September 26, 2009
“Stop the Spread of Guantanamitis” is a demonstration organized by Amnesty International’s Islington and Hackney Group — with support from the London Guantánamo Campaign, Redress, Peace Strike, the Helen Bamber Foundation, the Stop the War Coalition, CAMPACC (the Campaign Against Criminalising Communities) and the Haldane Society of Socialist Lawyers — to raise awareness of the plight of the remaining 225 prisoners in the US prison at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, and also to discuss how “Guantanamitis” has infected international law around the world, leading to a situation whereby imprisonment without charge or trial, “extraordinary rendition” and torture have been disguised as necessary behavior — rather than as war crimes and criminal activities — by governments around the world.
On the day, those attending will be offered placards representing each of the prisoners still held. Singer-songwriter Sarah Gillespie will open the proceedings at 1 pm, and speakers who will address various aspects of “Guantanamitis” include solicitors Louise Christian and Imran Khan, Kevin Laue (Redress), Helen Bamber (of the torture survivors’ support group Helen Bamber Foundation), Sunny Hundal (Pickled Politics), Andy Worthington (journalist and author of The Guantánamo Files), and representatives of Amnesty International and Stop the War.
With doubts regarding President Obama’s ability to close Guantánamo by his self-imposed deadline of January 2010, revelations that the US prison at Bagram airbase still stands “outside the law” (due to attempts by the US government to resist granting rights to foreign prisoners “rendered” there from other countries, recent hints that “rendition” has resumed under President Obama, and an apparent refusal on the part of the US to reinstate the Geneva Conventions for prisoners seized in wartime), and a refusal on the part of the US authorities to thoroughly investigate the crimes of the Bush administration, the need to keep Guantánamo and the fallout from the “War on Terror” in the public eye is as important as ever. Please come along if you can!
Campaigners will also be raising awareness of the case of Shaker Aamer, a British resident (with a British wife and children) who is still held at Guantánamo, and will also be calling on the British government to offer a home to Ahmed Belbacha, an Algerian who lived in the UK for two years (and was in the process of applying for asylum), when he took a holiday in Pakistan at the wrong time, and was kidnapped and sent to Guantánamo. Belbacha has been cleared for release from Guantánamo since February 2007, but is terrified of being repatriated, as he faces threats to his life from both the Algerian security services and the Islamists whose threats encouraged him to seek asylum in the UK in the first place.
Andy Worthington is the author of The Guantánamo Files: The Stories of the 774 Detainees in America’s Illegal Prison (published by Pluto Press, distributed by Macmillan in the US, and available from Amazon — click on the following for the US and the UK). To receive new articles in your inbox, please subscribe to my RSS feed. Also see my definitive Guantánamo prisoner list, published in March 2009, and if you appreciate my work, feel free to make a donation.