4,000 Days in Limbo at Guantanamo

Obaidullah, from Afghanistan, has been in U.S. military custody since July 2002 (Photo Credit: Amnesty International).

Obaidullah, from Afghanistan, has been in U.S. military custody since July 2002 (Photo Credit: Private).

By Rob Freer, Amnesty International Researcher on the USA

Imagine this.

You are 19-years-old, asleep in your family home in a remote rural village. In the middle of the night, foreign soldiers burst in.

They put a hood over your head and force you to sit against a wall. You are terrified.

After a few hours, bound hand and foot and still hooded, you are taken to a military base.

There you are physically assaulted, interrogated, threatened with a knife and deprived of sleep and food. You fear you will be killed.

After what you think is about 48 hours – your disorientation makes it difficult to know for sure – you are bundled, still hooded and shackled, into a helicopter and flown to another, larger military facility. There the interrogations and abuse continue.

Three months later, you are taken from your cell, your head is shaved, you are put into shackles and blacked-out goggles, and you and some others are thrown into a transport plane and tied down like cargo.

SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

Bradley Manning Verdict: Double Standards and Misplaced Priorities

Army Pfc. Bradley Manning being escorted from court (Photo Credit: Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images).

Army Pfc. Bradley Manning being escorted from court (Photo Credit: Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images).

It has been a more than three years since the initial leaks of classified information were posted on Wikileaks. Bradley Manning has faced many issues during that three year span – not the least of which being the unnecessarily harsh conditions of his confinement when held in a brig in Quantico – and he will continue to face many more for the foreseeable future.

However, one issue has stood out above all others: being charged and possibly convicted for aiding the enemy, for releasing classified information to Wikileaks – information that Manning reasonably believed demonstrated human rights violations and potential war crimes by the U.S. government.

The charge seemed like a stretch from the get-go. But after hearing the evidence, the prosecution presented to support such a charge, it became painfully obvious that the government was trying to make an example of Bradley Manning: regardless of your motives, if you leak government information you will pay with your life, literally.

SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

Guantanamo Bay: When Will We Wake Up?

Demonstrators take part in a rally to call for the closing of the Guantanamo Bay detention center (Photo Credit: Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images).

Demonstrators take part in a rally to call for the closing of the Guantanamo Bay detention center (Photo Credit: Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images).

By Saira Khan, Intern at Amnesty International USA’s Security & Human Rights Program

I was born and raised in New York. My mother is originally from Pakistan and my father is from India. My parents and I are Muslim. From a young age, I had the impression that most Americans did not know much about my culture or religion.

During the September 11 attacks, I was in fifth grade. I can distinctly remember a classmate calling me a terrorist in the following days. While I knew that he did not realize the gravity of his accusations, I also understood that his words represented a new perspective held by many Americans regarding Muslims. As I have gotten older, this stereotypical outlook has been reinforced through my personal experiences.

Many Americans assume that all of the prisoners at Guantanamo must be guilty of something, and therefore are deserving of the conditions in which they live. The reality is that most detainees in Guantanamo Bay detention facility have never been charged, and none fairly tried. Yet they are all still being punished. I’m concerned that the passive acceptance of Guantanamo in our country is a manifestation of latent discrimination toward Muslims. This is a travesty, especially for America, the supposed “land of the free.”

SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

BREAKING: Yemeni Journalist Abdul Ilah Haydar Shayi’ Now Free

Abdul Ilah Haydar Shayi’ (Photo Credit: Jeremy Scahill on Twitter @Jeremyscahill)

Abdul Ilah Haydar Shayi’ (Photo Credit: Jeremy Scahill on Twitter @jeremyscahill).

After close to three years in detention and following international and domestic pressure, on July 23, investigative journalist Abdul Ilah Haydar Shayi’ has been set free.

Shayi’ was featured in the recent documentary Dirty Wars, a powerful film co-written and co-produced by Jeremy Scahill, about the U.S. government’s “global war” paradigm used to side-line international human rights law from U.S. counter-terrorism efforts around the world.

Abdul was targeted by both the Yemeni and American governments for telling the truth. He was the first Yemeni journalist to allege U.S. involvement in the missile attack on the community of al-Ma’jalah.

Yemen’s government initially said its forces had acted alone in the attack on al-Ma’jalah – which killed 41 local residents, including 21 children and 14 women. But shortly afterwards, American media outlets published statements by anonymous U.S. government sources claiming President Obama approved the use of U.S. missiles being fired at two alleged al-Qa’ida sites in Yemen.

In June 2010, Amnesty International released images of a U.S.-manufactured Tomahawk cruise missile that carried cluster sub-munitions, apparently taken near al-Ma’jalah after the December 2009 airstrike. The organization further claimed that such missiles were only known to be held by the U.S. forces at that time and that Yemeni armed forces were unlikely to be capable of using such a missile.

SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

Bradley Manning’s ‘Aiding the Enemy’ Charge is a Travesty of Justice

U.S. Pvt. Bradley Manning, 25, has lost his challenge against the charge of "aiding the enemy" (Photo Credit: Brendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty Images).

U.S. Pvt. Bradley Manning, 25, has lost his challenge against the charge of “aiding the enemy” (Photo Credit: Brendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty Images).

By Widney Brown, Senior Director of International Law and Policy at Amnesty International

The decision by the U.S. military judge not to drop the charge accusing Private Bradley Manning of “aiding the enemy” is a travesty of justice. If he is found guilty of the charge, he faces a possible life sentence in military custody with no chance of parole.

What’s surprising is that the prosecutors in this case, who have a duty to act in the interest of justice, have pushed a theory that making information available on the internet – whether through Wikileaks, in a personal blog posting, or on the website of The New York Times – can amount to “aiding the enemy.”

SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

5 Reasons President Obama Should Release Leonard Peltier

Leonard Peltier

Leonard Peltier

Leonard Peltier was a leading member of the American Indian Movement (AIM), an activist group that was involved in promoting the rights of “traditionalist” Indians during a period of intense conflict in the 1970s. On June 26, 1975, during a confrontation involving AIM members on the Pine Ridge Indian reservation in South Dakota, FBI agents Ronald Williams and Jack Coler were shot dead.

Leonard Peltier was convicted of their murders in 1977 and sentenced to two consecutive life sentences. Leonard Peltier does not deny that he was present during the incident. However, he has always denied killing the agents as was alleged by the prosecution at his trial. Here are 5 reasons he should be released:

SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

On International Justice Day, An Inconvenient Truth

Sudan's President Omar al-Bashir takes part in the African Union Summit on health focusing on HIV/AIDS, TB and malaria. Nigeria's president defended welcoming Sudan President Omar al-Bashir to the African Union health summit despite war crimes charges against him, saying it could not interfere in AU affairs.     (Photo Credit: Pius Utomi Ekpei/AFP/Getty Images).

Nigeria’s president defended welcoming Sudan President Omar al-Bashir to an African Union health summit this week despite war crimes charges against him, saying it could not interfere in AU affairs. (Photo Credit: Pius Utomi Ekpei/AFP/Getty Images).

Just as storms overwhelm unattended levees, political strife and armed conflict can overwhelm the system of international law created to ensure we do not repeat the darkest periods of human history. Today marks the 15th anniversary of the adoption of the Rome Statue, which established the International Criminal Court to secure accountability for war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide. This week also brings continued news of the terrible price paid by civilians as a result of such grievous crimes in Syria, Sudan and elsewhere.

Millions have been victims of these crimes in recent history, yet only very rarely have those responsible been held accountable. In the last two decades, however, progress has been made towards reversing this trend of impunity. With the establishment of the International Criminal Court, a clear message was sent around the world that failure to investigate and prosecute such crimes at the national level will not be tolerated.

Yet, every hopeful step is met with new and compelling challenges. Political alliances sometimes supersede international legal and moral obligations, shielding fugitives such as Omar al-Bashir, the sitting president of Sudan, for example, from appearing before a court of law to answer for their alleged crimes. Impunity for grave crimes robs those victimized of justice, and prevents communities and whole countries from recovering from trauma.

SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

U.S. Must Stop Obstructing Edward Snowden’s Ability to Claim Asylum

By Widney Brown, Senior Director of International Law and Policy, Amnesty International

Let’s face it: the reason Edward Snowden is stuck in limbo in Moscow is because he has revealed the unlawful behavior of the U.S. and other governments. They are trying to turn the tables and say he is the criminal when in fact it is the governments’ behavior that is unlawful.

“We think that Snowden will be in danger if he is given over to the authorities of the United States,” Amnesty International representative Sergei Nikitin said after he met with Snowden at the Moscow airport.

Indeed, the U.S. government is not only pursuing him, wanting to arrest him and charge him in the United States but they’re also obstructing his ability to claim asylum elsewhere. The Russian president has said if Snowden stays in Russia he has to shut up – but you cannot give somebody asylum and say that it is conditional on your relinquishing your right.

So what we need to do is keep heavy pressure on the U.S. government and others who are actively obstructing his right to seek asylum. We need to keep bringing the focus back to the unlawful activity of the U.S. government and other governments that he revealed.