By Staff, Witness Against Torture. Fourteen members of Witness Against Torture have been in Guantanamo province for 3 days now, vigiling in solidarity with the 107 men remaining at the US detention camp. At dusk on Wednesday, we established camp at El Mirador – scenic grounds overlooking the base from a distance of 2-3 kilometers. To close our first day, Peace Poet Frank Lopez led us in a Four Directions ceremony that came from the traditions of the Arawak peoples, who are indigenous to Cuba. On Thursday, Thanksgiving Day, we faced the base directly and announced one-by-one our political, personal and spiritual intention in being there. To conclude the day, we performed a Thanksgiving ritual titled “Forced-Feeding, Not Feasting at Guantanamo.” Twelve persons, all fasting for the day, sat at a table in front of empty plates to represent the terrible pain endured by hunger strikers, past and present, at Guantanamo. At the head of the table, one WAT member dressed as a detained man sat in front of the terrible apparatus of forced feeding. Forced-feeding continues to be used to wound the bodies and break the spirit of hunger-striking men.
By Richard Norton-Taylor, Ed Pilkington, Caroline Davies and Ian Cobain for the Guardina – Shaker Aamer has been released after 14 years of incarceration at Guantánamo Bay, where he was beaten by his US military jailers but never tried for any offence, the UK’s foreign secretary, Philip Hammond, has confirmed. “The Americans announced some weeks ago that they were going to release Shaker Aamer from Guantánamo and I can confirm that he is on his way back to the UK now and he will arrive in Britain later today,” he said. A spokesman for David Cameron – who had personally raised Aamer’s case with Barack Obama – said there were no plans to detain Aamer on his return. He added: “The prime minister has been clear that the public should be reassured that everything to ensure public safety is in place.”
By Chelsea E Manning for The Guardian – Successful intelligence gathering through interrogation and other forms of human interaction by conventional means can be – and more often than not are – very successful. But, even though interrogation by less conventional methods might get glorified in popular culture – in television dramas like Law and Order: Criminal Intent, 24 and The Closer and movies like Zero Dark Thirty – torture and the mistreatment of detainees in the custody of intelligence personnel is, was and shall continue to be unethical and morally wrong. Under US law, torture and mistreatment of detainees is also very illegal. Even the most junior level intelligence officials know that this is, and has been, the case for decades.
By Alexandra Sims for Independent – Conservative MP David Davis is one of numerous politicians and celebrities taking part in a 24-hour hunger strike in support of Shaker Aamer, the last British prisoner held at Guantanamo Bay. Mr Davis was set to begin his fast on Sunday after being persuaded to join the initiative, Fast for Shaker, upon learning that Mr Aamer is himself on a hunger strike, protesting his alleged continued mistreatment at the US-run detention centre in Cuba. “Now that we are probably only two weeks away from his release I was very worried that he would harm himself just shy of coming home,” Mr Davis told Middle East Eye.
By Elizabeth Beavers in Amnesty USA – This is big news. At long last, the Obama administration has reportedly notified both Congress and the UK government that Guantanamo detainee Shaker Aamer will be transferred home to the UK after 13 years. Shaker’s case has for years compelled the Amnesty movement, along with many others, to call loudly for him to be transferred back to the UK. So today’s news is, to say the least, heartening. But as we celebrate, let us not forget – there is much more to be done, and not much time left to do it. The detention facility at Guantanamo Bay continues to house many who, like Shaker, have been approved for transfer. About half of the current detainees, in fact, are waiting for their own transfer. Although the U.S. national security agencies have conducted stringent reviews and cleared these people for transfer out of the prison, they are still there. They languish behind bars even though many have been cleared for years. Some, like Shaker, were cleared both by the Bush administration and now by the Obama administration.
By Witness Against Torture – Witness Against Torture is calling for an emergency fast to highlight the case of Guantánamo prisoner, Tariq Ba Odah, a Yemeni man who has been detained at the prison without charge since 2002 and cleared for release in 2009. According to his attorneys, Tariq, who at 74 pounds—56% of his ideal body weight– is on the brink of death according to three health officials. Please consider fasting on Friday, September 18, 2015 in solidarity with Tariq Ba Odah and the remaining 115 Guantánamo prisoners. If you plan to fast, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Please include in the email where you live and a brief statement as to why you are fasting. If you cannot fast on Friday, feel free to choose another day this week to fast.
By Richard Norton-Taylor and Nicholas Watt in The Guardian – Boris Johnson has placed himself at the head of cross-party group, including a former Tory attorney general and a Labour leadership contender, who are calling on Barack Obama to secure the release of Shaker Aamer, the last British resident held in Guantánamo Bay. In an intervention timed to coincide with US Independence Day, six former cabinet ministers have joined leading writers, actors, directors, musicians to warn the White House that the continued detention of Aamer is undermining US standing in the world. The Saudi-born Aamer was seized by bounty hunters in Afghanistan and handed over to US forces in December 2001. Two months later, he was rendered to the US military prison on Cuba. US authorities have made it clear that they have no intention of charging him.
By Robert C. Koehler in CommonWonders. Guantanamo Bay – Whatever details about the torture program remain classified and buried, these stories, along with plenty of shocking photographs, are fully public. There’s enough data here to open a deep conversation about what it means to be a nation and what the limits of power ought to be. What I see instead is a sort of official resignation — on the part of media and government — to the inevitability of out-of-control power in the pursuit of self-defense. Philip Zimbardo called this phenomenon the Lucifer Effect: the utterly corrupting nature of total power over others. Reports of CIA torture are rife with observations that the interrogators were out of control. The information they sought from the utterly powerless detainees in their keep was a treasure to be extracted, like oil or diamonds from the bowels of the earth, and no technique was too inhumane, too morally odious, to achieve that end. Call it human fracking. It’s for the good of America.
By Carol Rosenberg for the Miami Herald. U.S. troops delivered six long-held Yemeni prisoners from Guantánamo for resettlement in the Arabian Sea nation Oman on Friday, the Pentagon said early Saturday, resuming transfers that had been stalled for months. The mission reduced the detainee population at the prison camps to 116 captives, 51 cleared for transfers with security assurances from the nation taking them in. Among those released was Emad Hassan, 35, whose lawyers said had been on the prison hunger strike since 2007, and failed to get a judge to stop his forced-feedings. Hassan, captured in Pakistan in March 2002, became a devotee of the “Game of Thrones” series and Dan Brown novels from the prison library, according to his attorney Alka Pradhan. All six had been cleared for release for at least five years. None was ever charged with a crime. All were taken to the prison camps in the summer of 2002.
The recent revelation about Chicago police detaining American citizens at “black sites,” along the lines of Guantanamo Bay, is sparking fury among a wide range of people, from conservatives who hold dear the constitution, to anarchists, and everyone in between. The Constitution violating Homan Square is located in a warehouse on Chicago’s west side, and shares more similarities with Abu Ghraib than most American’s should be comfortable with. It was also recently reported that large numbers of military police officers, who were formerly stationed at the infamous torture prisons, are now getting jobs as local cops, and could be coming to a town near you. The Worcester Police department in Massachusetts is testing a pilot program, in which former Guantanamo prison guards will be given jobs as police.
The 9/11 trial judge abruptly recessed the first hearing in the case since August on Monday after some of the alleged Sept. 11 plotters said they recognized a war court linguist as a former secret CIA prison worker. Alleged plot deputy Ramzi bin al Shibh, 42, made the revelation just moments into the hearing by informing the judge he had a problem with his courtroom translator. The interpreter, Bin al Shibh claimed, worked for the CIA during his 2002 through 2006 detention at a so-called “Black Site.” “The problem is I cannot trust him because he was working at the black site with the CIA, and we know him from there,” he said.
The Washington, DC based Hands Up Coalition DC along with Witness Against Torture delivered coffins at its weekly ‘Justice Monday Vigil’ to the US Department of Justice and the DC Metro Police Headquarters on January 12, 4:00 PM. The two groups brought coffins marking the deaths of three African-Americans killed by police to the doors of the Justice Department. The coffins highlighted the deaths of two mentally ill African Americans recently killed in police custody, Tanisha Anderson and Matthew Ajibade. The protest honored the life of unarmed Emmanuel Okutuga killed by police. After marching and rallying at the US Department of Justice the groups marched to the DC Metropolitan Police Headquarters. Members of Witness Against Torture went inside the building and obstructed the entrance 28 minutes, in recognition that a person of color is killed by police or vigilantes every 28 hours in the United States. They recited the names of dozens of victims of police violence and spoke the words of men indefinitely detained in Guantánamo Bay calling for justice. Activists from the Hands Up Coalition DC stood outside chanting and singing.
This event was part of the Witness Against Torture week of actions in Washington, DC seeking to shut down Guantanamo Bay and end torture. Two protesters were arrested at the McLean, Virginia, home of former Vice President Dick Cheney on Saturday after 20 demonstrators, some in orange prison jumpsuits, walked onto his property to mark the 14th anniversary of the opening of Guantanamo Bay prison. The protesters from the anti-war group Code Pink walked up to the house before police arrived and asked them to leave, said Fairfax County police spokesman Roger Henriquez. Two members who refused to go were arrested on trespassing charges, he said. Police identified the two as Tighe Barry, 57, and Eve Tetaz, 83, both of Washington DC. The pair face misdemeanor charges of trespassing and disorderly conduct, police said. Another Code Pink group demonstrated without incident outside the home of CIA Director John Brennan, also in the Washington, D.C. suburb of McLean, as part of its “Guantanamo Anniversary Weekend Torturers Tour.”
Three Yemenis and two Tunisians, who had each been cleared for release years ago, were released from Guantanamo Bay prison on December 30. They were sent to Kazakhstan and their release brought the number of prisoners who remain in detention to 127. According to Carol Rosenberg of The Miami Herald, Abdullah Bin Ali al Lutfi, a 48 year-old Tunisian, Adel al Hakeemy, a 49 year-old Tunisian, Asim Thahit Abdullah al Khalaqi, a 46 year-old Yemeni, Mohammed Ali Hussain, a 36 year-old Yemeni and Sabri Muhammed Ibrahim al Qurashi, a 44 year-old Yemeni, were resettled. The Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR), which has represented various Guantanamo prisoners, reacted, “We are encouraged by additional transfers and resettlements and hope they will continue until all Guantánamo prisoners the administration does not intend to charge are freed.”
The U.S. military overnight transferred six Guantánamo detainees to Uruguay. All of them had been imprisoned since 2002 – more than 12 years. None has ever been charged with a crime, let alone convicted of any wrongdoing. They had all been cleared for release years ago by the Pentagon itself, but nonetheless remained in cages until today. As the great Miami Herald Guantánamo reporter Carol Rosenberg notes, there are – six years after Obama was elected on a pledge to close the camp – still 136 detainees there, with 67 of them cleared for release (Democrats’ claims that Obama is largely blameless are false and misleading in the extreme, as are claims that no country will accept detainees).