Curt Wechsler, The World Can't Wait: November 2021 Archives

Guantánamo: 20 Years After

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Online Conference
12th to 13th November 2021

11th January 2022 will mark the 20th anniversary of the opening of the prison at Guantánamo Bay.

779 men (and boys) have been held at the prison by the U.S. military since it opened, and 39 are still held, mostly without charge or trial. Those who have been charged face trials in the much-criticized military commission trial system.

The conference asks: How did the prison at Guantánamo Bay come to exist, and why is it still open? Why aren't those responsible for violating prisoners' fundamental human rights being held accountable for their actions? What part did the UK government play in enabling US rendition programmes to the CIA's notorious "black sites", where prisoners were tortured?

The conference brings together academics, researchers, activists, practitioners and students. By scheduling the conference to take place over two days the organisers aim to create an international forum for all those active in discussing Guantánamo's origins and its history over the last 20 years, demanding accountability for the human rights abuses inflicted there, and proposing legal and political paths towards its final closure.

From Guantanamo:

Two extraordinary developments happened days ago inside the US torture camp at Guantanamo.

One: For the first time ever, a prisoner testified in military court, with reporters present, on his torture at the hands of the C.I.A. in "black sites." Carol Rosenberg of The New York Times reported that, at his sentencing hearing October 28, Majid Khan spoke of the violence that C.I.A. agents and operatives inflicted on him in dungeonlike conditions in prisons in Pakistan, Afghanistan and a third country, including sexual abuse and mind-numbing isolation, often in the dark while he was nude and shackled. He read his statement aloud for two hours.

The U.S. has never acknowledged its cooperation with third countries in "black sites," and for two decades has refused prisoners to be tried, or even charged, lest they reveal details of torture by the U.S. or military. No prisoners have been allowed to get their stories heard from inside the prison. The military prosecutors declined to comment specifically other than conceding that Khan suffered "extremely rough treatment."

Two: After hearing Khan's testimony, including his admission of joining AlQaeda as a teenager, the military jury sentenced him to 26 years, the least he could have received. Then "In a stark rebuke of the torture carried out by the C.I.A. after the Sept. 11 attacks, seven senior military officers who heard graphic descriptions last week of the brutal treatment of a terrorist while in the agency's custody wrote a letter calling it 'a stain on the moral fiber of America.'"The military jurors' public opposition to actions by the C.I.A. and military is notable because it stands out from the actions of millions -- yes millions -- of those activated during the so-called "war on terror." It's good they wrote their letter; and more should follow their example. But this stain on the "moral fiber" of the empire is never going to be washed out.

Khan is represented by the Center for Constitutional Rights; under a previously secret agreement, he could be released in 2025.  More on his case.

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Detention and torture in Guantanamo

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