Listen to Us: Black Survivors in the Mental Health Care System

In few days the Black History Month will finish and Spectacle is contributing to this important event by republishing an old and powerful documentary about institutionalized racism in mental health care. The documentary “Listen to Us: Black Survivors of the Mental Health Care System“, collects experiences of mental illness and the impact of institutional treatment on black people’s lives.

The trailer:

Unfortunately the experience of unlawful detention in mental health care institutions and the effects of the stereotype of being “black and dangerous” is still relevant today. We hope this document from the ’90, will raise awareness and contribute to make mental health care better.

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Listen to Us: Black Survivors of the Mental Health Care System

This powerful and emotionally distressing documentary tells the story of black former mental health patients caught up in a psychiatric system reputed to be institutionally racist. These black patients became increasingly vulnerable to unlawful treatment and discrimination once The Mental Health Act (1983) permitted patients to be detained against their will.

These brave survivors speak out about their personal experiences and describe what it means to be black and mentally ill. You get the feeling that these people were misunderstood, misdiagnosed and racially stereotyped as “black and dangerous”. Furthermore, the disturbingly low lack of patient support for black patients also denied them the comfort and security of which they were entitled.

Their stories examine the harsher side of a typical mental health institution, in relation to the measures of control used upon patients. This includes factors concerning higher doses of medication, seclusion, control, and constraint.

In this documentary, former patients speak out about their life before, during, and after their incarceration. You follow them through their journeys of confusion and turmoil. Firstly, their struggles to understand their illnesses, and how they cope with the side effects of medication. Then secondly, their attempt to rebuild their lives and overcome their dreadful experiences that they suffered.

Listen to Us, filmed in the late 90s is an insightful and important viewing, and its a topic still widely relevant today. Little has changed within the last decade which indicates that the problem hasn’t gone away. However in spite of this, treatment received by various black ethnicities is continually less widely reported.

Statistically black people are more likely to be diagnosed with a mental health problem, and are three to five times more likely to be diagnosed or admitted to hospital for schizophrenia than any other group. Also when it comes the populations of prisons and secure units, black people are again over-represented.

There is still a way to go before this group can get the support and understanding they need to secure successful treatment. This documentary highlights these points and demonstrates that their voices still need to be heard, as the title Listen to Us indicates.

Rent or buy the full film on our Vimeo on Demand page

Buy Listen to Us on DVD click here

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The Hostages of Guantanamo: A Letter From Shaker Aamer

 A letter from Shaker Aamer, the last UK resident in Guantanamo Bay, to is lawyer has been recently unclassified by the Pentagon. The letter, dated July 15 2011, describes the inhumane treatment the detainee of ten years has been experiencing and the continuing injustice that led him to begin a peaceful protest involving a hunger strike.

I the signatory below, in Camp 5E announce the start of a peaceful protest/hunger strike for the reasons enumerated below:

1. The opening and continuing operation of this unjust detention facility for the ninth year of my continuing and indefinite detention in the absence of any real accusation or crimes committed. Therefore I am hostage.

2. The inhumane treatment and deprivation of some of the items we are truly in need of, most important of which are the family calls since they are most critical to our families, especially to those experiencing special circumstances. Therefore, I want these calls to take place on a continuing basis and recur once every 15 days. These family calls ought to last no less than 2 hours with further consideration given to those experiencing special circumstances. I also speak for the regular mail to be made more efficient and provide us with e-mail.

3. The inhumane treatment is taking place at the hospital among other areas especially affecting the sick and those who are on strike and our deprivation of real treatment, health diet and appropriate clothing which are not provided to us nor are we allowed to provide them for ourselves.

4. Not upholding the promise that both your president and government gave on 01/21/2009 concerning the closing of Guantánamo detention facility. Very few people have left ever since although many here have been deemed to not represent any danger for the United States. Therefore, I ask you to establish justice and remove the injustice that has befallen us and our brothers in all detention centers.

By submitting these demands, I affirm our right to life. We want our freedom and the right to return to our homes since I am innocent of the charges (if there were any) you have levied against us. I ask that you establish justice that you claim to be a foundation of your country.

After these years of hardship we have spent here — and which I managed to do only through the grace of God, otherwise I would have lost my sanity — I want you to consider my case as soon as possible and give me the right to a just and public trial or set me free without conditions.

Shaker Aamer (00239)


See our Shaker Aamer pages for more information.

Sign the Government petition to return Shaker Aamer to the UK.

Shaker Aamer – Ten Years On

Shaker Aamer is one of the 171 men still held in Guantanamo Bay and its last remaining British resident. Despite never having had a trial, having been approved for release twice and been the focus of a high-profile campaign for his immediate release, Shaker has remained in detention for more than ten years. His physical and mental health deterioration is also a prevalent concern.

Spectacle is making a short film about Shaker Aamer to mark the tenth anniversary of his incarceration. The film includes interviews with activists and former detainees and paints a picture of who Shaker Aamer is and the injustices he has endured for the last decade.

The project area of the Spectacle website also contains full information about Shaker Aamer, the progress of the campaign and links to more content such as Scott Horton’s 2010 article, ‘The Guantánamo “Suicides”: A Camp Delta sergeant blows the whistle’, published in Harper’s Magazine.

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

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Or visit our Guantánamo project pages for more information and videos.

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A screening of “Outside the Law: Stories from Guantanamo” at the European Parliament in Brussels- January 24

On Tuesday January 24, at 7 pm, there will be a special screening of the acclaimed documentary film “Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo” at the European Parliament in Brussels. The screening will take place in the main European Parliament building, the Altiero Spinelli Building, Rue Wiertz, in Room ASP – 3G2, on the 3rd floor, and Moazzam Begg, former Guantánamo prisoner, and the director of the NGO Cageprisoners, will be joining Andy Worthington and Polly Nash for the screening, and for the Q&A session afterwards.


The screening has been arranged by Jean Lambert (UK Green MEP), with the support of Sarah Ludford (UK Liberal Democrat MEP) and Ana Gomes (Portuguese Socialist MEP), and the purpose of the screening is to raise awareness of the continued existence of Guantánamo, and its mockery of universal notions of fairness and justice, ten years after the prison opened, on January 11, 2002. Given President Obama’s very public failure to close the prison as promised, it is essential that other countries step forward to take cleared prisoners who cannot be safely repatriated, and one of the main purposes of the screening is to encourage EU countries to re-engage with the process of resettling prisoners that was so successful in 2009 and 2010.

The screening is free, but anyone who wishes to attend needs to contact Rachel Sheppard, the Parliamentary Assistant to Jean Lambert MEP:

This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

If those wishing to attend do not already have an access badge for the European Parliament, they need to provide their full name, date of birth, nationality, passport number or ID card and number and also specify the type of document (passport, ID card) so that access badges can be arranged. Without an access badge, those wishing to attend the screening will not be allowed.

Moazzam Begg and Andy Worthington will be available to talk to the press along with Jean Lambert MP, Sarah Ludford MEP and Ana Gomes MEP they are hoping to have the opportunity to discuss the need for European countries to revisit the generosity shown in 2009 and 2010, when many offered new homes to cleared Guantánamo prisoners who could not be safely repatriated.

171 prisoners are still held in Guantánamo, and 89 of these have been cleared for release by President Obama’s interagency Guantánamo Review Task Force. 58 of these men are Yemenis, whose release is being prevented by President Obama, and by Congress, but others remain in need of new homes, and it is only the absence of offers from, for example, countries in Europe, that is preventing them from finally being freed.

As Guantánamo recently marked the 10th anniversary of its opening, with no sign of when, if ever it will close, given Congressional opposition, and the President’s refusal, or inability to assert his authority, it would be a powerful humanitarian gesture if European countries once more agreed to take cleared prisoners, to help to close this shameful icon of the Bush administration’s misguided “war on terror.”


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

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EU to ban film on victims of rape in Afghanistan

London based film-maker, Clementine Malpas, has been threatened with legal action by the European Union after making a documentary that exposed the abuse of women in Afghanistan.

The EU hired  Ms Malpas, 30, to highlight the life of battered wives and rape victims convicted of moral crimes by anti-female Afghan courts. But only 24 hours before the film was due to be delivered, EU officials stated that they did not want to “upset relations with the justice institutions” in Afghanistan.

Ms Malpas is now accused of breaching her contract after breaching her contract after claims the film was screened for outside viewers.

She obtained written consent to film Gulnaz, 19, who was jailed for 12 years for adultery after being raped, and Farida, 26, also jailed for adultery after fleeing her abusive husband. Both women risked their personal safety to speak up and the EU insists that it is protecting them by hiding their identities.

An EU spokesman said: “The woman and their families must be protected, which means their identities can under no circumstances be revealed. The film in its current state does not conceal the persons in question.”

Ms Malpas, who has produced a number of human rights films in Africa, told the London Evening Standard: “It is the women’s choice to tell their stories and I admire their clever-eyed courage. It is not for us to veto their votes.”

These women are well aware of the fact that they’re putting their own and their families’ lives at risk in order to tell their horror stories. They have made up their mind, so who are the EU to dictate what they’re allowed to say? These women’s bravery should be applauded – not shut down.

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Guantánamo – 10 years on

The London Guantánamo Campaign is marking the illegal detention centre’s first 10 years’ existence with a series of actions in January 2012.

Including a candlelight vigil outside the US embassy in London on 12th January, these actions have been designed to highlight a decade where over 800 prisoners were detained, most of them without charge or trial and subjected to torture and abuse.

The US Embassy can be found on Grosvenor Square, London W1A 1AE (nearest underground: Bond Street/ Marble.)

The LGC has also launched an e-petition which will be forwarded to the US ambassador to the UK, Louis Susman, on 11th January 2012 calling on the US government to repatriate UK prisoners Shaker Aamer and Ahmed Belbacha.

Click here to add your name to the e-petition.

Anyone wishing to get involved or obtain further information in any of the LGC’s planned events can email

Further details on the LGC can be found here


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

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Overwhelming support for Omar Deghayes account of torture

In the last few days an overwhelming amount of evidence has come to light about the complicity of British intelligence officers, and  the British government, in the torture of terror suspects.

Reporting in The Guardian, Ian Cobain has gathered a dossier of case studies and reports that support the account given to Spectacle by Omar Deghayes, a former Guantanamo detainee.

Omar Deghayes told Spectacle that he was visited numerous times by British intelligence officers while being tortured in Pakistan and Afghanistan. In a striking parallel to a case mentioned by Ian Cobain, Omar was first visited by an officer called ‘Andrew’.

From The Guardian:

‘Jamil Rahman, a British citizen from south Wales, was detained in his wife’s family’s village in northern Bangladesh in December 2005 and says he was tortured by Bangladeshi intelligence agents before being questioned by two MI5 officers who called themselves Liam and Andrew.’

The first thing Omar said to ‘Andrew’ was he was a British citizen, he then asked why the British were colluding with his maltreatment. Later on when Omar was moved to Bagram in Afghanistan, he says his torturers were given false information by British intelligence officers to further intimidate him. Furthermore  the British  interrogated him themselves in an area of the prison where they could have clearly seen prisoners being maltreated.

This claim has  now been supported by Pakistani intelligence officials who told New York based Human Rights Watch that not only were British Intelligence agents aware of torture but they were ‘grateful’ for it.

Surely it is time to stop referring to ‘claims’ of torture and admit that British officers directly used torture to gather ‘information’ from ‘terror’ suspects. Regardless whether or not they physically carried out the torture themselves this is still a crime against humanity.

To watch an edit of Omar’s torture testimony please visit Spectacle’s Guantanamo Project Page

To watch other footage from Spectacle’s Guantanamo project please visit our Archive