Three UK Protests to Mark the 10th Anniversary of Shaker Aamer’s Arrival at Guantánamo

February 14 marks the 10th anniversary of the arrival at Guantánamo of Shaker Aamer, who is now the last British resident in the prison, but was once one of 15 British citizens and residents held at Guantánamo. Shaker’s story is one that I have told and retold over the years, including in the documentary film, “Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo,” which I co-directed with Polly Nash, and it is distressing, for his British wife, and his four British children (the youngest of whom has never seen his father, because he was born after his capture) to have to endure another anniversary without Shaker, an eloquent man of great compassion, who has spent ten years demanding that he and his fellow prisoners be treated as human beings, and not as “enemy combatants” without rights, which is what they essentially remain, despite some general improvement in their living conditions under President Obama.

Throughout this period in which I have been studying Shaker’s story (for the last six years), it has been clear that there was no good reason for Shaker Aamer to be held. He was told in spring 2007 that he had been cleared for release by the Bush administration, and in August 2007 Gordon Brown, taking over from Tony Blair as Prime Minister, requested his return along with the other British residents.

Nevertheless, he was not freed, and with a new President in the US and a new government in the UK it was not initially known what his status was as the 10th anniversary of the opening of Guantánamo approached. However, two recent discoveries have ensured that, on the 10th anniversary of Shaker’s arrival at Guantánamo, there are no obstacles to his immediate release, however much representatives of the US or UK governments may pretend otherwise. Read the rest of this entry »

Video: Guantánamo Panel Discussion in Washington D.C. with Andy Worthington and Lawyers Tom Wilner, Darold Killmer and Mari Newman

Yesterday, I posted a short video of a speech I gave on January 10, while I was visiting the US for events marking the 10th anniversary of the opening of Guantánamo, prior to a screening of the documentary film, “Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo” (which I co-directed with Polly Nash) at a branch of Busboys and Poets in Washington D.C.

That screening, the day before protests marking the 10th anniversary (which I covered here, here and here), was organized by the World Can’t Wait, the campaigners responsible for my visit, and was followed by a panel discussion in which I was delighted to be speaking alongside the attorney Tom Wilner — my colleague in the newly established “Close Guantánamo” campaign and website, with whom I had just taken part in a lunchtime event at the New America Foundation (also with Congressman Jim Moran and Col. Morris Davis) — and Darold Killmer and Mari Newman, attorneys from Denver whom I had asked to come along and speak about their clients, five Yemenis who are still held at Guantánamo.

Introducing the Q&A session, I spoke briefly about the “Close Guantánamo” campaign and the now-closed petition on the White House’s “We the People” website, asking President Obama to fulfil his promise to close Guantánamo, and also reminded those attending that, while criticizing Congress for inserting provisions in the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) demanding the mandatory military custody, without charge or trial, of anyone who can be accused of being associated with al-Qaeda, they should not forget that, for ten years, the prisoners in Guantánamo have been detained on essentially the same basis. Read the rest of this entry »

Video: In Washington D.C., Andy Worthington Discusses Protests in Guantánamo, and the Campaign to Free Shaker Aamer

On January 10, while I was visiting the US for events marking the 10th anniversary of the opening of Guantánamo, the World Can’t Wait, the campaigning organization responsible for my visit, hosted a screening of the documentary film, “Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo” (which I co-directed with Polly Nash) at a branch of Busboys and Poets in Washington D.C.

This was the day before the rally and march to close Guantánamo, which I covered here, here and here, and it was an extremely well attended event, with over a hundred people in the audience — mostly campaigners from the various organizations involved in the January 11 protest, including Amnesty International, Witness Against Torture, the World Can’t Wait, Code Pink and the National Religious Campaign Against Torture.

Also present were: the attorney Tom Wilner — my colleague in the newly established “Close Guantánamo” campaign and website, with whom I had just taken part in a lunchtime event at the New America Foundation (also with Congressman Jim Moran and Col. Morris Davis) — and Darold Killmer and Mari Newman, attorneys from Denver whom I had asked to come along and speak about their clients, five Yemenis who are still held at Guantánamo. Read the rest of this entry »

The Guantánamo Files: An Archive of Articles — Part Eleven, October to December 2011

The Guantanamo Files

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Since March 2006, I have been researching and writing about Guantánamo and the 779 men (and boys) held there, 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 analyzed 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 recent events marking the 10th anniversary of the opening of Guantánamo have shown, this remains an intolerable situation, as Guantánamo is 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 nearly six years ago.

Throughout my work, 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.

This has involved demonstrating that the majority of the prisoners were either innocent men, seized by the US military’s allies at a time when bounty payments were widespread, or recruits for the Taliban, who had been encouraged by supporters in their homelands to help the Taliban in a long-running inter-Muslim civil war (with the Northern Alliance), which began long before the 9/11 attacks and, for the most part, had nothing to do with al-Qaeda or international terrorism. Read the rest of this entry »

Moazzam Begg, Andy Worthington and Polly Nash Attend Screening of “Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo” at the European Parliament, Brussels, January 24, 2012

On Tuesday January 24, at 7 pm, there will be a special screening of the acclaimed documentary film “Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo” (co-directed by Polly Nash and Andy Worthington) at the European Parliament in Brussels. The screening will take place in the main European Parliament building, the Altiero Spinelli Building, Rue Wiertz, in Room ASP – 3G2, on the 3rd floor, and Moazzam Begg, former Guantánamo prisoner, and the director of the NGO Cageprisoners, will be joining Andy Worthington and Polly Nash for the screening, and for the Q&A session afterwards.

The screening has been arranged by Jean Lambert (UK Green MEP), with the support of Sarah Ludford (UK Liberal Democrat MEP) and Ana Gomes (Portuguese Socialist MEP), and the purpose of the screening is to raise awareness of the continued existence of Guantánamo, and its mockery of universal notions of fairness and justice, ten years after the prison opened, on January 11, 2002. Given President Obama’s very public failure to close the prison as promised, it is essential that other countries step forward to take cleared prisoners who cannot be safely repatriated, and one of the main purposes of the screening and the visit of Moazzam Begg and Andy Worthington is to encourage EU countries to re-engage with the process of resettling prisoners that was so successful in 2009 and 2010.

The screening is free, but anyone who wishes to attend needs to contact Rachel Sheppard, the Parliamentary Assistant to Jean Lambert MEP. If those wishing to attend do not already have an access badge for the European Parliament, they need to provide their full name, date of birth, nationality, passport number or ID card and number and also specify the type of document (passport, ID card) so that access badges can be arranged. Without an access badge, those wishing to attend the screening will not be allowed. Read the rest of this entry »

Andy Worthington Reports on the New York Dates of His “Close Guantánamo” Tour on the 10th Anniversary of the Prison’s Opening

After nearly four days in New York as part of my US tour to mark the 10th anniversary of the opening of Guantánamo, I’ve just taken a bus with Debra Sweet, the national director of the campaigning group The World Can’t Wait, who arranged my visit, heading down to Washington D.C. to take part in a number of events. Tomorrow lunchtime (Tuesday January 10, at 11.45), I’m taking part in a panel discussion at the New America Foundation,  “Ten Years of Guantánamo: Will It Ever Close?” — with Col. Morris Davis, the former chief prosecutor for the Military Commissions at Guantánamo, who resigned in 2007, in protest at the planned use of evidence obtained through the use of torture, and is now the executive director of the Crimes of War Project, and Tom Wilner, Counsel of Record for the Guantánamo prisoners in their cases before the Supreme Court in 2004 and 2008. We will also be welcoming a special guest, Congressman Jim Moran, whose presence, in a Presidential election year, at an event that dares to mention Guantánamo is greatly appreciated.

At 5.30 pm, Tom Wilner and I will be at Busboys and Poets (at 5th and K) showing a new cut of the documentary film, “Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo” (which I co-directed with filmmaker Polly Nash), featuring new commentary by Tom, and, on Wednesday January 11 (the actual anniversary), I’ll begin, at 10 am, by attending an event at the National Press Club, at 529 14th St. NW, on the 13th Floor in the unironically entitled First Amendment Room.

Organized by the Center for Constitutional Rights, “Obama’s Prison: Guantánamo Turns 10” is an event to “discuss issues ranging from National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) provisions that prohibit the transfer of detainees unanimously cleared for release by the CIA,FBI, NSC, and Defense Department, to the continued lack of transparency and accountability for US  torture practices.” The event features Stephen Olesky, co-lead counsel in Boumediene v. Bush, Col. Morris Davis, Retired Adm. Gen. John Hutson, Vince Warren, CCR’s Executive Director, and Baher Azmy, CCR’s Legal Director. Read the rest of this entry »

Ten Years of Guantánamo: Andy Worthington Visits the US to Campaign for the Closure of the Prison, January 5-15, 2012

January 11, 2012 is a profoundly depressing anniversary — marking ten years since the Bush administration established its “war on terror” prison at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, and decided that those who ended up in US custody would not be screened to ascertain whether or not they were combatants, and would be sent to Guantánamo to be held without rights.

To mark this bleak occasion, Andy Worthington, investigative journalist, author of The Guantánamo Files and co-director (with Polly Nash) of the documentary film, “Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo,” is visiting the US for 12 days, with the support of The World Can’t Wait and the Center for Constitutional Rights, taking part in events in New York, Washington DC., San Francisco and Chicago.

171 of the 779 prisoners held at Guantánamo throughout its long, dark history are still held, three years after Barack Obama became President and promised to close it within a year, even though 89 of them have been cleared for release. The President’s vacillations, and lack of courage, as well as the unprincipled obstructions of cynical or cowardly lawmakers, and of paranoid right-wing judges have ensured that no one has left Guantanamo alive in the last year and to guarantee that the prison will remain open — and these 171 men will be held forever — without concerted action by these with the determination to bring to an end the toxic legacy of the Bush administration. Read the rest of this entry »

Two New Screenings of “Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo” — in New York and London

NOTE Dec. 5: The screening at Middlesex University on November 29 was postponed, because, due to a water leak, the whole of the Hendon Campus was closed on health and safety grounds, but was rescheduled for December 6.

“‘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).

On Monday and Tuesday next week, in New York and London, there will be two screenings of the documentary film, “Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo” (co-directed by Polly Nash and Andy Worthington), which, in the last two years, has had hundreds of screenings during two UK tours, a US tour (plus screenings on two further US visits), and a Polish tour, as well as film festival screenings in the UK, the US and Norway, many of which have featured Andy Worthington answering post-screening questions about Guantánamo past, present and future. Read the rest of this entry »

Andy Worthington Attends New Screening of “Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo” in Aberdeen University, October 21, 2011

“‘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).

The first autumn screening of the documentary film, “Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo” (co-directed by Polly Nash and Andy Worthington) takes place on the second anniversary of the film’s launch, at the University of Aberdeen, as part of a human rights film festival, from October 17 to 23, which also includes screenings of two films about Burma — “Burma VJ” and “This Prison Where I Live,” “The Green Wave” (about the Iranian elections in 2009, and the state’s brutal clampdown on the pro-democracy movement), and a film about Scottish Gypsy Travellers. See here for further details, and see below for specific details about the screening of “Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo.” Read the rest of this entry »

Video: Sarah Gillespie Plays Her Song About Shaker Aamer, “How the West Was Won,” Live in London (with Gilad Atzmon)

So I count myself fortunate to live in the same neighbourhood as Sarah Gillespie, a wonderful singer/songwriter whose latest album, “In the Current Climate,” features a song about Shaker Aamer, the last British resident held in the US prison at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba.

Sarah and I met a few years ago, when she let me know that she wanted to write a song about Guantánamo, and last February she came to see a screening at the BFI of “Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo,” the film I co-directed with Polly Nash, which tells the story of Shaker Aamer (as well as Binyam Mohamed and Omar Deghayes, two other British residents released from Guantánamo), and which contributed to the creation of “How the West Was Won,” Sarah’s song about Shaker Aamer. Sarah’s review of the film is here.

Unlike far too many musicians, Sarah is not afraid to be politically aware. She is also articulate, as can be seen from her material, her political writings, her gigs for Palestine, and her choice of musical partners — she works with the Israeli-born British saxophonist Gilad Atzmon, who is one of the most sustained critics of Zionism in the world. 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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