Shaker Aamer: 10 Years on

 

The Independent has drawn attention today to the “decade in detention without trial” of Shaker Aamer, cleared for release in 2007. The article emphasised Shaker’s current declining health and concerns about the amount of time he has endured in solitary confinement.

As a British resident, Shaker looks to be spending his tenth year in Guantanamo Prison where his recent hunger strike draws ever more concern about just exactly what it means to have been “cleared for release” in the United States of America. While this is a case that has drawn minimum media attention in the past ten years, what seems to be lacking is not just a public awareness of the issue but an informed public response to it.

One reader’s comment on the Independent article, with more than 10 ‘likes’, has expressed hostility about the idea of British taxpayers money being used on “lawyers looking after his interests” with a reluctance to accept Shaker as a British resident. This kind of prejudice dominating the response to the Independent article is disconcerting, especially given that we know of the torture received by Shaker in Guantanamo Prison and the trauma that has befallen his family for ten years now, particularly his son, who has never seen him. Shaker was abducted while residing in Afghanistan to build wells and a school for children as a charitable act. The real issue here is one of humanity and a huge injustice in the legal system of America – not one to do with terrorism or a bigoted gripe about who is paying for Shaker’s lawyers, who he has only had very little contact with anyway. He is a British citizen, it must be remembered.

The article brings little more to light than a reminder and a vague description of a decline in Shaker’s situation. Perhaps more prominent are the superfical and racist comments brought about by the article from an audience that seem unaware of the plight of Shaker, Omar Khadr and others suffering the injustices of Guantanamo.

It is interesting that fifty years after Stanley Milgram‘s experiment into obedience to authority; there has been no shift in human development. We still believe in upholding the justice system even when it is killing innocent people and destroying lives. We need to stop putting our trust in Government actions simply because it is easier to ignore them. Progress comes with education, so if you want more information about the save Shaker Aamer campaign, spend just five minutes getting to know his case and just why we need to call for his release today.

Please join the Save Shaker Aamer Campaign

Watch video- Omar Deghayes, former Guantanamo Bay detainee, describes his interrogation by British Intelligence agent, “Andrew”, and others (MI5 and MI6) while held illegally in Pakistan.

Order Spectacle’s DVD Outside The Law: Stories from Guantánamo

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UK’s secret policy on torture: a threat to national security




Today the Guardian exclusively revealed  the UK’s secret policy on torture.
The document shows intelligence officers were instructed to “weigh the importance of information sought against the pain inflicted”.

One section states: “If […] that information will be or has been obtained through the mistreatment of detainees, the negative consequences may include […] adverse effects on national security if the fact […] were to be publicly revealed”

Not only does this document expose the UK’s complicity with torture, which it acknowledges is illegal under UK and international law, but it also attempts to justify the need for keeping the policy secret because it may increase the threat from terrorism. In other words it is not the illegal torture policy that is a problem- just people finding out about it.

In other words, as any criminal will surely agree, the real crime is being found out.  The document attempts to blame the messenger or whistle-blower for any potential negative “blow back” rather than the torture policy itself.

Behind this lies a remarkable confidence that both the victims and the perpetrators of torture will keep silent or will not be believed if they speak out.
This policy of secrecy would explain why credible witness and UK resident Shaker Aamer is still in Guantanamo. It would appear he will be held until tormented into insanity.

Please join the Save Shaker Aamer Campaign

Watch video- Omar Deghayes, former Guantanamo Bay detainee, describes his interrogation by British Intelligence agent, “Andrew”, and others (MI5 and MI6) while held illegally in Pakistan.

Order Spectacle’s DVD Outside The Law: Stories from Guantánamo

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Bradford screenings – Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo

As part of the Bradford International Film Festival, Cineworld at the Bradford Leisure Exchange will be hosting two screenings of the new Spectacle documentary, Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo on the 26th and 27th of March.

The March 26th viewing will also host a panel discussion of the project with filmmakers Polly Nash and Andy Worthington, along with former detainees Moazzam Begg and Omar Deghayes following the screening.

Outside the Law offers a powerful and personal insight into the claims that Guantánamo holds “the worst of the worst” and how those detained as “illegal enemy combatants” were given no chance to defend themselves and, even worse, given no rights whatsoever.

Information and tickets are available online as are DVD purchases

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Reprieve ask Sir Peter Gibson to stand down from inquiry

Clive Stafford-Smith has published a letter sent to Sir Peter Gibson – the man elected by David Cameron to lead the inquiry into whether the UK has been complicit in the torture of terrorism suspects – that calls for him to renounce his position. The letter was written on behalf of Reprieve, an organisation which represents prisoners held ‘beyond the rule of law’ or those facing the death penalty, and which represented Binyam Mohamed in the trial which cleared his name of any connections with any terrorist acts.

Clive Stafford-Smith of Reprieve

The content of the letter focuses on the bias that compromises Sir Gibson’s position; specifically that he has already conducted an internal review on the same subject and his role as Intelligence Services Commissioner. Stafford-Smith finishes by challenging Sir Gibson about the expansion of his duties in 2009 to Gordon Brown to ‘…protect the reputation of our security and intelligence services…’ and to ‘…ensure that our practices are in line with the United Kingdom and international law,’ arguing that he should be acting as a witness to the inquiry, not leading it.

Given that previous reports maintained that the integrity of British Intelligence remained intact and that those involved in the hearings were ‘trustworthy and dependable’, Stafford-Smith feels that he is unlikely to offer any public criticisms of, or claims for accountability from either MI5 or MI6.

The full letter has been printed in full for public consumption and Stafford-Smith also appeared on Radio 4’s Today programme to debate the matter with the former chairman of the Intelligence and Security Committee, Kim Howells.

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Government tried to prevent disclosure of detention manual

The government’s attempts to delay the current proceedings that have yielded highly classified documents for public consumption have received a rebuttal out of court. The failed attempt to suppress the information out of court, a ‘spin-off’ hope from the appeal court’s dismissal of the same case in May, has dented the coalition’s plans to restore confidence in the British Intelligence service who have been implicated in the torture of British citizens in Guantanamo and Afghanistan. It also follows previous failed efforts by David Miliband in October 2009 to prevent the disclosure of a CIA report that claimed that MI5 were fully aware that Binyam Mohamed was subject to ‘inhumane treatment’ during  interrogation in Morocco and Afghanistan, supplying information and questions to the Moroccans and Americans. Miliband was under pressure to protect the identities of those involved.

The inquiry, led by Sir Peter Gibson, will press ahead with raiding through the chest of 500,000 documents considered relevant to the judicial inquiry announced by David Cameron last week.  Among the documents that the government asked to remain undisclosed was the ‘Detainees and Detention Operations’ manual. The official document from MI6, which provides step-by-step guidelines that impressively manage to surf the boundaries of both legality and morality, contains a particularly chilling line regarding the jurisdiction of a particular detention that reads:

Is it clear that detention, rather than killing, is the objective of the operation?

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Measured antipathy and treachery by British Intelligence

An official report of an interview with Omar Deghayes confirmed his testimony, given in this interview with Spectacle back in December 2008, that British Intelligence were complicit in his torture during interrogation at a US airbase in Afghanistan.

The reports formally recognises Deghayes complaints that he suffered internal bleeding, and showed considered revulsion at Deghayes’ health visibly deteriorating during repeated visits to interrogate him in US custody, “Throughout the interview Deghayes expectorated rather disgustingly into a tissue as if he were still tubercular. These moments usually coincided with those answers were he was most evasive.”

Another report implicates the British Intelligence in calculated abandonment of Deghayes, stating, “We are due to see him 2100 local time on 4th March and propose that we treat this as our last opportunity to get the full truth from him. If he sticks to his story and just gives us a few more details, we propose disengaging and allowing events here to take their course.” Disengagement at this point meant rendition to lawless Guantanamo.

Deghayes is one of the former British Muslim detainees abducted and sent to US custody against their will despite being entitled to consular protection, and is one of seven former prisoners bringing cases alleging complicity in their torture against the Home Office, the Foreign Office and British Intelligence.

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No-one’s really bothered, keep going

“Public opinion has on the whole shown little concern about the welfare of the British detainees, or the legal terms of their detention. But the issue is clearly of sensitivity to Muslim opinion in the UK and abroad.”

The source of this quote is a memo circulated to the junior Foreign Office ministers, the Foreign Office press office and the department’s senior legal advisor, Sir Michael Wood on 4 January 2002, and refers to a number of British citizens and residents who at the time were being detained by US forces. The objective nature and breezy tone of the memo betrays a shocking disregard for the suffering of prisoners who, as revealed in several of the other documents, were witnessed by British Intelligence to have been in a rapidly deteriorating state.

What is more alarming is that the message was a clear signal to indulge in the illegality, secret acts of abduction and flying prisoner from cell to cell, on the grounds that they were getting away with it.

First hand video testimony of this process from Omar Deghayes documents the horrifying results of these decisions.

The memo is among 900 classified documents disclosed during high court proceedings this week as part of the official inquiry into the Labour government’s rendition of UK citizens, and goes on to say that the Foreign and Commonwealth Office should be, “seen as applying our normal standards of consular assistance as far as possible,” wholeheartedly asking its recipients not to be forthcoming about the fact that their government was knowingly allowing its people to be tortured.

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Post-birthday blues for Miliband

Any cause for celebration for David Miliband as he reflected on another year of career expediency will have been cut short by fresh accusations about his level of knowledge of British citizens rendition and subsequent torture.

Despite his promise that the current version of the guidelines, for MI5 and MI6 on how to carry out interrogations. will be published when reviewed and made suitable for public consumption, he has refused to publish the old guidelines – which he claims were more ‘informal’ than the updated version published in 2004 – on the grounds that it would give ‘succour to our enemies’.

The withholding of the official guidelines to interrogation discipline and technique is an attempt to suppress implications not only of his own government but also of those that deem torture necessary in obtaining information, contradicting his insistence that Britain should not collude with other countries that have ‘different standards to our own’.

It also demonstrates a depressing resolve to follow US practices. As the classified documents that implicate the Labour government’s complicity in the torture of British nationals suspected of terrorism demonstrate, Blair – who overruled Foreign Office attempts to give consular assistance to the former detainees – allowed suspects to be transferred to localities were torture was known to take place. Now Miliband is purveying the US default patriotic response to allegations of unlawful secrecy by claiming that to release the how-to detention pamphlet would undermine national security, whose authority must not be challenged.

Miliband’s protestation that he was unaware of any rendition or mistreatment was weakened considerably by the revelation that Gulam Mustafa, a 48 year-old businessman from Birmingham, was sent to Bangladesh and tortured with the full knowledge of MI5 in May of this year. Miliband remains a candidate in the race for the Labour leadership.

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Omar Deghayes Video Testimony

During an in-depth interview with Spectacle in December 2008, Omar Deghayes described the astonishing betrayal and complicity of British Intelligence agent, ‘Andrew’, and others (MI5 and MI6) while held illegally in Pakistan, before being sold into US custody and subjected to torture.

Omar Deghayes is one of the former detainees of Guantánamo and Bagram at the centre of an explosion of news stories surrounding classified documents that implicate the involvement of Tony Blair’s government in the torture of terror suspects.

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Inquiry Confirms UK Collusion in Torture

Highly classified documents have been disclosed that detail the involvement of Tony Blair’s government in the torture of its own citizens. The documents not only support claims by six former Guantánamo detainees that British Intelligence were complicit in their mistreatment but also implicates the previous government in a number of illegal operations and thwarting attempts by Foreign Office officials to try the suspects in the UK.

The interrogation reports, which were released in today’s Guardian, are the first batch of an estimated 500,000 documents that the government believe may be pertinent in the judicial inquiry announced last week by David Cameron.

First hand testimony with Omar Deghayes, one of the former Guantánamo Bay detainees,  can be seen here in an interview with Spectacle. He describes his interrogation by British Intelligence agent, “Andrew”, and others (MI5 and MI6) while held illegally in Pakistan, before being sold into US custody and rendered to Bagram prison in Afghanistan and subjected to torture.

Spectacle’s documentary about the stories of three former Guantánamo prisoners – Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo – is currently available to order by DVD. If you would like to arrange a screening of the film, please contact Spectacle distribution.

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