Monday, October 30, 2017

Slahi- one year after his release.....

Many of you will remember Mohamedou Ould Slahi- the Guantanamo prisoner who was held for more that 14 years without ever being charged with a crime. Mohamedou wrote a book while he was in prison that was heavily redacted. I just learned that he has republished the book with the redacted words reinstated.
Read Mohamedou's reflection on his past year- after being released from Gitmo here.
And order his book here.

Monday, October 16, 2017

R.I.P.--- M.Cherif Bassiouni

I am proud to have known Mr. Bassiouni- having spoken along side him at several speaking engagements in regards to Guantanamo and other illegal activities in my country. The cause of justice has lost a dear friend.

As was noted in a recent World Can't Wait email, M. Cherif Bassiouni passed away on Sept 25. I have copied below what they wrote. 

His memorial will be held on Sunday, Oct. 29. The details are here, please share with friends who will want to know:

We were saddened to hear of the death of M. Cherif Bassiouni on Sept. 25. He was everything the obituaries in newspapers across the country said he was: war crimes jurist, the “godfather of international human rights law,” human rights champion. What U.S. media failed to mention was that Cherif was a tireless and eloquent opponent of the whole legal premise of the “war on terrorism” and its use as a justification of U.S. aggression and crimes of cruel and degrading treatment, torture and indefinite detention without trial. He raised his powerful voice to demand an end to those crimes on the part of the U.S. government, whether under Bush or Obama. Cherif was an advisor to World Can’t Wait whose counsel and support we valued deeply.
The Close Guantanamo Ad that Bassiouni helped organize
He titled his 2010 book The Institutionalization of Torture by the Bush Administration. Is Anyone Responsible? and he dedicated it to "the victims of torture and other forms of cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment…at the hands of U.S. public agents…” The answer of the Obama administration would prove to be “no," it would not hold any of those U.S. public agents responsible for their well-documented war crimes and crimes against humanity. Cherif, however, held the Obama administration just as accountable as its predecessor. 
When dozens of prisoners at Guantanamo went on hunger strike in 2013, desperate as it became clear that Obama was not moving to close that torture camp, they forced the horror of their plight back into the spotlight.  Cherif was instrumental to the success of our efforts to publish in The New York Times a full-page statement demanding “Stop the Torture! Close Guantanamo NOW!” on May 23, 2013. His letter to colleagues urging them to sign it and donate to its publication remains a powerful indictment of the legal premise and horrific practices of the war of terror. In 2015, he lent his voice to the efforts of students at DePaul, the university where he had taught for 45 years, when they demanded the firing of a dean involved in covering up the role of psychologists in facilitating torture at Guantanamo. 
His sharp analysis, passion for justice and sense of humor will be missed.

Friday, October 13, 2017

Defense Team in the USS Cole case has resigned.... UPDATED (at bottom)

One of the cases pending at Guantanamo (which never should have been at Guantanamo to begin with but that is another story for another day) is the case against the men accused of bombing the USS Cole in 2000.
Today the entire defense team has resigned. They can't tell us all of the reasons (because the reasons are ....classified) but I am copying the full press release (except for the redactions!):

Brig. Gen. John Baker, Chief Defense Counsel for the Guantanamo Military Commission, Disbands
the Defense Team in the USS COLE Case.
Today, Brig. Gen. John Baker, the Chief Defense Counsel for the Military Commissions Defense
Organization, disbanded the trial team in the case of United States v. Nashiri. The circumstances surrounding this are highly classified. But Brig. Gen. Baker determined that doing so was necessary because it was no longer ethical for us to proceed.
As those following the military commissions know, there have been repeated intrusions into defense teams, which have compromised attorney-client confidentiality. This has included, in the past, microphones hidden in smoke detectors. In June, Brig. Gen. Baker learned of facts, which remain classified, that meant we could not have confidence that our communications with our client were in fact truly private. We filed a series of motions seeking to learn more. The prosecution initially advised the commission that the General’s concerns did not affect the location where we meet with our client. As we were allowed to say to the US Supreme Court, however: “Petitioner’s counsel then [REDACTED] contradicting the prosecution’s assurances.” This was followed by a series of classified rulings which placed us in the untenable position of having to advise our client that we could not visit him, but could not tell him why we could not visit him.
Because we were unsure of our ethical obligations, we sought advice from a nationally recognized expert in legal ethics. Based upon a completely unclassified description of the facts, she concluded that the Rules of Professional Responsibility obligated us to cease our participation in this case. We communicated our concerns and this opinion to Brig. Gen Baker, who had access to all the relevant information, including classified information and the classified orders. After a thorough review of the facts and relevant law, he too concluded that it was no longer lawful for us to proceed. As every lawyer knows, attorney-client confidentiality is the bedrock of our legal system. It is the most fundamental component of the right to counsel and it is recognized the world over as necessary for a fair trial.
In short, without getting into the details of matters that remain classified, we could no longer proceed as attorney’s in this case because the military commissions failed to meet this most basic requirement of a fair trial. Indeed, as Brig. Gen. Baker concluded, no self-respecting lawyer could continue to act under these circumstances. He accordingly found good cause to relieve the civilian attorneys on Mr. Nashiri’s defense team. That includes myself, Richard Kammen, as well as Mary Spears and Rosa Eliades.
We have mixed emotions about this. We are angry about being placed in an ethically untenable position, disappointed in not being able to see the case through, and devastated to leave Mr. Nashiri, whom we genuinely like and who deserves a real chance for justice. The entire team gave this a lot of thought but in the end concluded that this decision was the only one available. Brig. Gen. Baker also concluded that this was the correct decision and issued the ultimate orders disbanding the defense team. The ultimate decision was his.
The military commission system is a failed experiment. It does not provide fair or transparent justice, indeed it provides secret, hidden, and hopelessly unfair procedures designed to fool the public into believing that what it is seeing is an actual trial. It is not. It is an un-American façade of a court system that cannot provide fairness. And it designed to conceal the truth about the COLE bombing and the torture the United States inflicted on Nashiri. No justice will ever come out of Guantanamo.

Joe Margulies provides his take on this fiasco here.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Welcome to Camp America-UPDATED AT BOTTOM....

That is athe name of a new book and an exhibit by Debi Cornwall. See below for two events one in DC and the other in NYC.

October 19: Welcome to Camp America Book Talk & Signing (RSVP here)

Where: Busboys and Poets (14 & V), 2021 14th St NW, Washington, DC 20009
When: Doors open at 6:00 p.m., and the event will begin at 6:30 p.m.

CCR advocacy program manager Aliya Hussain will moderate an a conversation about Guantánamo and its contradictions with Debi Cornwall, Major Raashid Williams, a lawyer with the Military Commissions Defense Organization, and Dr. Maha Hilal, the inaugural Michael Ratner Middle East Fellow at the Institute for Policy Studies and an organizer with Witness Against Torture. 

October 28: Welcome to Camp America, Inside Guantánamo Bay: Exhibition, Discussion & Reception (RSVP here)

Where: Steven Kasher Gallery, 515 W. 26th St., New York, NY 10001
When: Program will begin at 2:30 p.m. with a reception to follow

CCR senior staff attorney J. Wells Dixon will join conceptual documentary artist Debi Cornwall, and author, curator, editor, and critic Fred Ritchin for an interdisciplinary panel discussion on Guantánamo Bay, art, and social justice. Additional panelists to be added.

On display at the Steven Kasher Gallery will be Debi Cornwall’s first New York solo exhibition, Welcome to Camp America, Inside Guantánamo Bay, which presents 29 large-scale color photographs as previously classified documents. Three bodies of work are on view in the exhibition. Gitmo at Home, Gitmo at Play portrays the residential and leisure spaces of both the prisoners and the guards, juxtaposing implied comfort and forced restraint. Gitmo on Sale depicts the commodification of American military power through the prison’s gift-shop souvenirs. Beyond Gitmo investigates the lives after detention of 14 men once held as accused terrorists, now cleared and living in nine countries, from Albania to Qatar. The exhibition, which runs from October 26 through December 22, launches the publication of Cornwall’s first monograph, Welcome to Camp America, Inside Guantánamo Bay (Radius Books, 2017).

MotherJones has more on the photos and the book here.

Monday, October 9, 2017

Sweet Land of Liberty.....

The Guardian has a horrifying story in todays paper about my country's torture program. More documents were released in response to the lawsuit against the psychologists who were instrumental in framing the torture techniques. We now know that as part of the experimentation my country apparently wanted to know how long it takes for a person to die from hypothermia. I guess we know now. That is how Gul Rahman died. Guards were regularly checking on Rahman and apparently noting that he was still alive....until he wasn't. You can read the chronology of "significant events" in Rahman's life and death here.

From the Guardian:
"Jessen, one of the two contract psychologists who designed the CIA’s “enhanced interrogation techniques”, spent 10 days in the secret prison near Kabul, Afghanistan, in November 2002. Five days after he left, Rahman, naked from the waist down and shackled to the cold concrete floor, was discovered dead in his cell from hypothermia.

Jessen, Mitchell and the pathetic Zirbel (and others who worked with them) are, in my opinion, war criminals. But then we have known that for quite some time but we, as a country, have decided to accept what they have done without charge or even a public inquiry.

Sunday, October 8, 2017


I guess the question is when do you let a hunger striker starve him or her self to death? At Guantanamo there has long been hunger strikes. The men have gone on hunger strikes for many different reasons- to protest their years long "detention" without charge, nevertheless a trial, nevertheless a finding of guilt; to protest the treatment they continue to endure; to protest the failure of the military to let them have more communications with their families- which most have not seen in more than 16 years; to protest the abysmal healthcare; to protest a great injustice.

The Bush and Obama regimes responded to the various hungerstrike protests with a brutal regiment of force feeding- torturing the men who dared to protest. It seems that the Trump regime has apparently decided to let them die....or at least let their bodies deteriorate to the point of no return. we have learned that the hunger strikers are no longer being force fed and they are no longer having their health monitored I am sure that some of the men will be happy to finally be able to leave the hell hole- even if it is in a box.

However, some of the men have been protesting to get attention and to change aspects of their confinement--- not to die.

I don't have the answer. Well actually the answer is that most of these men should have been set free years ago and I blame the cowardly Obama for not righting that particular ship and the cowardly judges who couldn't be bothered to appy the fucking law. Shame on all of you.

Now we are all in the hands of the inept and cruel Trump and there is no reasoning to be had. The men at Guantanamo can expect no change for at least--- three and a half years---- and of course even then there are no promises. I don't know how many of these men want to die as opposed to trying to bring attention to their fate but I do not expect it matters anymore.

For more on Bobby Sands you can read here. The British let Bobby Sands die of hunger while in prison and the fight of the Irish people in Northern Ireland intensified after his death. I think we can expect something similar as the remaining men at Guantanamo start to die.


Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Guantanamo Art on Exhibit in NYC

At the John Jay College of Criminal Justice. See website here.
And the Guardian's review can be found here.