Torture and Detention

Frequently Asked Questions (scroll down for article archives and further resources)

"If anyone acts like they don't know their government is torturing people on a widespread and systematic scale, they are choosing NOT to know. We have to continue to lead people to act against this -- going out to people, into classes, to institutions, and on worldcantwait.org. Too many people have learned to accept this, there is not nearly enough opposition to the revelations about these top level torture meetings -- but this is something that can change quickly if a beginning core acts with moral clarity..." -Debra Sweet, Director of World Can't Wait

Indefinite Detention and Torture Under ObamaDownload this flier

Torture + Silence = Complicity!

Act Now to Stop Torture!

Has Obama put an end to torture, rendition, and indefinite detention? Facts you need to know:

1. Obama admits Bush officials tortured, but refuses to prosecute them.

Cheney has bragged about authorizing water boarding of detainees. In January 2009, Obama told ABC’s George Stephanopoulos, that he believed water boarding was torture. Torture is a violation of Geneva Conventions. The Obama administration is, therefore, not only morally, but legally, required to prosecute Bush Regime officials for torture.

2. Under Obama, the U.S. is still holding detainees without charges or trial.

During the campaign Obama declared habeas corpus to be “the foundation of Anglo-American law.”Habeas corpus is your right to challenge your detention. It is a 900-year- old right. Without habeas corpus there are no restraints on a government’s powers to detain and punish.

Contrary to his rhetoric, the Obama administration is continuing the Bush Regime’s policies of denying prisoners habeas corpus rights and has even adopted the same arguments made by Bush. In February 2009, the Obama administration declared in Federal Court that it would not grant habeas corpus rights to detainees in U.S. custody in Bagram, Afghanistan.

In March 2009 Obama’s Justice Department claimed that Guantanamo prisoners who were detained before June 2008 had no habeas corpus rights. On May 21, 2010 the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia ruled in favor of the Obama administration, holding that three prisoners who are being held by the U. S. at Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan cannot challenge their detention in U.S. courts.

3. Don’t be fooled just because Obama isn’t using the term “enemy combatant”

The Obama administration will no longer use the term “enemy combatant,” but it’s a change in name only: in the same court filing in which it made this announcement, Obama’s Justice Department made clear that it would continue to detain prisoners at Guantanamo without charge. As the NY Times put it:

[T]he [Obama] Justice Department argued that the president has the authority to detain terrorism suspects there without criminal charges, much as the Bush administration had asserted. It provided a broad definition of those who can be held, which was not significantly different from the one used by the Bush administration.

Meanwhile, Obama’s executive orders do not ban indefinite detention. In addition, at his confirmation hearing, Obama’s Attorney General Eric Holder said: “There are possibly many other people who are not going to be able to be tried but who nevertheless are dangerous to this country… We’re going to have to try to figure out what we do with them.” Holder suggested prisoners could be detained for the length of their war of terror which, as we know, has no set end point.

4. Guantanamo is still open. The prison at Bagram is growing and torture is being committed.

According to Reuters, abuse of prisoners worsened shortly after the election of Obama:

Abuses began to pick up in December 2008 after Obama was elected, human rights lawyer Ahmed Ghappour told Reuters. He cited beatings, the dislocation of limbs, spraying of pepper spray into closed cells, applying pepper spray to toilet paper and over-forcefeeding detainees who are on hunger strike.”

Earlier this year Scott Horton reported in Harper’s Magazine on three murders of detainees in 2006 at Guantanamo that the military tried to cover up as suicides. More is coming out about torture at Bagram Detention Center in Afghanistan. Recently Andy Worthington reported on the detention and torture of three teenagers in his article, “Torture and the ‘Black’Prison,” or What Obama is Doing at Bagram (Part One).”

On June 7, 2010 Chris Floyd of Empire Burlesque wrote that under the Bush Regime medical personnel experimented on detainees to prove that the techniques used did not constitute torture. The chilling history of Nazi medical experimentation on those in concentration camps lurks in this revelation. (http://chris-floyd.com/articles/1-latest-news/1976- echoes-of-mengele-medical-experiments-torture-and- continuity-in-the-american-gulag.html)

This is a violation of Geneva Conventions and there is evidence that these experiments are going on under Obama.

5. Obama is continuing rendition.

During his confirmation hearing, new CIA director Leon Panetta made it clear the Obama administration will continue rendition. Rendition is the practice of kidnapping somebody in one country and shipping them to another country for detention. Michael Ratner, president of the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR), said “Rendition is a violation of sovereignty. It’s a kidnapping. It’s force and violence…Once you open the door to rendition, you’re opening the door, essentially, to a lawless world.”

Obama supporters have attempted to draw the distinction between this practice and “extraordinary rendition,” defined as the practice of transferring somebody to another country knowing that they will be tortured. During his confirmation hearing, Leon Panetta said that under the Bush administration, “There were efforts by the CIA to seek and to receive assurances that those individuals would not be mistreated.” So Panetta is embracing the practices of the Bush Regime by continuing rendition!

Panetta then added, “I will seek the same kind of assurances that those individuals will not be mistreated.” (emphasis added)

Articles on Torture and Detention:

Interviews with Andy Worthington and Larry Everest

The Michael Slate Show, KPFK-LA

Larry Everest, reporter for Revolution newspaper on the Wikileaks cables revelations of US crimes in Afghanistan. Andy Worthington, author of The Guantánamo Files on the beginning of the tenth year of the notorious US torture camp at Guantánamo. Plus, members of the cast of the play "greedy": Five people struggle with their greed, hope, desire and integrity in the wake of an emailed plea for money promising big returns. Is it a scam or a golden opportunity?

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Nine Years Later: The Political Prisoners of Guantanamo

Andy at White HouseBy Andy Worthington

Political prisoners? Surely, that can't be right, can it? Surely, it's only dictatorships in far-flung corners of the world who hold political prisoners, and not the United States of America?

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Guantánamo Forever?

By Andy Worthington Guantanamo

On the 9th anniversary of the opening of Guantánamo, it may sound uncharitable to President Obama to be asking whether all plans to close the prison have failed, and to be asking whether it might remain in operation for as long as anyone can foresee.
 
After all, the President may have failed to close it within a year of taking office, despite promising to do so in an executive order on his second day in the White House, but he and his spokespeople continue to assert that it remains their intention to close it.

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Torture is a War Crime!

 

Spotted in San Francisco, in ad poster spaces in the BART (public tranportation) system  .... A powerful message!   Kudos to the messengers!

Hearing the voices of those held in Guantanamo

5 men still detained by the U.S. in Guantanamo January 2011

5 of the men still detained by the U.S. in Guantánamo, January 2011

By Debra Sweet

The voices almost never heard in the discussion of torture, indefinite detention and Bush’s Guantánamo are the men who were themselves detained. Over 600 have been released, in a tacit admission by the U.S. that they committed no crimes.  174 are still detained, even though Obama’s own commission found last year that more than 90 should be released immediately.  We should hear these voices.

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Close Guantánamo With Justice Now!

Protesting GuantanamoWorld Can't Wait has signed this statement. To add your organization, email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

At the start of his administration, President Obama signed an executive order mandating the closure of the detention camp at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba within a year.  Yet the prison remains open, and on January 11, 2011 it enters its tenth year of operation. Failing to fulfill the executive order, the Obama administration has also extended some of the worst aspects of the Guantánamo system by continuing indefinite detentions without charge or trial, employing illegitimate military commissions to try some suspects, and blocking accountability for torture both by refusing to conduct independent and thorough investigations and by attempting to prevent the courts from reviewing lawsuits brought by formerly detained men. 

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Christmas at Guantanamo

By Andy Worthington Guantanamo

Ten days ago, when I traveled to Sheffield with my friend, the former Guantánamo prisoner Omar Deghayes, for a screening of the documentary film, “Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo” (which I co-directed with Polly Nash), I asked Omar what Guantánamo was like at Christmas, as I knew that he had spent five Christmases imprisoned in Guantánamo, and I thought it might make an interesting article for Christmas this year.

In fact, there was little to report. The authorities, it seems, made some effort on this great Christian holy day, but the prisoners, for the most part, were in no mood to accept one day of charity when the rest of the year was so devoid of Christian charity.

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Video: “Berkeley Says No to Torture” Week — Jason Leopold and Jeff Kaye Discuss Human Experimentation at Guantánamo

By Andy Worthington

Back in October, I traveled to the Bay Area for a fascinating week-long series of events, “Berkeley Says No to Torture” Week (covered in detail here), and I’m pleased to report that videos of one of the panel discussions that week, “Torture, Human Experimentation and the Department of Defense,” have just been made available via YouTube, and can be seen below.

The panel featured the journalist Jason Leopold and the psychologist and blogger Jeffrey Kaye, and coincided with the publication on Truthout of a ground-breaking article by Jason and Jeff, “Wolfowitz Directive Gave Legal Cover to Detainee Experimentation Program,” which I cross-posted here, with commentary.

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Obama, WikiLeaks and Guantanamo - Will it Ever Close?

By Andy Worthington Cablegate

Following Wikileaks’ release of 251,287 US diplomatic cables, which has, if nothing else, revealed that secrecy and the Internet appear to be mutually incompatible, a handful of media outlets immediately picked up on references to Guantánamo — and the Obama administration’s negotiations with other countries — in the cables.

Britain’s Daily Mail led the way, claiming that the cables revealed that the Obama administration “played a high stakes game of ‘Let’s Make a Deal’ with foreign governments,” as it tried to secure new homes for prisoners who could not be repatriated because of fears that they would be tortured or otherwise ill-treated in their home countries.

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London Mayor to War Criminal Bush: Bring Book Tour to Britain and Never See Texas Again

From Citizens for Legitimate Government Bush Regime war criminals

Mayor of London, Boris Johnson:
"It is not yet clear whether George W. Bush is planning to cross the Atlantic to flog Britains with his memoirs, but his PR people should urge caution. As book tours go, this one would be an absolute corker.
 
It is not just that every European capital would be brought to a standstill, as book-signings turned into anti-war riots.

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The UK Government’s Guantánamo Guilt, and the Urgent Need for Shaker Aamer’s Return

Bring Home Shaker AamerBy Andy Worthington

The official announcement on Tuesday in the House of Commons, by Justice Secretary Kenneth Clarke, that the govermment has reached a financial settlement with a number of former Guantánamo prisoners brings to an end a court case that promised to be long, expensive and full of disturbing revelations about British complicity in torture and abuse.

How the financial settlement arose

Seven former prisoners first sued the British government and the security services last year, seeking damages for their role in unlawful acts and conspiracy, through their involvement in, or their failure to stop, their detention and ill-treatment in US custody (or US supervision in other countries), and, in some cases, their “extraordinary rendition” to secret prisons. These men were Moazzam Begg, Binyam Mohamed, Omar Deghayes, Bisher al-Rawi, Jamil El-Banna, Martin Mubanga and Richard Belmar.

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About

World Can't Wait mobilizes people living in the United States to stand up and stop war on the world, repression and torture carried out by the US government. We take action, regardless of which political party holds power, to expose the crimes of our government, from war crimes to systematic mass incarceration, and to put humanity and the planet first.