In 2005, Fernando Botero produced a series of graphic paintings based on photographs of prisoners abused at the American jail in Abu Ghraib, Iraq. He curiously bequeathed the lot to UC Berkely's law school, which harbors the author of torture techniques depicted in those paintings -- several of which have been displayed (may still be; I haven't visited in years) outside the office of Boalt's dean Erwin Chemerinsky, who continues to defend the employment of war criminal John Yoo.


"They depict his nightmarish vision of the torture at Abu Ghraib," wrote one of his most vocal critics. "Many find this juxtaposition of proudly displaying the Abu Ghraib paintings, at the school which allows the lawyer whose work product enabled this grotesque, violent mistreatment and murder under official U.S. authority, just too bizarre for words. But we did end our visit to the dean, with a solemn presentation by Janet Weil (Code Pink) of a poem written by a Guantanamo prisoner, Mohammed el Gharani."

"These works are the result of the indignation that the violations in Iraq produced in me and the rest of the world,"  explained Botero.

"When we think about the Colombian artist Fernando Botero, most of us visualize his roly-poly people flaunting their fat, their fashionable headgear, their cigarettes and cigarette holders, their excess," wrote novelist and critic Erica Jong. "I never thought of these as political images until I saw Botero's Abu Ghraib series." Now, she added, "I see all Botero's work as a record of the brutality of the haves against the have-nots."  


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Censorship Has Never Been Worse at Guantánamo Bay

"What they try to do is ensure that what is going on here does not impact the contemporary conscience of the American public," said former Naval Criminal Investigative Service counterterrorism special agent Mark Fallon. "Because if it does, there may be greater calls for accountability against those that tortured in our name. And the longer that you can keep that from occurring, the safer, not just [for] the torturers but [for] the torture advocates, the torture lobby. Those who believe that torture should be used as an instrument of national policy are in jeopardy. Their legacies are in jeopardy."


A large hole is seen in the side of a warship, as a smaller boat passes by with sailors aboard.

The military judge in the U.S.S. Cole bombing case on Friday threw out confessions the Saudi defendant Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri had made to federal agents at Guantánamo Bay after years of secret imprisonment by the C.I.A., declaring the statements the product of torture, reports Carol Rosenberg.

"Exclusion of such evidence is not without societal costs," wrote judge Col. Lanny Aco. "However, permitting the admission of evidence obtained by or derived from torture by the same government that seeks to prosecute and execute the accused may have even greater societal costs."

"For the first time in the checkered 21-year history of the prison at Guantanamo Bay, the United States recently allowed a United Nations special rapporteur to visit the detention center and meet with detainees," notes Senator Dick Durbin. "In [Fionnuala Ní Aoláin's] report, released in late June, she emphasized the significance of this decision by the Biden administration.

"Following her visit to Guantanamo, the special rapporteur found that the legacy of torture and arbitrary detention combined with the current structural conditions at Guantanamo constitute 'cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment' and 'may also meet the legal threshold for torture.'

"These findings should be a wakeup call for the Biden administration," posits Durbin. Failure to release men who have been cleared and securing due process for those charged would perpetuate inherited injustices and make them Biden's own. 

Art is among the few existing testaments to life inside the Guantanamo Bay facility, which opened a few months after the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks to hold foreign suspects in America's war on terror. 

In May, 20 of Rabbani's paintings were shown at a gallery in the Pakistani city of Karachi. U.S. authorities didn't allow some works depicting torture and suffering to be taken from Guantanamo, but other artists re-created them from descriptions written by Rabbani's lawyer.Photo by Insiya Syed

"You can imagine why they wouldn't let these pictures out," said Rabbani's lawyer, Clive Stafford Smith. "It's not an issue of national security, but of national embarrassment."

The revelations of widespread torture of detainees at the illegal US naval base in Guantanamo, Cuba, rattled the American conscience during the Bush Jr. administration, reminds Mansa Musa. Two decades later, detainments at Guantanamo continue, but the public has largely moved on. Yet for many former detainees of Guantanamo, release from their former prison has just opened a new chapter of horrors. A recent report from Elise Swain of The Intercept reveals that instead of being sent home, many former Guantanamo detainees were deported to a third country such as Kazakhstan, the UAE, and others. Despite being released from Guantanamo, these former detainees continue to experience arbitrary detention under the Kazakh and Emirati governments while being prevented from reuniting with their families. Elise Swain joins Rattling the Bars to explain these new revelations.

Illegal detention is torture for its victims; compounded by delayed judgmentit can be deadly. The history of neglect and passivity ascribed to treatment of prisoners in the US Naval Base in Cuba is insidious; the facility Amnesty International called the "Gulag of our times" was designed to circumvent protections of Geneva Convention treaties established to define legal standards for humanitarian treatment of prisoners of war. Abandoning cohering norms of international law, the George W. Bush administration advanced a discriminatory regime based on nationality, ethnicity and religion, believing an off-shore holding could deprive federal courts of jurisdiction over the rights of detainees.

What happens when you don't deal with the crime of what became indefinite detention (President Obama signed indefinite detention without charge or trial into law at the end of 2011)? 800 years of the writ of Habeas Corpus, the right to know why you are being held captive by the State, comes undone. 779 men and boys have had their lives upended; 30 people remain incarcerated, some never charged with a crime. 

The US Supreme Boumediene v. Bush case, which was decided in June 2008, confirmed that the prisoners held at Guantánamo had constitutionally guaranteed habeas corpus rights, empowering judges to hear the government's case against them. 32 prisoners had their habeas corpus petitions granted by District Court judges before appeals court judges rewrote the rules -- shamefully, the Supreme Court has refused, ever since, to take back control of the legal arguments involving the imprisonment of men at Guantánamo notes journalist activist Andy Worthington.

"The degree of civilization in a society can be judged by entering its prisons," wrote Russian novelist Fyodor Dostoevsky in The House of the Dead. The cruel, inhumane, and degrading treatment -- torture -- inflicted on disfranchised subjects, from Pelican Bay in California to Bagram, Afghanistan, must not only end; the presumption of American immunity to international law must be repudiated. 

In the 20+ years it has existed, nine people have died while in custody and 741 people have been transferred out of the facility. The torture they endured has been documented in dozens of survivor narratives. The torturers and their apologists have largely avoided accountability for their crimes. The 'Law' has been employed to keep them out of prison and the worst perpetrators have enjoyed enhanced career opportunities. Prior to entering politics, Ron DeSantis served in the Navy as an attorney, first at the U.S. prison at the Guantánamo Bay prison in Cuba and later in Iraq -- former Guantánamo prisoner Mansoor Adayfi says DeSantis personally witnessed him being force-fed and tortured, and other prisoners have backed up his account. Former Office of Legal Counsel lawyer John Yoo was 'promoted' at Berkeley Law. Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh believed the author (Yoo) of notorious memos providing legal cover for those torturing human beings would be great as a lifetime pick for the Ninth Circuit.

We don't need law to tell what's right. We must make a profound break from whiteness and narcissism and corporate supremacy -- fascism -- "deliberately inflicting terror onto innocents for purely political reasons," tweeted actor John Cusack. People should be upset that President Biden is upgrading Guantanamo. This will never be acceptable. It's up to us; we can't delegate remedy to 21st century 'Good Democrats.' Only persistent, determined protest in the streets will stop the consolidation of a reactionary Supreme Court in service to Christian fundamentalists intent on restructuring society to fascist purpose: subjugation of women, ethnic cleansing, and military aggression against people of the world.

First UN human rights investigator allowed to visit since camp was set up says men subjected to 'inhuman and degrading' treatment 

Ní Aoláin, a law professor at the University of Minnesota and at Queens University in Belfast, told a press conference on Monday that "after two decades of custody, the suffering of those detained is profound, and it's ongoing. Every single detainee I met with lives with the unrelenting harms that follow from systematic practices of rendition, torture and arbitrary detention."

Ben Ferencz

"This was the tragic fulfilment of a program of intolerance and arrogance," said Ferencz at the trial of 22 officers who led mobile paramilitary killing squads known as Einsatzgruppenthe. "Vengeance is not our goal, nor do we seek merely a just retribution. We ask this court to affirm by international penal action man's right to live in peace and dignity regardless of his race or creed. The case we present is a plea of humanity to law."

Ferencz notably condemned Berkeley Law John Yoo's "enhanced interrogation" program and "torture memos."

Andy Worthington says...

Here's my latest article, featuring photos from, and my report about the eight coordinated global vigils for the closure of Guantanamo that took place on April 5, 2023 in London, Washington, D.C., New York, Mexico City, Brussels, Los Angeles, Raleigh, NC and Cobleskill, NY, involving organizations including the UK Guantanamo Network, Close Guantanamo, Witness Against Torture, the World Can't Wait and CAIR (the Council on American-Islamic Relations).

The ongoing vigils take place on the first Wednesday of every month, and, as well as calling for the closure of the prison, also highlight the plight of the 17 men still held (out of 31 in total) who have been approved for release but have no idea when, if ever, they will actually be freed.

Please join us next month if you can, on Wednesday May 3. In London, we'll be holding a vigil outside the US Embassy in Nine Elms, before returning to Parliament Square on Wednesday June 7. You're welcome to join an existing vigil, or to set up your own.


"Ron DeSantis's blind faith to the military in its worst moments doesn't bode well should he ever claim the title of commander in chief," warns Jasper Craven, "but that is clearly where his ambitions lie." Tom Fleener, a former defense lawyer at Gitmo, told him that "Ron knew where the bodies were buried, so to speak." 

One former detainee recollects that DeSantis was "with a group of the most vile officers that tortured us severely."

Guantánamo Bay prisoners are seemingly caught in a kaleidoscope hell with a two-faced Ron DeSantis gesturing good will on one side, and disgust on the other. Guards stand to attention around them. 

Illustration © Lucile Ourvouai

Survivor Mansoor Adayfi has written a book about his confinement and advocates shuttering the prison. Last year, after catching wind that DeSantis was a rising political star, he tweeted his hope that "Ron doesn't run Florida like he did at Guantánamo." Craven is rightly worried that DeSantis is taking cues from the likes of Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán, "a fellow military veteran and master of doublespeak." The protégé of George W. Bush and other Republican forebears understands the appeal of strength and brutality to voters.

"We call on the US government to do more to prioritize the release of these 20 men," says Andy Worthingtom. "It is unforgivable that three of them (approved for release via the Guantánamo Review Task Force) have been waiting over 13 years (4,767 days) to be freed, and that one other man has been waiting 805 days, since he was approved for release by a Periodic Review Board towards the end of the Trump presidency...

"We are watching, and we will continue to highlight the plight of these men until they... are finally freed.


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