the prison will be closed, the need to campaign for its closure is greater than ever, even though the will to do so is largely drowned out by the voices of US lawmakers and pundits who would like it to stay open, and by a colossal indifference on the part of far too many citizens of the US, and others around the world.

This is deeply disturbing, as a prison in which people are subjected to arbitrary detention (as Navi Pillay, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, explained three weeks ago) cannot simply be brushed aside or forgotten about by those who claim to care about legal and humane detention practices. As long ago as October 2003, a representative of the International Committee of the Red Cross complained about the damaging effects of open-ended arbitrary detention on the mental health of the prisoners held at Guantánamo, and that remains true eight years and four months later, even if most of the prisoners are now allowed time to socialize. Back in 2003, Girod said, “The open-endedness of the situation and its impact on the mental health of the population has become a major problem.” 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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