2021 – TIME TO CLOSE GUANTANAMO

Last updated – 29th January 2021

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Actions you can take to push for the closure of Guantanamo in 2021

Campaign Circular prepared by the

Lewes Amnesty International Group

amnestylewes.org

CONTENTS

Background to Campaigning Circular

  • Action needed now to close Guantanamo
  • link to new Amnesty International Report entitled “Right the wrong: decision time on Guantanamo “published on 11th January 2021

Campaigning Actions to Take*

  • Action One  – Write to your MP after 15 Feb 2021
  • Action Two – Write to US President Joe Biden
  • Action Three – write to UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson
  • Action Four – Write to a detainee/detainees in Guantanamo 
  • Action Five  – Organise a socially-distanced campaigning and awareness raising action in your town/community (when safe to do so)
  • Action Six – encourage your local cinema to screen the film ‘The Mauritanian’/ organise a campaigning stall/speaker/s to accompany the showing of the film
  • Action Seven – Support the campaigning initiatives of other groups calling for the closure of Guantanamo.

* Campaigning Actions to Take – Please abide by all government lockdown requirements when planning your campaigning activities.

Background to Campaigning Circular

With a change in administration in the USA, Amnesty members and other individuals have the unique chance to push for the closure of the detention facility once and for all. We need a renewed global push to show President Joe Biden that he must prioritize closing Guantánamo immediately .

11th January 2021 marked the 19th anniversary of the opening of Guantanamo. On that day Amnesty International launched a new report entitled  “USA: Right the wrong – decision time on Guantánamo”.

A summary of the report and of the renewed campaign to close Guantanamo Bay and free its remaining prisoners can be seen here:

https://www.amnesty.org/en/latest/news/2021/01/usa-report-human-rights-violations-guantanamo/

A link to the press release and full report can be found here: https://www.amnesty.org.uk/press-releases/usa-joe-biden-must-close-guantanamo-new-report

The report highlights the following:

  • Guantanamo is still open, and houses 40 detainees who have been there for up to 17 years without trial.
  • There has been no accountability for the significant violations of human rights law perpetrated by the US, including torture, enforced disappearance, and unfair trials.
  • The Biden administration must close Guantanamo.  

Also on 11th January 2021 the Lewes Amnesty International Group organised an on-line meeting with invited guest speaker Mohamedou Ould Salahi (a former Guantanamo detainee who had been previously been detained without charge of trial for 14 years) to mark the 19th anniversary of the opening of the illegal detention centre.

The meeting was chaired by Amnesty International UK Board member Hugh Sandeman and was also attended by Journalist and co-founder of ‘Close Guantanamo’ Andy Worthington. In addition almost 100 local Amnesty group members, students and others attended the meeting. A recording of the meeting can be found here:  https://youtu.be/QqVsvaYw00k

Lewes Amnesty International has been actively campaigning for the closure of Guantanamo since the group began in November 2006 and on 21st October 2012 we held a Public Meeting in Lewes calling for the closure of Guantanamo with a panel of guest speakers including former Guantanamo detainee and Brighton resident Omar Deghayes, Caroline Lucas MP, Norman Baker MP and Andy Worthington.

The speakers at this Public Meeting received an enthusiastic response from a large audience in Lewes and at the time Andy Worthington said that he wished that ‘the outrage of that audience could be bottled up and used to campaign for the closure of Guantanamo and for justice for those detained there’. Lewes Amnesty members and supporters have since endeavoured over successive years to bring our outrage at the travesty of justice that is Guantanamo to the fore and this year we are urging other Amnesty activists and others who believe in the Rule of Law to join us in doing the same by taking some straightforward actions. Please do join us over the coming year by taking the actions outlined in this campaign circular.

Former Guantanamo Detainee Omar Deghayes with Caroline Lucas MP, Norman Baker MP and Journalist Andy  Worthington at a Public Meeting in Lewes in 2012

Campaigning Actions to Take

Action One  – Write to your MP starting the 15th Feb 2021

It is important that Amnesty’s new report on Guantanamo receives as much attention as possible. To build momentum and fit with other Amnesty campaigns we are asking members to wait until 15 Feb 2021, and then send a copy of the Amnesty report below to your local MP expressing your concern about the continuing existence of the detention centre:

USA: Right the wrong – decision time on Guantánamo

Action Two – Write to US President Joe Biden

Please promote the new Amnesty petition targeting President-Elect Joe Biden and send all the letters you can by the end of February 2021 to the Amnesty International North America Country Coordinator Lise Rossi. If you are part of an Amnesty Group you can encourage your members to send type, print out and sign letters using the template below and send them to one group member to be sent together to Lise Rossi.

If you are an individual you can also send them to Lise Rossi. Her address is:   Lise Rossi, 79 Whistler Street, London E5 1NJ. Lise will then forward them to Amnesty USA who will deliver them to the Biden Administration a couple of months after he is sworn in on 20 January 2021.

Alternatively you can send your letters to:

Joe Biden President-Elect United States of America, 1401 Constitution Avenue, NW  Washington, D.C. 20230

Here is the text of the petition:

Subject: Close Guantánamo  

Dear President Joe Biden,  

The US government’s use of indefinite detention without charge as a response to 9/11 has been unlawful from the outset. This detention regime must be brought to an end, and any proposal for its continuation or expansion rejected. The detention facility at Guantánamo must be shut down immediately.  

The impunity that persists in relation to the torture and other-ill treatment, enforced disappearance and other human rights violations committed against these detainees is outrageous. Torture and enforced disappearance are crimes under international law.  

I urge you to work toward a lawful solution for the detainees still held at Guantánamo by either transferring them for release, or bringing individuals to trial in civilian federal courts if this can be achieved in accordance with international law and standards and without recourse to the death-penalty. Those detainees already cleared for transfer should be transferred immediately to countries that will respect their human rights. Those who were subjected to torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment must receive genuine access to rehabilitation and redress. The individuals responsible for torture and enforced disappearance must be brought to justice in a fair trial without recourse to the death penalty.  

The ongoing operations in the Guantánamo Bay detention facility are a human rights abomination.

I urge you to close the prison immediately.  

Action Three – write to UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson

Follow a call from the UK based Guantanamo Justice Campaign to write to UK PM Boris Johnson.

Stress he take appropriate actions to help bring about a swift closure of the illegal prison – Guantanamo – and along with closure, call for justice for all the victims of torture. 

Write to PM Boris Johnson (also Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab) at: 

* UK Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, 10 Downing Street, London, SW1A 2AA   or email the PM, using the link: https://email.number10.gov.uk/    

* UK Foreign Secretary, Dominic Raab MP, Foreign and Commonwealth Office, King Charles St, , London, SW1A 2AH,   or email: fcocorrespondence@fco.gov.uk

Action Four – Write to a detainee/detainees in Guantanamo 

After our successful socially distanced campaigning action in Lewes in August 2020, we decided as a group to try and write to each of the forty men still detained in Guantanamo to show them they had not been forgotten. Therefore, using the information provided on Andy Worthington’s Close Guantanamo website we set up a Guantanamo Letter Writing Project. We have allocated the names of detainees to a number of volunteers who have pledged to write to them. In addition we sent letters to all of the detainees on the 19th anniversary of the opening of Guantanamo this year on Monday 11th January.

How you can help?

  1. Contact Lewes Amnesty International to volunteer to join our Guantanamo Letter Writing Project and write to one or more detainees. We will then allocate a detainee/s to you. In this way we can ensure that all detainees are being sent letters. Please email us if you would like to join the Guantanamo Letter Writing Project and we will send you details of a detainee to write to. We will then ask that you keep us updated as to how many letters you send/receive so that we can keep a record of this.  Request this information from Sara Birch on campaigns@amnestylewes.org.
  • Visit the Close Guantanamo website and follow guidance to write directly to detainees by clicking the link below:

Letters ready to send to all detainees in Guantanamo on 11th January 2021

Please find here a You Tube video showing the sending of 40 letters to all Guantanamo detainees on the 19th anniversary of the opening of Guantanamo by the Lewes Amnesty Group: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P-a0Pee1XUk&ab_channel=LewesAmnesty

Have you ever doubted the power of a letter?

If so, read this note Amnesty received from Sami al Hajj, who was held at Guantanamo without charge for years and finally transferred home to Sudan in 2008:

“I received more than 20,000 letters from members and supporters of Amnesty International during my last two years at Guantánamo Bay…These letters really encouraged me during my very difficult time. They made me feel as though I was not alone and not to give up…Also, I felt and could notice that from all these letters, the Administration of Guantánamo Bay changed and improved towards me, as they knew I was not alone and I had people who cared about me. The guards said to me that they could see I was someone who mattered and must be important because of all the letters – this made them respect me more.”

Read Sami’s full letter to Amnesty supporters here.

Sami al Hajj received than 20,000 letters from members and supporters of Amnesty International during his last two years at Guantánamo – following his inclusion in an Amnesty campaign.  (Photo Credit: Sami al Hajj).

Messages of hope are more important than ever. That is why Amnesty is asking you to write a letter and help make a difference  in defending the human rights of all people, including the Guantanamo detainees.

Please find here a You Tube link here showing the sending of 40 letters to all Guantanamo detainees on the 19th anniversary of the opening of Guantanamo by the Lewes Amnesty Group: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P-a0Pee1XUk&ab_channel=LewesAmnesty

Action Five  – Organise a socially-distanced campaigning and awareness raising action in your town/community

On 15th August 2020the Lewes Amnesty group organised a striking visually campaigning action in our town centre to highlight the fact that 40 men remain detained in Guantanamo.

Photos from the event can be seen here: http://www.artsmediacontacts.co.uk/amc/pr.php?id=9377 

You can see details of how we organised our action from minute 51 on this You Tube video of the meeting we held on 11th January : https://youtu.be/QqVsvaYw00k

We printed out photos of the detained men and called for forty volunteers to volunteer to take part a one hour action. The action was very simple to organise and we are happy to share our experience with other local groups who may want to do a similar action to raise awareness in their community.

Lewes Amnesty Group vigil for Guantanamo prisoners in July 2020

Protesters in orange jumpsuits took to the streets of Lewes in August to protest against the continued detention without charge or trial of forty men in Guantanamo.

What was needed for the Action?

  • A4 laminates of all of the 40 detainees.

The Lewes Amnesty Group has this saved these as individual documents and can either forward to groups to print out and make their own laminates or can lend the set of laminates to other groups (send by post).

  • Orange jumpsuits.

Our initial aim was to try and buy and/or borrow 40 orange jumpsuits for the forty volunteers that we hoped to encourage to take part in the campaigning action. This was quite a task! We managed to borrow several jumpsuits from AIUK Human Rights Action Centre and from the Guantanamo Justice Campaign. We purchased some more and encouraged volunteers to buy their own if they could (these can be purchased on-line for approximately £12 each). By the day of our action we had 40 orange jumpsuits ready to be worn. We only had 25 volunteers but in fact we found that this number worked fine for our action with participants carrying two laminates each.

What we did?

  • Assembled in an open space (park) just outside the town centre for a photo shoot. To ensure social distancing several ‘named organisers with Amnesty tabards’ met early to place suits and placards out on the ground at 3 metre distances. To ensure social distancing on the day clear step by step instructions were sent to all participants prior to meeting in the park.
  • Walked silently in single file into the town centre and stopped on two separate occasions for ten minutes each time. We had leaflets to hand out with actions to take but the action was silent. We finished by walking back to the park where the action finished. The whole event took place in approximately 2 hours. Meet half an hour before setting off time to change into suits/take photos. One hour walk through town – two stops – walk back. Change back into own clothes.

For details on replicating this event/borrowing jumpsuits/placards/other materials/advice re. press releases contact Sara Birch at campaigns@amnestylewes.org

Action Six – encourage your local cinema (once lockdown restrictions are lifted) to screen the film ‘The Mauritanian’/ organise a campaigining stall/speaker/s to accompany the showing of the film

The Mauritanian, which is due to be released in the U.S. on 19th February is based on the true account of former detainee Mohamedou Ould Salahi’s 14 years of detention without charge or trial.

Organise a campaigining stall/speaker/s to accompany the showing of the film

The Mauritanian is an upcoming British-American  film directed by Kevin Macdonald from a screenplay written by M.B. Traven, Rory Haines and Sohrab Noshirvani The film stars Jodie FosterTahar RahimShailene WoodleyBenedict Cumberbatch and Zachary Levi. The film is set to be released in the United States on February 19, 2021.

STXFilms “Captured by the U.S. Government, Mohamedou Ould Salahi (Tahar Rahim) languishes in prison for years without charge or trial. Losing all hope, Slahi finds allies in defense attorney Nancy Hollander (Jodie Foster) and her associate Teri Duncan (Shailene Woodley). Together they face countless obstacles in a desperate pursuit for justice. Their controversial advocacy, along with evidence uncovered by formidable military prosecutor, Lt. Colonel Stuart Couch (Benedict Cumberbatch), eventually reveals a shocking and far reaching conspiracy. Based on the New York Times best-selling memoir, this is the explosive true story of a fight for survival against all odds.”

Foster said: “I was drawn in by the emotional story first, Mohamedou’s awful journey. It’s hard to imagine how a human could endure that, being taken from his home, blindfolded, imprisoned, subjected to years and years of psychological and physical abuse without any explanation whatsoever.”

https://www.theguardian.com/film/2021/jan/03/guantanamo-prisoner-the-mauritanian-mohamedou-ould-slahi

Review: https://www.indiewire.com/2021/01/tahar-rahim-oscar-race-the-mauritanian-1234607613/

The movie is based on Salahi’s memoir “Guantanamo Diary,” first published in heavily redacted form before he was released in 2016. A revised, mostly unredacted version was published in 2017.https://www.military.com/off-duty/movies/2020/12/10/mauritanian-suggests-america-went-too-far-guantanamo.html

See trailer here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7tmxxzZXLEM

Action Seven – Support the campaigning initiatives of other groups calling for the closure of Guantanamo.

Below are the websites for a number of organisations that are currently campaigning for the closure of Guantanamo. Join their mailing lists and take action.

This list is intended to introduce you to some of the other key campaigning organisations – in addition to Amnesty International – which are currently calling for the closure of Guantanamo, justice for those still detained and/or who have been formerly detained and for the perpetrators of human rights violations at Guantanamo to be held responsible in a court of law for their actions. There are of course other organisations campaigning for the closure of Guantanamo and for an end to the suffering of those unjustly detained there.

In the UK

In the USA

To see work of AI USA on Guantanamo see:  https://www.amnestyusa.org/issues/national-security/

It is envisaged that this campaigning circular will be updated by the Lewes Amnesty group on a monthly basis.  For further information please contact:

Sara Birch
Counter Terror with Justice Campaign Coordinator
Lewes Amnesty International Group
United Kingdom
campaigns@amnestylewes.org