Tag Archives: torture

Guantanamo Bay – it’s still a fucking* travesty!

Over 12 years ago, November 13
th 2001 to be precise, President George W Bush signed an order authorizing the detention of suspected al-Qaida members and supporters, and the creation of military commissions.

A few nights ago I was sat on top of a rock in the middle of national park drinking drams of whisky ranting to my, very lovely but unfortunately close by, American friend about how much of a travesty Guantanamo Bay is. The conversation went something like this:

Me: “it’s a fucking travesty that it still exists”

My mate: “I know man”

Me: “But don’t you get it, it’s outrageous…I mean how can it be justified”

My mate: “I know, I completely agree”

Me: “But I mean, it’s beyond words…even after so much evidence of torture, ritual humiliations…”

At this point I would like to think my mate walked off but in reality I suspect he was too nice and sat and listened to this tipsy Englishman ranting about his country’s foreign policy.

Although I may have been slurring, and the conversation might at times have slipped into more of a monologue, at least we were was talking. One of my biggest fears is that Guantanamo and all the other secret detention sites the US operates might just become a norm if people stop being outraged about them.

166 men that we know of are still held in Guantanamo. 86 have been cleared for release by an interagency Guantánamo Review Task Force established by President Obama, but are still held mainly because of Congressional opposition (see here for more on that).

These are men have all suffered enormously, their loved ones, family and friends have also all suffered enormously. They need us to be outraged…I mean really fucking* outraged!

One of these 86 men who have been cleared for release is British resident Shaker Aamer. I highlight his case over any other just because I know this blog is mainly read by Brits. Shaker was taken to Guantanamo Bay in 2002. He has been cleared for release now for over 3 years and yet he is still languishing inside this illegal detention site.

If you do one thing today make it this. Write to your MP and ask him/her to write to the FCO. By itself it might not result in change but it will help remind those in power that we have not forgotten about Shaker or the travesty which is Guantanamo.

More information and how to take action:

You can read Shaker story here.
Find out who your MP is here.
Read Shaker’s daughter’s letter to Gordon Brown and then Cameron’s response here.

Sorry if you take offence at my use of the word fucking…really I am. But, I would like you take a minute to put things in fucking perspective. The use of a swear word might, just might, be the lesser of two evils considering the nature and content of this blog post. Want to get angry about something? Get angry about Guantanamo, about being held without trial, about the war on terror, about systematic torture…you get my point. 

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Obama’s first 100 days: We don’t expect the impossible

Please watch and take action. There is nothing radical about asking the President to ban torture.

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Amnesty International is 50 years old and is still as relevant as ever

This last weekend, people up and down the country having been raising a glass to the world’s oldest human rights organisations, Amnesty International.

Amnesty is a very important organisation to me. I have been heavily involved ever since I got involved with my local University group in Bath. At the time, we were campaigning for a global arms trade treaty. I remember all too clearly students (and lecturers) saying to me that this was a pointless aspiration, and it would never happen. Well, looks what a little optimism can do!

Throughout its entire history, Amnesty International has strived, and succeeded, in gaining victories people wrote off as impossible.

In 1965 Amnesty sponsored a resolution at the UN to suspend and abolish capital punishment for peacetime political offences.  A request which seemed outlandish at the time; last year, Gabon became the 139th country to either abolish the penalty outright or to cease to use it in practice.

For years, Amnesty campaigned against the use of torture. In 1975 UN unanimously adopted a declaration against torture following the Amnesty campaign.

In 1983, Amnesty was mocked for saying that it was not only Governments, but also individuals who can commit human rights violations. Today, this is a central pillar of human rights law. One that was central to seeing the recent arrest of Ratko Mladic.

In 1989, Amnesty International members sent 25,000 letters to Chinese authorities condemning the events that took place in Tiananmen Square. Today Amnesty International continues to take on this issue, defending those who wish to speak out against the atrocities that took place that day.

In 1996 Amnesty launched a campaign for a permanent International Criminal Court. In 1998 this was adopted by the UN.

There is so so much more I could talk about. Amnesty’s history tells us that when you shout alone, often nothing happens. But when over 3 million people stand together, their voice holds significant weight.

Today, Amnesty is working on tackling the death penalty, highlighting the abuses in the war on terror, calling governments to account and much more. They can only do this vital work if they have your support.

If you do not believe me, believe Bu Dongwei.

Please join today. Give either money or your time – both are precious to Amnesty.

Remember, All it takes for Evil to prevail in this world is for enough good men to do nothing. 

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Guantanamo Bay – still there 9 years later

Re-read the title.

A Brit is still there (Shaker Aamer)

So are 146 other humans – suffering

We cannot let this continue for another year – take action


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Was the EU’s next special representative for Afghanistan implicitly involved in covering up evidence of a secret detention facility?

Vygaudas Ušackas, the new EU's next special representative for Afghanistan. Photo thanks to the Baltic development forum

Last month Dalia Grybauskaitė, Lithuania’s president, deemed there to be enough evidence to sack Vygaudas Ušackas, for alledgedly helping to cover up CIA secret detetion sites.  Ušackas has just been appointed as the European Union’s next special representative for Afghanistan and head of its delegation in Kabul.  With the growing influence of EU delegations with the implementation  of Lisbon, this appointment is a serious issue.  Why has the EU deemed this man fit to represent us, when one of its Member States has deemed him unfit for national government?

 The BBC reported that “The CIA set up at least two secret detention centres in Lithuania after the 11 September 2001 terror attacks on the US”. It is unknown how many other “black spots” there were/are on European soil.  We do however; know that they were integral to the coalition’s widely illegal “war on terror”.  The centres were used as stop off points for the US’s practice of “extraordinary rendition” (this broadly means capturing someone in one country and then moving them to another country with no legal oversight – it also just happens to be that the country that they get moved to is often notorious for its use of torture).  A European Parliament report described “hundreds” such flights taking place.

The report by a parliamentary committee which highlighted Lithuania’s role in this sordid business also absolved the political elite of any responsibility stating “the president was unaware of exactly what the US intelligence service was doing”.  Yet despite this, he felt it necessary to fire Ušackas.  Ušackas had served as Lithuania’s ambassador to the EU, the United States and the United Kingdom before he became foreign minister in 2008.  This would not have been a decision taken lightly by the President.

This remains a baffling mystery to me.  Why, considering all that has been said, would the EU (you know the beacon of human rights), choose Ušackas to head the delegation in Kabul? Did Cathy Ashton (who he is accountable to) have a say in this – one assumes so! The EU needs to show the world that it holds its values in the highest priority.  It cannot do this, by putting people who are (accused of being) complicit in wide spread torture in charge of a delegation – especially such an important one as Afghanistan!

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Iran makes a mockery of the UPR

The International Community in a diplomatic deadend with Iran! Ambassador John W.Limert. Photo thanks to US Mission Geneva

I have blogged before about the shrinking diplomatic options open to the international community when dealing with Iran.  I concluded then, that the only path left open was the UN UPR process.  It appears Iran has put the final nail in their diplomatic coffin by refusing to take up some of the most basic recommendations that the UPR made.

Iran refused to accept the recommendation that it end the practice of executing juveniles, upholding fair trial guarantees and investigating torture allegations.  Perhaps the biggest blow was their refusal to allow the Council’s Special Rapporteur on torture to visit the country.  If they will not even play lip service to such basic demands then what hope is there of any effective change within the country?

There is however, one last hope – Iran’s diplomatic schizophrenia seems to have come out once again during this process.  They accepted some recommendations while rejecting other similar recommendations.  There is potential for random positive acts to occur, but this is far from sustainable.   We cannot allow their regime to dictate when it will coöperate; equally we cannot risk casting them off into the diplomatic wilderness where human rights abuses can occur unchecked.

If we want real progress for human rights in Iran, we need the authorities there to start living up to their responsibilities; such as their commitments under the Convention on the Rights of the Child not to execute juveniles.  It is up to the International community to keep banging the same drum asking the Iranian authorities to act.  It may feel like it does nothing, but what other options are available?


Filed under Human rights, Politics

Guantamano Bay – still there 8 years later

It has passed us all by without a second thought.  The 8th anniversary of the opening of Guantanamo bay was two days ago.  Did you hear about it in the news? Did you see the protests outside embassies around the world? No? Nor did I!

For those like the daughter of Shaker Aamer, it was a very real reminder of living without her father.

Shaker is one of 198 in-mates still being held like animals in Guantanamo Bay, facing daily torture and unrest. Most of these men are no longer there because the US wants them to be, but because European states refuse to accept them.  Many EU states have taken positive steps to offer safe havens for inmates in line with the EU-US joint agreement on the closer of Guantanamo.  The role of honour includes, France, Ireland, Hungary and Belgium.  Many Member States however, continue a pubic rhetoric of calling for the closer of the detention centre whilst refusing to cooperate in the return of the inmates. 

Many of those still held come from countries such as Syria, Tunisia and China where they would face severe risk of torture if they were to be returned. 

It looks as though the detention centre will remain open well past the 22nd January, a year after Obama promised its closure.  Sadly it is this Obama media “hook” that has kept it out of the news this past week. A bit of Obama bashing is far more appealing to our media than highlighting the truth that it is up to the governments of countries like the UK to offer these inmates a safe haven to rebuild their lives.  I am willing to put my house on it (if I had one)…that on the 22nd Jan, this story will be everywhere in the news. 

Guantanamo Bay remains one of the worst examples of injustice and cruelty of our age.  Yet, our media (and human rights organisations) would rather wait a couple of weeks to get a good “hook” than to call for action today. For us two weeks will fly by, but for the inmates in Guantanamo where a minute feels like an hour, two weeks might feel like quite a long time!


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