Witness Against Torture Vigil and Fast outside The White House, January 2010 by Witness Against Torture
The 9th anniversary of the opening of the "War on Terror" prison at Guanta'namo Bay is on January 11, and, in the hope of raising awareness of the need for action to close Guanta'namo and to secure fair trials or release from the prison for the 174 men still held, Andy Worthington, freelance investigative journalist, author of TheGuanta'namo Files and co-director of the documentary film, "Outside the Law: Stories from Guanta'namo," is traveling to the US to take part in a number of events during the week of this baleful anniversary, with the support of The World Can't Wait and Witness Against Torture. Details of events are below.
Sadly, two years into Barack Obama's Presidency, and a year after the failure of his promise to close Guanta'namo within a year, the outlook for the remaining 174 prisoners in Guanta'namo is bleaker than it has been at any time since June 27, 2004, the day before the Supreme Court ruled that the prisoners had habeas corpus rights.
Although 90 of the remaining 174 prisoners have been "approved for transfer" for at least a year by the Guanta'namo Review Task Force, established by President Obama to review the cases of the remaining prisoners, 58 of these men are Yemenis, whose release is prevented by a moratorium on the release of any Yemeni prisoners, which was issued by the President last January, in response to hysterical overreaction to the news that the failed Christmas Day plane bomber, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, had been recruited in Yemen. In addition, Congress has now stepped in,unconstitutionally restricting the President's powers by declaring Yemen as one of several countries that are too dangerous for prisoners to be released to.
The remaining 32 men "approved for transfer" are mostly still held because of fears that they will face torture or other ill-treatment in their home countries, and because no third countries have been found that will accept them. They should, therefore, be offered new homes in the United States, but the Obama administration, the courts and Congress have all acted to prevent the relocation of a single cleared Guanta'namo prisoner to the US mainland.
Of the remaining 84 prisoners, three are imprisoned after trials by Military Commission, 33 were recommended for trials by the Task Force, and 48 others were recommended for indefinite detention without charge or trial. Congress recently passed legislation preventing the transfer of any of these men to the US mainland to face trials, and also preventing the administration from buying a US prison to rehouse them, but this is not the only stumbling block to attempts to secure justice for any of these men.
Although the adminstration has been prevented from proceeding with the planned federal court trials for Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and four other men accused of involvement in the 9/11 attacks, officials have also shown little appetite for trials by Military Commission either, especially after the negative publicity that greeted the plea deal negotiated in October with the former child prisoner Omar Khadr, who was obliged to plead guilty to war crimes invented by Congress and endorsed by the administration.
In addition, it was recently announced that President Obama is set to sign an executive order formalizing the indefinite detention of the 48 men designated for indefinite detention by the Task Force. This will allow them a periodic review of their cases, but it remains an unjustifiable position for the administration to maintain (and is symptomatic of the administration's disregard for the US courts and the prisoners' ongoing habeas petitions), and the combination of factors in play as Guanta'namo begins the 10th year of its lawless business -- the executive order regarding indefinite detention, the unwillingness to proceed with any trials, and the self-imposed obstacles preventing the release of 90 men whose release was recommended by the Task Force -- means that, on this particular anniversary, there is a very real possibility, without concerted effort by Americans opposed to the existence of Guanta'namo and all it stands for, that almost everyone still held at Guanta'namo will continue to be held indefinitely.
To raise awareness of these issues, and to call for action, Andy is taking part in the following events:
Thursday January 6, 7.30 pm: Special Forum -- "WikiLeaks, State Secrets, Guanta'namo and Torture" with Andy Worthington, Katie Gallagher, Pardiss Kebriaei, Leili Kashani and other speakers to be confirmed.
The Brecht Forum, 451 West Street (between Bank & Bethune Streets), New York, NY 10014.
For this special event, Andy Worthington will be joined by Katie Gallagher, Pardiss Kebriaei and Leili Kashani from the Center for Constitutional Rights and other guests (including a representative of Witness Against Torture) to discuss the importance of WikiLeaks, attempts to extradite Julian Assange to the US, the dangerous isolation of Bradley Manning, revelations about Guanta'namo and US interference to suppress torture investigations in Germany and Spain, and the significance of other stories not covered by Wikileaks -- in particular, the circumstances surrounding the deaths of three prisoners at Guanta'namo in June 2006.
For further information, and to register for this event, see the Brecht Forum website, or phone: 212-242-4201. This event is free for Brecht Forum Subscribers. Otherwise, admission is on a sliding scale: $6/$10/$15.
Friday January 7, 7 pm: Film screening: "Outside the Law: Stories from Guanta'namo," followed by Q&A with Andy Worthington and Scott Horton.
Revolution Books, 146 West 26th Street (between 6th & 7th Ave.), New York, NY 10001.
A screening of the documentary film, "Outside the Law: Stories from Guanta'namo" (directed by Polly Nash and Andy Worthington) will be followed by a discussion about the film, the state of Guanta'namo on the 9th anniversary of its opening, and accountability for torture with Andy Worthington and Scott Horton, law professor and columnist for Harper's Magazine.
A donation of $10 is requested for the film, drinks and popcorn, to benefit Revolution Books. For further information, see the Revolution Books website, or contact the store: 212-691-3345.
Sunday January 9, 4 pm: World Can't Wait open house to celebrate the New Year and a new office, and to welcome Andy Worthington.
The World Can't Wait, 112 West 27th Street, New York, NY 10001.
An open house to mark the opening of The World Can't Wait's new office, and an opportunity to meet Andy Worthington, to discuss actions to help close Guanta'namo, and to hold senior Bush administration officials accountable for torture, and also to hear about. and to support the campaigning work of The World Can't Wait.
For further information, please contact the office: 866-973-4463.
Monday January 10, 7 pm: Panel discussion -- "War Is A Lie" with David Swanson, plus guests Andy Worthington, Cindy Sheehan and Debra Sweet.
Barnes & Noble Johns Hopkins Bookstore, 3330 St. Paul Street, Baltimore, MD 21218.
En route to Washington D.C. for events marking the 9th anniversary of the opening of Guanta'namo, Andy Worthington will be a guest of the author, blogger and activist David Swanson at an event promoting his latest book War Is A Lie, along with peace activist Cindy Sheehan and Debra Sweet of The World Can't Wait.
For further information, see the War Is A Crime website, and to contact the store, please phone: 410-662-5850.
Tuesday January 11, 10.30 am: 11-day Vigil and Fast for the Closure of Guantanamo begins outside The White House, 1600 Pennsylvania Ave., Washington, D.C.
On the 9th anniversary of the opening of Guanta'namo, anti-torture activists Witness Against Torture launch a Daily Vigil and Fast for Justice that will continue for 11 days and includes demonstrations throughout Washington D.C. The event on January 11 begins with a rally of a coalition of human rights and grassroots groups and individuals, including the Center for Constitutional Rights, Torture Abolition and Survivors Support Coalition, The World Can't Wait, Andy Worthington, Cindy Sheehan and, hopefully, peace activist Ray McGovern and others, followed by a press conference at 11 am, a "prisoner procession" to the Department of Justice at 11.45 am, arriving at 12.15 pm, where members of Witness Against Torture will engage in nonviolent direct action.
For further information, please visit the Witness Against Torture website, or contact Frida Berrigan: 347-683-4928 or Jeremy Varon: 732-979-3119.
Tuesday January 11, 3.30-5 pm: Panel discussion -- "Nine Years of Guanta'namo: What Now?" with Andy Worthington, Tom Wilner, Morris Davis and Benjamin Wittes.
New America Foundation, 1899 L Street, N.W., Suite 400, Washington, D.C. 20036.
On the 9th aniversary of the opening of Guanta'namo, Andy Worthington is joined by attorney Tom Wilner, Morris Davis, the former chief prosecutor of the Military Commissions at Guanta'namo, and Benjamin Wittes of the Brookings Institution, for what promises to be a lively discussion about the future of Guanta'namo. Tom Wilner is the former attorney for the Kuwaiti prisoners in Guanta'namo, who argued the Guanta'namo cases in the Supreme Court (and is hoping to challenge the ongoing detention of one of the two remaining Kuwaiti prisoners before the Supreme Court), Morris Davis resigned in October 2007, after being placed in a chain of command under Pentagon General Counsel William J. Haynes II, who advocated for the use of torture, and Benjamin Wittes has spent several years arguing that new legislation is required authorizing the indefinite detenton of prisoners. Among the topics under discussion will be the viability of the Authorization for Use of Military Force as a basis for detention, the approach taken by the Obama administration and the courts with regard to the prisoners' habeas corpus claims, and the conficting claims for federal court trials, trials by Mlitary Commission or indefinite detention without charge or trial for the 81 of the remaining 174 prisoners that the adminstration has stated that it wants to try or to detain indefinitely. The discussion will be moderated by Patrick Doherty of the New America Foundation.
Wednesday January 12, 12-1.30 pm: Panel discussion on the future of Guanta'namo and accountabiity for torture with Andy Worthington, Juan Me'ndez, Leili Kashani and Frida Berrigan, plus excerpts from "Outside the Law: Stories from Guanta'namo."
American University Washington College of Law, JD Lounge, 6th floor, 4801 Massachusetts Avenue NW, Washington, D.C. 20016.
For the final event of this short US tour, Andy Worthington will be joined by Juan Me'ndez, Visiting Professor of Law at the American University Washington College of Law, and the newly appointed UN Special Rapporteur on Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, and Leili Kashani of the Center for Constitutional Rights for further discussion about how to push for the closure of Guanta'namo, fair trials, the release of cleared prisoners, an end to indefinite detention without charge or trial, and accountability for torture. The panel discussion will be moderated by Frida Berrigan of Witness Against Torture, excerpts from "Outside the Law; Stories from Guanta'namo" will be shown, and refreshments will be served.