CagePrisoners has been sent a message by several former detainees that were held without charge or trial in Saudi prisons. The message is addressed to a named Officer of the Saudi Mabahith who they allege was personally involved in their abuse and torture.
“To Yusuf al-Barakaty;
Until when will you continue to perpetrate this oppression? Are you not aware that Allah is watching you? You do not utter a word except that it is recorded immediately by the watchful scribes. So how about your atrocious actions and vulgar insults towards the innocent? And how will you account for the families that you have dispersed, the blood that you have spilled and the dignity of the ummah that you have humiliated. Fear Allah and quit your oppression as it is indeed an evil deed. Surrender to justice if you have any self-respect. Face the sins you have committed and the crimes you have perpetrated, if there is any dignity within you.
Some prisoners you tortured.”
إلى يوسف البركاتي؛
"إلى متى تستمر بهذا الظلم؟ الا تعرف ان الله يراقبك؟ ما تلفظ من قول الا لديك رقيب عتيد فما بالك بفعلك الشنيع و سبك البذيئ لانسان بريئ؟ ماذا تقول عن العوائل التي شتّتها و الدماء التي اسلتها و كرامة الامة التي اهنتها؟ اتق الله و كُفّ عن المَظلمة فانها مُظلِمة. و سلّم نفسك للعدالة ان كنت ترى فيك الشهامة و واجه الذنوب التي اكتسبتَها و الجرائم التي اقترفتَها ان كانت فيك الكرامة."
مِن بعض من تعذب على يديك
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.
It has been found that Asians are 42 times more likely to be held under anti-terror law (schedule 7), most of the time questioned about their religious beliefs and often asked to spy on their local mosque.
For more information on schedule 7 click the following link: Submission to the Home Office Schedule 7 consultation
“My claim to innocence is not because of any inherent misunderstanding on my part as to the nature of the crimes for which I was convicted. Nor is it because my Muslim belief recognizes sharia law rather than secular law, as somebody might argue. It is merely because I am innocent … To accept these charges, we must believe that a solitary man who would spend his days working full-time at one of Fortune magazine’s 100 best companies and then spend his evenings and weekends engaged in cancer research for a doctorate in computational biology, an individual who has never owned or used a gun, never traveled to a military camp, never set foot in a country in which a war was taking place, never raised money for any violent organization, would be—could be—the author of so much harm … Someone who did not observe the proceeding might justifiably ask, “How then was he convicted?” The answer, of course, was “Simply out of fear” … In the end, Your Honor, I too, like Socrates, am accused and found guilty of nothing more than corrupting the youth and practicing a different religion than that of the majority. Socrates was mercifully given a cup of hemlock. I was handed a life sentence."
- Dr Ali al-Timimi
The French Parliament
It was a promise made by former President Sarkozy and Hollande has made it true. In the wake of the spree killings attributed to Merah, killed in a police raid few days after the attacks, Sarkozy made a speech to the nation in shock, to implement new anti-terrorist legislation which had to wait until the new government came into being.
The new Bill was proposed by Manuel Valls, ministry of interior and finally adopted in Parliament on 12 December 2012. This Bill includes allowing the prosecution of French nationals or persons ordinarily resident on the French territory that "engaged in acts of terrorism abroad or go abroad [...] to get training in terrorism". In fact, the 23 January 2006 Bill has already made this possible allowing punishment for terrorist acts committed by French nationals outside the national territory. This new Bill creates a new offence which is to go to a training camp, including and especially when travelling in the Afghan-Pakistan area. Again, the 1986 Act on the "criminal association to commit a crime in relation with a terrorist undertaking" can already prosecute such behaviour and several trials have helped convict the accused of such charges based on this legislation. For example, five of the six French prisoners held in Guantanamo Bay by the US for years, when released by the U.S. authorities were convicted on their return to France. They were accused of having participated in military training camps attributed to Al Qaeda.
This Bill also makes permanent a previous provision that was adopted in 2006 initially for a 2 years extendable period. It allows the surveillance of phone communications and internet activities in prevention, without the commission of any crime.
What is the exact purpose of a new law? It is to criminalise conduct already punished by legislation already in place and installing monitoring arrangements already in use, otherwise to make a political move and to extend the fear among the population produced by Merah?
Any act of solidarity or empathy towards foreign populations, attacked militarily by France, even if no declaration of war has been issued, gradually becomes a crime. What should we think of all the French citizens that fought alongside the Republicans against Franco in Spain during the civil war? Were they terrorist? No, those ones were considered as lawful combatants fighting for a “just war”. Here lays the ironic hypocrisy. Where will be drawn the line between a terrorism and resistance? Probably where the State’s interest is. This Bill is totally in line with the so-called US "war on terror” opposing good against evil, fighting a “just war”. Saint Augustin must be rolling over in his grave…
Zero Dark Thirty has been received with outrage and disgust by those who have fought tirelessly to close Guantanamo Bay down. Earlier this evening, Twitter was filled with pictures from those who attended the premiere in the United States just to protest against this film. Two hours of lies that attempt to justify the torture of detainees – a “gorgeously-shot two-hour ad” for why the torturers should not be punished. This film claims the torture in Bagram, Kandahar, Guantanamo Bay and the secret detention camps are a necessary evil to secure intelligence – an argument that has been discredited on countless occasions and does not bare the slightest truth.
I am angry at Zero Dark Thirty for the above reasons but I am disgusted at the actions of the directors and producers for a completely different reason. Zero Dark Thirty, in all its false justifying, Hollywood glamorising, and desperation for money has been scheduled for release on the very same day as the 11th anniversary of the opening of Guantanamo Bay. As if the film itself was not sufficiently disrespectful to the suffering of the detainees, they have ensured they have gone one step further to rub the fame of the film into the wounds of those who are aware of the significance of this day. The regular man will be unaware of the background to 11th January – to most people, it is just another day. But to us - the activists, the campaigners, the families of those kept captive – we know what 11th January means every year. And the producers of Zero Dark Thirty are sending a message out to us especially by scheduling a release on this date. We know that this film will be successful with the majority of the viewers for the drama and action and the excuse of CIA torture and they want us to think they have won, and that our campaigns will be silenced on this day. They cannot claim ignorance – a film that has researched Guantanamo Bay to the extent that they claim to have is aware of the date that the camp was opened. All I can say is it is disgusting. There is no other word to summarise their actions.
We will not be silenced. We will be joining global Guantanamo campaigns this week by hosting our own press conference, speaking with six former detainees on Thursday 10th December at 11am. We are providing a live feed of this conference on our website. Zero Dark Thirty wants to claim that torture works and produces successful counter-terrorism results? Let's hear what those who suffered the torture have to say about that. Nobody knows Guantanamo Bay like the detainees do. We have given a platform to the other side of the torture debate - Hear what they have to say, join us, spread the word and together we will not let Zero Dark Thirty take over this important week.
Join the Twitter debate - #GTMO11
Further information : Guardian- A letter to Kathryn Bigelow on Zero Dark Thirty's apology for torture
Obama’s set to be inaugurated for his second term on 20 January. I am already dreading the many, many Facebook posts that I’ll inevitably encounter on that day. I know I’ll sit there, staring at my newsfeed, wondering whether it’s worthwhile to argue with people who claim that “Obama might not be perfect but he’s the lesser of two evils” or how he’s just really “a nice guy but constrained by political circumstance” or how “we shouldn’t expect everything from him and he has made really important contributions to healthcare and I shouldn’t dismiss that”.
In the spirit of being proactive in 2013, I am going to pre-empt these inevitable Facebook posts, by announcing:
I will be mourning Obama’s inauguration on 20 January. And you are welcome to mourn with me.
Why am I mourning? Here’s three of my most recent reasons:
Eh... who needs that ol’ Fourth Amendment?
Gitmo will remain open, and busy (just like the rest of our prisons!). And yes American citizens, you can still be detained by the military.
So he’s endorsed Bush’s torture tactics, falsely claimed that Osama bin Laden used his wife as a human shield, and spearheaded the “signature strike” drone killings. Things could be worse... right?
To sum up: Just in the last week, Obama has extended the unconstitutional surveillance of Americans; signed legislation that makes it impossible to close Gitmo; and put a torture-apologist and war criminal in charge of the CIA. How can I possibly celebrate his second term?
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..."
Listen to this, one man’s description of his solitary confinement cell in the US. Now imagine sitting in that cell during this period of the year. Even for those who are not Christians or practicing Christians, the holiday season can be an especially lonely and painful time to be caged in a solitary cell. For those who are still in touch with friends and family on the outside, this period is a constant reminder of everything they’re missing – for example family dinners, vacations, or time off with friends or loved ones. For those who are not in contact with folks on the outside, the holiday season can symbolize the personal cost of their prolonged isolation. It’s the same day-in, day-out torture, but magnified, especially for those who imagine their friends or family on the outside celebrating or spending time together.