Shaker Aamer, Fayiz al-Kandari, Samir Moqbel and 163 other have been starving for over 100 days to get justice.
In light of the recent e-petition demanding the return of Shaker Aamer to the UK from Guantanamo Bay and the ongoing hunger strike undertaken by detainees at the camp, Johina Aamer writes to David Cameron, raising important questions about the British government (in)action to secure the release of her father.
On 14 April 2013, CagePrisoners had the pleasure to speak in Brussels at a conference organised by the Collectif Réflexions Musulmanes (CRM). The enthusiasm was palpable at the venue since it was perhaps the first gathering of this kind in Belgium.
This is Ahmed's story. It will make you rethink what it means to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. It will also make you look anew at courage, survival, justice and the War on Terror.
What do you see when you read the name? I often think, what goes through all of my friends' minds when they see that name splattered across their Twitter feed, their Facebooks (if they haven't blocked me yet!)? To all of my friends and blog followers who read my article last year, thank you, but did you sign the petition to ask for Parliament to discuss his case?
“There is no celebration marking the 10th anniversary of Saddam Hussein’s statue destruction, rather [there are] popular protests” Wadah Khanfar, President of Al Sharq Forum and former Director General for Al Jazeera
They are essentially dead men who just happen to breathe. That is the grim assessment of the legal representative for the inmates in the American concentration camp, otherwise known as Guantanamo Bay.
Part of the mantra from the human rights and civil liberties world has been the call for the UK government to rethink their counter-terrorism policy in relation to foreign policy. During his tenure, Tony Blair consistently refused to accept the link between foreign policy and the alienation of Muslims in the UK and indeed abroad.
In a 35 minutes phone call he was permitted to give to his lawyer, Mahdi Hashi was able to give a glimpse of the mistreatment he suffered during his disappearance in East Africa. These revelations prove that Barack Obama, despite his words, is indeed a proud inheritor of the legacy of rendition and torture left by his predecessors.
Testimony of Abu Assad one of the former prisoners who was tortured whilst in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.
Torture in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia
CagePrisoners has released the statements of five recently released detainees from a national security detention facility in the city of Madinah, Saudi Arabia. The men have all testified to the systematic use of torture and ill-treatment with the goal to extract false confessions. That same coerced material was then subsequently used to convict the men.
American Justice – a Richard Vergette play that addresses the sociopolitical issues surrounding the death penalty - has just opened in the Arts Theatre, Great Newport Street, running from 10 January to 9 February.
The play is based around the character of Lee Fenton (played by Ryan Gage), who has murdered the daughter of the Congressman (actor Peter Tate) but, on request of the Congressman, he has his death sentence commuted to life without parole on the condition that the Congressman educates him. Rest assured, the storyline goes far deeper than the surface with big twists that leave the audience gasping at crucial moments. It strongly encourages you to walk away thinking about the issues that are addressed – rarely, does a West End play have such a potential impact on influencing the political stance of its audience.
The play addresses the following themes - the systemic abuse of prisoners by law enforcement officers in a predominantly conservative Christian country, the state of prison education system, the theory of rehabilitation and retribution and the impact of murder upon the family of a victim.
The harsh acts of the warden (actor David Schaal) are immediately excused within the first quarter of an hour as he attempts to justify his actions by quoting the Bible -
“Blessed are the merciful for they will be shown mercy.” (Mathew 5:7).
The warden’s belief that Fenton is not merciful leads to him to speak to him using derogatory terminology, discouraging his development and his Christian belief is used to explain why the warden believes Fenton ought to be punished by death for his actions. This is a reflection upon the mindset of many conservative Christians in the U.S. who stances on a variety of issues ranging from Obama’s Muslim heritage to homosexuality are referenced in the play.
An article written on behalf of CagePrisoners need not go into extensive detail about the theme of systemic abuse – we have written countless times and produced multiple reports that stand testament to the abuse and torture in secret camps, Guantanamo Bay, and the general treatment of prisoners affected by the War on Terror. Prison abuse goes much further than just those that CagePrisoners campaign for – there is strong evidence to suggest the “beating of prisoners, torture of prisoners, (and) humiliation of prisoners” occurs frequently in state prisons. There is no respect for the fact that these prisoners are paying time for their crimes, which is sufficient punishment – they should not be treated inhumanely during this time.
Education and Rehabilitation
Many opponents of the death penalty strongly believe in the power of strengthening the prison education system in rehabilitating offenders. The Congressman takes it upon himself to look past the fact that Fenton had murdered his daughter, and chooses to teach him – the audience quickly witnesses a man who cannot read, progress into an intellectual by the second scene.
There is a compelling argument for the use of education to help criminals change and choose an alternate life path upon release, if they are granted release, or even to use their education to make a difference from within the prison. One example of a death row prisoner who used books to educate himself whilst on death row and strengthened his mental faculties, resilience and intellectual capability whilst in prison is Wilbert Rideau. Rideau was held on death row for 12 years until in 1972, the application of death row in Louisiana changed and his sentence was commuted to life imprisonment. In prison, Rideau read countless books and rose to become a leader amongst the abused prisoners, writing freelance articles for mainstream media, publishing his own magazine from within the prison and writing books from inside Angola. Now, after release in 2005 following a re-trial where he was found guilty of manslaughter, Rideau speaks about his experience, the importance of prison education systems and the impact that education had upon his life.
Congressman – “The audacity of hope, you will exemplify.”
For a man who is trapped inside a small cell with little exercise, waiting for the eventual announcement of his date of death or awaiting clemency, a book can have an incredible impact upon the exercise of his imagination and provides him with the opportunity of education – something many take for granted, but research suggests that 75% of those in U.S. prisons are illiterate. The Congressman shouts in frustration at Fenton in the first scene when explaining his motives for wanting to teach him, when Fenton cannot understand – “The audacity of hope, you will exemplify.” Referring to President Obama’s novel, the Congressman is arguing that through learning, Fenton will learn to have a string of hope in prison – hope, which takes a sense of humanity that only comes through education, to feel. Education is an extremely powerful tool that society takes for granted, and American Justice forces you to think not only about prison reform systems but also state education systems and whether we would have as many criminals on the streets as we do if everyone was given an equal opportunity to schooling.
To enforce death upon an individual is to presume that he or she is incapable of rehabilitation. With education comes a chance to be rehabilitated – criminal mindsets can be changed, a sense of morality can be instilled and it comes back to hope – giving the individual hope that they have more to offer than they perhaps initially believed, giving them the hope that they can change.
Victim family impact
Congressman – “There’s something deeply destructive about hatred.”
The hatred that the family of a murder victim feels will not go away with the death of the murderer – as the Congressman tells Fenton, he does not hate him because hatred is “deeply destructive” and cannot be rectified with the simple solution of meeting an eye for an eye. In the same way that burying a loved one never quite puts an end to the sorrow and suffering that lingers, witnessing a murderer die provides a quick pain release, a momentary sense of justice for the suffering of your loved one but beyond this, your loved one does not come back and the grief remains. The Murder Victims’ Families for Reconciliation (MVFR) was set up to discuss the needs of murder victims’ families, arguing the death penalty does not provide a solution. Families who are part of this foundation have explained that they have dealt with their losses by deciding that they “couldn’t live with that hate and had to move forward,” which seeking the death penalty would not enable them to do – the arduous process of constantly pushing for the enforcement of death over years, often decades, does not give the grieving a moment to deal with their loss and move forward with their lives. After all those years, if their tiresome fight for the death of the perpetrator is successful, they often find it difficult to readjust to a life that does not involve campaigning and fighting for that death – they lose sight of how to live life independently of the one tragic incident that lead them to years of despair trying to seek “justice.”
Education, abusive penal system, rehabilitation and victim impact… there is one more powerful theme that this play addresses, but to share this would be to spoil the plot for those who have not yet watched it. I strongly encourage you all to watch.
I don't even know where to begin with this statement, which I am faced with every day, if not explicitly then through the faces of those who pause to raise an eyebrow when I tell them that I write for the rights of those affected by the War on Terror. This is then quickly covered up with a smile and dismissal of - "Oh that sounds really interesting... Anyway..."
In the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks, European countries have been involved in abuses of judical process and mistretament of alleged terror suspects. Arnaud Mafille explains how British Muslims have responded to these challenges and formed CagePrisoners to give a voice to the voiceless.
Last week, I was lucky enough to be in the audience for a truly remarkable event: a conversation between two men whose lives have been indelibly altered by American’s brutal prison regime, Robert King and Omar Deghayes. At first glance, it might seem as if these two men have nothing in common. King grew up in New Orleans in an era of violent racial repression and is a Black Panther to this day; he was convicted by an all-white jury in 1973 for a murder he did not commit, and spent 32 years in Louisiana state prison. In his earliest childhood, Deghayes lived in Libya, but after his father was murdered by Gaddafi, he and his family fled to the UK. Deghayes was arrested in Pakistan in 2002, where he had been living with his Afghan wife and child, and spent over six years detained at Guantanamo without charge or trial.
When he arrived at Guantanamo in 2005 as chief prosecutor, Colonel Morris Davis thought that he would be dealing exclusively with fanatical terrorists. But he soon realized that many prisoners shouldn't have been imprisoned at all.
What do Harry Potter, the Fresh Prince of Bel Air and pet cats have in common with tortured terrorism suspects in Cuba?
“If you're not careful, the newspapers will have you hating the people who are being oppressed, and loving the people who are doing the oppressing.” Al Hajj Malik el Shabbaz, aka Malcolm X
This week Moazzam Begg speaks about the work of groundbreaking work of human rights organisation, Cageprisoners, and the challenges it faces. Executive Director of Cageprisoners, Asim Qureshi and Arnaud Mafille, a researcher at the organisation join Moazzam in the studio.
International human rights breaches - State accountability v State immunity
Legal seminar: Preserving the rule of law: taking a risk
Extradited to a future of torture: the reality of solitary confinement in America
Spying and Entrapment
TRAITOR: a Guantanamo guard's journey to Islam
Starving for justice
Are Muslims active enough in the fight against Guantanamo?
Guantanamo: 100 days of hunger strike - Template Khutba
Help Lynne Stewart, civil rights lawyer for Muslim defendants, stay alive
How your Schedule 7 swab could help get your family arrested
Why haven't you signed the Shaker Aamer petition?