UK Guantánamo Feature Archive
In the days leading up to 11 January 2012, the tenth anniversary of the opening of Guantánamo Bay detention centre, Guantánamo prisoners held a three day hunger strike and protest. Beyond the prison walls, the event has been marked with many days of action in the US, Britain and elsewhere around the world. Protesters call for the closure of Guantánamo and the release of the 171 people still incarcerated there without trial.
50 people held a ten day fast, took part in actions in and around Washington DC during this time and supported defendants in a court case which, bizarrely, had been brought by the State using the (misspelt) name of Shaker Aamer, the last British resident detained at Guantánamo: Shakir Ami vs the US. The anniversary demo in DC on 11 January was the largest ever, involving 171 participants in orange jumpsuits and many hundreds of others, so large it split into groups and marched to the Supreme Court, Congress and the Department of Justice. The following day, 37 people in orange jumpsuits and with a full size cage were arrested in front of the White House while protesting against Obama's support for the National Defence Authorization Act, which effectively cancels Obama's promise to shut Guantánamo.
British solidarity actions demanded the release of Shaker Aamer, the closure of Guantánamo and bore witness to torture and other human rights abuses perpetrated there. Events included a rally in Trafalgar Square, a press conference at the Frontline Club, panel discussion at Conway Hall with numerous speakers including former detainees, a screening of the film 'Death in Camp Delta' about a detainee who died in Guantánamo, petition presented to the US Embassy calling for Obama to keep his promise to shut down Guantánamo and a vigil in Haringey during the morning rush hour. In Ireland, protesters held a vigil outside the US Embassy at Ballsbridge and handed a letter to the Ambassador Dan Rooney.
On Tuesday 14th February 2012, the last remaining British resident in Guantanamo, Shaker Aamer will have been in Guantanamo for ten years. The appalling conditions under which he continues to be held were eloquently described by his lawyer Clive Stafford Smith at the Remembrance meeting on Wednesday. Campaigners intend to mark the anniversary by staging a Guantanamo Chain Gang outside the US Embassy calling for him to be returned home to his family. Cage Prisoners believe that his testimony is vital in any investigation of British complicity in torture, and he is surely entitled to return to his home and the family he hasn't seen for ten years as he has been cleared of any wrong doing.
The LGC also maintains that the British government should seek the return to the UK of former British resident Ahmed Belbacha, an Algerian national who lived in Bournemouth from 1999 to 2001. He was cleared for release by the US military in 2007. Mr Belbacha fears for his life if forcibly returned to Algeria (an injunction currently prevents this), and remains at Guantánamo awaiting the offer of a safe home.
On the newswire: London Remembers Guantánamo: 10 years | We demand the truth about British involvement in torture | Anniversary demo in DC | 37 arrested at White House | Guantánamo Remembered event at Conway Hall | Campaigners demand Guantánamo closure | From Haringey to Washington DC: Close Guantánamo | Guantánamo prisoners' protest and hunger strike | former guard Brandon Neely on Gitmo | Schedule of anniversary events | Shut Gitmo: End 10 years of Shame - Call-out | Report
Audio reports: Guantánamo Remembered Event at Conway Hall - Introduction | former detainee Moazzam Begg | Attorney Michael Ratner | Vanessa Redgrave reads former detainee Murat Kurnaz | Human Rights lawyer Gareth Peirce | Former detainee Sami Al-Hajj | Human Rights lawyer Clive Stafford Smith | Former detainee Omar Deghayes | Chair of Islamic Human Rights Commission Massoud Sadjareh | Three poems brought out of Guantánamo | Audio from DC rally
External links: Reprieve on Shaker Aamer and Ahmed Belbacha | Cage Prisoners | Witness Against Torture | Amnesty Report - Guantánamo: A Decade of Damage to Human Rights | Human Rights Watch - Guantánamo Ten Years On
The Home Secretary, Jacqui Smith, appears to have declared war on the government’s own secret terror court, overruling decisions made by judges in the Special Immigration Appeals Court (SIAC). In what can only be described as an act of executive fiat, two men who attended a hearing at the SIAC were driven away from the court, expecting to return home, as ordered by the SIAC judges, but were, instead, delivered to Belmarsh prison, where they were joined by three other men, who had been seized in raids on their homes.
Journalist and author Andy Worthington notes that the whole operation was clearly planned by the Home Secretary in advance. "Even though she had informed neither the men’s lawyers nor the SIAC judges." The first the lawyers heard about it was when one of the men’s wives rang, inquiring why he had not yet returned home. He adds; "the Home Secretary has acted in a manner that would have pleased King John, in those days before England's nobles forced him to sign the Magna Carta in 1215, establishing for the first time that the king had no right to imprison his subjects except upon the lawful judgment of his peers or the law of the land."
On The Newswire: Jacqui Smith versus Justice Mitting | Home Secretary ignores Court decision, kidnaps bailed men and imprisons them in Belmarsh | Revealed: flawed intelligence exposes the scandal of Belmarsh detainees | Invisible Barriers: Detention without Trial/Social Housing Policy in the UK Today
Previous Features: Hundreds Join Demo for Academic Freedom and Against Deportation | Anger Over "Terror Arrests" at Nottingham University | The Global War of Terror | The Racist 'War on Terror' | Terror profiling nets innocents
Links: National Guantanamo Coalition | Cageprisoners | 100 Days to Close Guantánamo and End Torture | The Campaign against Criminalising Communities | Scotland Against Criminalising Communities (SACC) | Reprieve | Andy Worthington | Indymedia Topic Pages: Terror War | Guantanamo
Former Guantánamo prisoners including Moazzam Begg and Chris Arendt, a former guard, are completing a UK speaking tour to “mark seven years of unlawful detention, abuse and torture”. The tour, organised by Cage Prisoners started in London on 11th January 2009, exactly seven years after the first transfers to the prison torture camp at Guantánamo Bay at date which was marked in London by a weekend of actions. Sami al-Haj, a former Guantánamo prisoner and Al Jazeera journalist was due to be one of the speakers but instead he joined a Free Gaza boat which was fired on and didn’t make it. By the Sheffield meeting, held on the date of Obama’s inauguration, he had been replaced by Omar Deghayes another former Guantánamo prisoner. In Liverpool the meeting “was held on the same day as the US president signed an order to close Guantanamo. Moazzam Begg was not impressed, and commented that Barack Obama spoke about ‘outlawing torture’ as though he himself had just decided to make it illegal: “It has ALWAYS been illegal, at least in any civilised country”" Further reports can be found on the tour blog.
Campaigns: Cageprisoners | The National Guantánamo Coalition | 100 Days to Close Guantánamo and End Torture | The Campaign against Criminalising Communities | Scotland Against Criminalising Communities (SACC) | Reprieve | Andy Worthington
Background: Andy Worthington on Antiwar Radio: Obama, Guantánamo and Torture (audio) | SchNews: [ Inside Guantanamo | Omar Deghayes Speaks to SchNews ] Seven Years of Guantánamo Bay: London Actions | Guantánamo - Obama could do better | Binyam’s Story: From Ladbroke Grove to GTMO | The Rendition Monolgues | Moazzam Begg and Andy Worthington on Human Rights in The War on Terror | Can Human Rights Survive the "War on Terror"? | Guantánamo Bay: The Case of Omar Deghayes | Craig Murray: Legality, Morality and the War on Terror
Protesters gathered outside Downing Street on Thursday, 24th July, to hold a 'Birthday Party' for Britain's last Guantamo Detainee, Binyam Mohamed [Reports and pics 1 | 2 | 3]. The event was the culmination of a week long vigil which took place outside the US Embassy.
Previous reports: Binyam faces death penalty | Brown urged to act | Binyam sues British Govt. | New report details torture | Reprieve: 'Bring Binyam back' | Guantanamo's last Londoner
Previous actions: London: 1 | 2 | 3 | Sheffield | Nottingham
The 11th June Sheffield Guantánamo protest highlighted the case of Binyam Mohamed who, after years of torture is facing the threat of the death penalty. On 31 May over 100 people attended a public meeting concerning his plight and Reprieve organised a protest in Trafalgar Square which took place on Sunday 15th June to highlight the suffering of Binyam Mohamed. The London Guantánamo Campaign are asking for urgent action to be taken for Binyam Mohamed.
Articles: Urgent appeal for British resident Binyam Mohamed, “close to suicide” in Guantánamo | Guantánamo: Torture victim Binyam Mohamed sues British government for evidence | Binyam Mohamed’s letter from Guantánamo to Gordon Brown | Meeting Report: Binyam Mohamed: The Last Londoner in Guantánamo Bay | Take URGENT ACTION for Binyam Mohamed! | New report details torture of Guantánamo prisoner Binyam Mohamed | Guantanamo bay / Binyam Mohamed Protest, London 15.06.08
Links: Cageprisoners.com | The National Guantanamo Coalition | Reprieve | Andy Worthington
The University of Nottingham's Amnesty International Society's held a protest against the continuing human rights abuses at Guantanamo Bay. On Saturday the 10th of March folks dressed in orange jump suits re-created a Guantanamo scene on Long Row in Nottingham with people caged in.
It is now over five years since the first detainees were transferred to the detention camp and despite widespread international condemnation, hundreds of people from more than 30 nationalities remain there: without charge and with little hope of obtaining a fair trial. Alan Simpson, MP for Nottingham South, joined in the protest about half way through.
Links: Amnesty International Society | Amnesty International | The National Guantanamo Coalition | UK Feature article: Tackle the Shackles, Close Guantanamo | Other articles: Sheffield G8 Events: Guantanamo Bay orange jump suits | The Road to Guantánamo
In London, over 300 people followed a call by Amnesty International to protest [Photos 1 and 2 | Videos 1 and 2 | Slide show] and to stage a vigil outside the US embassy. A break away group of protestors later targeted the arms manufacturers company Lockheed-Martin for profiteering from Guantanamo Bay [Video]. Another vigil [Photos] by London and Oxford Catholic Worker communities took place in solidarity with 90 anti-Guantanamo US activists that were arrested in an occupation of the U.S. Federal Court House in Washington DC [Report | Photos] A further candle-lit vigil was set outside Downing Street [Video]
In Birmingham around 80 people gathered in front of Hiatt, a UK company that makes shackles and other torture equipment used by the US military in Guantanamo Bay over the last five years [Report and Photos]. In Edinburgh there was a protest outside the US Consulate, and a meeting in the Scottish Parliament [Report and Photos]
To read more about facts and the mistreatment of prisoners in Guantanamo click at the Full Article link above.
Saturday, 24th June, saw a day of protest at 5 British airports (Glasgow, Prestwick, Edinburgh, Gatwick and Birmingham International) against the so-called rendition flights, used by the CIA to secretly and illegally transport 'terror suspects' arrested or kidnapped around the world for 'interrogation' in other countries, where torture of prisoners is practiced. The protests were supported by Birmingham Guantanamo Campaign, Scotland Against Criminalising Communities, Save Omar Deghayes Campaign and Edinburgh Stop The War Coalition. The 5 are among tens of British and European airports where CIA-owned or chartered jets have been logged.
In Birmingham, about 20 people took part in a vigil on the A45 outside Birmingham International Airport to "demand action to put a stop to the CIA's torture flights". They were later joined by people from Oxford and Coventry. In Edinburgh, the protest involved about 35 people from different campaigns. Banners and placards read "Stop the torture flights", "Stop the War". In both cases, activists were dressed up in orange jump suits, worn by detainees in Guantanamo, and shackled and handcuffed. Similar protests took place at Glasgow, Gatwick and Prestwick airports.
The UK and other EU governments have repeatedly dnied any knowledge of such flights, despite the mounting evidence of their complicity. A report by the Council of Europe's rapporteur, Dick Marty, said European governments, including Britain, were complicit in these abuses. The report was debated by the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe on 27 June. [the report in pdf]
Read more: El-Masri suing CIA for flight to prison | List of CIA torture planes | CIA's secret jails | CIA aircraft flying into Scotland | Europe knew | Europe's agreement
Amnesty International's report | Liberty's page on extraordinary rendition.
Britain continues to hold 14 foreign nationals who have never been charged with any offence. The supposed evidence against them remains secret. They were never questioned by the police. They have not been put on trial.
These men are detained under the Anti-Terrorism, Crime and Security Act 2001, which allows the Home Secretary to detain indefinitely any foreign nationals if he has 'reasonable suspicion' that they have links with 'international terrorism'. At hearings last year, the government acknowledged that some of the 'evidence' could have been obtained by torturing detainees elsewhere, e.g. Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib.
On Sunday 3 October, around 100 people gathered outside Belmarsh Prison in south east London to protest against the indefinite internment of the 14 prisoners, and to demand the repeal of the UK's anti-terrorism laws. A wide range of people were present, from Muslim leaders to grass roots activists, incluiding Lawyers and anti-racism campaigners. A number of speeches were made, and an open microphone included poetry and music. Photos 1 | 2.