Happy travels! Guantánamo Bay: a decade of failure

Ten years ago today, the first detainees were transferred to the US naval base at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba. Since then 779 people have been held, yet only one has been given a trial in an ordinary US federal court.

Yesterday I met with the impressive acting US Consul General, Kevin Roland, at the Consulate in Belfast to record our demand that the Guantánamo Bay detention camp be closed down, and our call that the 171 remaining prisoners be charged with recognisable offences and given a fair trial or released if there is insufficient evidence for a prosecution – in line with international law.

I gave him a copy of Amnesty’s new report, Guantánamo: A Decade of Damage to Human Rights (PDF), which summarises the case against Guantánamo, including the fact that the rejection of the rule of law by the US that the camp represents, has been intepreted as a green light by other States to similarly disregard international human rights requirements.

That’s the serious way to go about things and, of course, there’s nothing funny about torture, internment, indefinite detention, or the ‘war on terror’. Despite Obama’s promises, ten years after 9/11, these remain hallmarks of the way in which international law has been flouted and debased. (You can sign our petition to President Obama here.)

But humour can be a powerful tool too – and I think my colleagues at Amnesty International USA have managed to pull off that tricky serious / funny combo with their new short video Happy World Travel, featuring Dileep Rao (Avatar, Inception).

What happens when a normal dude named Rob (or is it Raj?!) heads to a travel agency looking for a relaxing vacation?


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  • cynic2

    “A decade of failure”

    Yeah…dream on.

    Bin Laden is dead. Most of his senior followers are dead or in jail or fear the imminent arrival of a ground to air missile on the house or car they are in. I know – shocking isnt it!!

    Overall their operations have been severely disrupted. Still not ideal but real progress has been made.

  • Jo

    Bin Laden is dead, indeed, but the detention of hundreds without a trial didnt kill him, rather, it represented and represents a departure from the rule of law which is contaminative of civilised standards and represents a victory for those who attack our way of life and how we regard human life. We are better than them and should behave accordingly.

  • Drumlins Rock

    Patrick, as a matter of interest how many other national represenatives have you met with recently to discuss the illegal detention of prisoners?

  • DR, we meet thousands of government representatives from very many different countries annually to discuss a wide range of human rights concerns, including the illegal detention of prisoners.

    We believe in universal standards, not double standards.

  • pauluk

    If failure means no more successful mass-murder attacks on civilians by Muslim terrorists on US soil, then, yes, I suppose GITMO is a failure.

  • pauluk

    Who careswhat happens when a normal dude named Rob (or is it Raj?!) heads to a travel agency looking for a relaxing vacation’!

    What I care about is all the bother and hassle that, first of all Irish Republican terrorists have caused in my travels over the years, and now the added nuisance and embarrassment of invasive security measures introduced to thwart Islamic terrorists.

    The next time you are in a long queue at the airport waiting to go through intimate security checks, just remember that Muslim terrorism has brought on this Humiliation of the Innocents.

    I’ve absolutely no sympathy for those who have created these conditions. Keep them locked up, I say!

  • In the civilized world, people are not held indefinitely without charges being laid.

  • sliabhluachra

    Amnesty International? Is that the group founded by Sean McBride and a shady Brit? The one which would not campaign on abuses in the 6 Cos or on the Irish innocent in British jails? Is it the one which has a huge office in Dublin with 40+ employees working on the hard life homosexuals have and which sells branded gear to raise funds to pay high salaries? The one which insists on calling Myanmar Burma?
    On another note: Non EU students wishing to study in the “UK” (GB + the occupied zone) have to fill in a 50 page application document. One question asks if they have ever visited “Northern Ireland”. If the answer is yes, they are then asked a rake more questions. There is no such question regarding England, Scotland or Wales.

    People campaigning against that or other real abuses would be best not wasting their time with AI.

  • Drumlins Rock

    Where are all the Slugger posts on these meetings Patrick?

  • Hedley Lamarr

    I know Sliabhluachra is just being sarcastic. It was hard to tell at first.

    The reason why AI didn’t campaign on issues in their own country until recently was due to risks of impartiality and risks of attack.

    Some of the reasons behind the campaigns for LGBT rights are listed below:

    -women raped to “cure” their lesbianism, sometimes at the behest of their parents;

    -individuals prosecuted because their private and consensual relationship is deemed to be a social danger;

    -loss of custody of their children;

    -individuals beaten by police;

    -attacked, sometimes killed, on the street – a victim of a “hate crime”;

    -regular subjection to verbal abuse;

    -bullying at school;

    -denial of employment, housing or health services;

    -denial of asylum when they do manage to flee abuse;

    -raped and otherwise tortured in detention;

    -threatened for campaigning for their human rights;

    -driven to suicide;

    -executed by the state.

    As for Guantanamo ending Internationalism Terrorism- didn’t it just add to it?

  • DR, I have blogged about many issues and countries since I started contributing to Slugger and hope to continue to do so.

    If you have nothing to say on the matter at hand – the decade of international law-breaking by the USA symbolised by Guantánamo – so be it.

  • galloglaigh

    The GITMO experiment would have been a success, had they detained people who had actually attacked America. If they had of acted on information that others might have had, they’d have been able to carry out arrest operation across the east coast of the US. All that GITMO has done, is to help in the radicalisation of more Muslims, and an Islamisation of many states not too far from the country that might have been able to prevent the attacks.

  • pauluk

    The New York Times recently ran an article by two prisoners released from Guantanamo. The NY Times may not have been aware that ‘one of the two has previously claimed he was tortured more at Gitmo under the Obama administration than the Bush administration.

    So, either the Obama administration is pro-torture, or the ex-Gitmo detainee is lying.’

  • The US jurisprudence system has much to be admired but two administrations have brought shame to themselves by refusing to allow these detainees access to it.

  • Catherine Couvert

    Campaigning for the ‘hard lives of homosexuals’ . People like me. Homophobia keeps creeping up in debates where you would have least expected it. Wearing.

  • Catherine Couvert

    Sorry: wearying.

  • Catherine Couvert

    ‘The reason why AI didn’t campaign on issues in their own country until recently was due to risks of impartiality and risks of attack’.
    Hedley, I understand the argument but not sure that I would entirely accept it. Groups that made a point of not being nationalist or unionist campaigned on issues of human rights and civil rights issues here throughout the ‘troubles’.
    As an Amnesty supporter, it’s an issue that has always troubled me. It’s not a reason to slag Amnesty’s goals, the organisation made its choices and did/does incredibly important work.
    Closing Guantanamo Bay and fighting against the persecution of LGBTs around the world are causes as worthwhile as all the other causes Amnesty pursues and some it doesn’t.
    Nobody’s perfect and it doesn’t have to be used to shut people up.

  • ‘The reason why AI didn’t campaign on issues in their own country until recently was due to risks of impartiality and risks of attack’.

    For the record, this was not a policy particular to NI, it was a globally applied policy.

  • sliabhluachra

    Catherine Couvert: So you are an oppressed homosexual. Is the jail sentence you are currently serving in the Guinness Book of Records as were those of innocent Irish prisoners AI refused to campaign on? No? Oh.
    Is your life as hard as that of prisoners in Myanmar (not Burma)? No? Oh. Well, maybe they have their equivalent of the pink pound.
    AI in any branch except England/Britain could have campaigned on the issue of prisoners in England but AI stopped them. As regards the 6 occupied cos, AI has that in two jurisdictions, (Ireland and Britain) which was a handy way of condoning the torture that went on there and that probably still continues.
    Whatever little good AI might have done by highlighting some otherwise forgotten prisoner has been obviated by their emphasis on repressed middle class homosexuals and their need to pay big wages to their big staff. They are not alone on this but are just part of the NGO leech industry. Oxfam is similar as they campaign on everything and the Red Cross/Crescent/Crystal is the biggest leech of them all (like Goal, great pension packets though
    As regards Americans desecrating dead bodies and torturing prisoners: there is nothing new in that. Standard Operating Procedure.

  • Hedley Lamarr

    Catherine- Amnesty as a global organisation campaigned on those issues. They didn’t campaign on behalf of political prisoners as a rule unless they suffered human rights abuses such as lack of a fair trial or torture or inhuman conditions. They campaigned for the immediate release of prisoners of conscience who differ from political prisoners as they don’t use violence.

    They did campaign on behalf of prisoners convicted of violent acts who suffered a miscarriage of justice.

    The rule on not acting on issues on your own country was global. It was a necessarily universal rule:

    You may have been biased.
    You may be at risk of attack.
    You may have been at risk of arrest and/or imprisonment.
    You may be tortured at the hands of state or non-state actors.

    These were risks that had to be avoided using a reasonable caveat to any campaigning on human rights issues. You were obviously more at risk in less stable countries and instead of having one rule for a war zone and another for a stable zone it was fairer and safer to make it a universal rule.

    The same issues would be campaigned on anyway, by others who weren’t at risk. In other countries.

  • sliabhluachra

    Mr Lamar: You are wrong. Despite being approached, Amnesty International did not campaign on behalf of the Guildford 4, the Birmingham Six and the rest of them. Sr Sarah Clarke (RIP) and Fr Denis Faul did.
    No more to say on that mug selling outfit except to saay i hope Colm O’Gorman and his mini army are being paid well.

  • Hedley Lamarr

    sliabhluachra- I was replying to Catherine when she wrote

    “Hedley, I understand the argument but not sure that I would entirely accept it. Groups that made a point of not being nationalist or unionist campaigned on issues of human rights and civil rights issues here throughout the ‘troubles’.”

    Amnesty International did campaign on those issues as an organisation. They didn’t ignore any region in the world. For example they campaigned against the use of punishment shootings etc by paramilitaries and state actions also.

    As for the cases sliabhluachra mentioned I don’t have any specific knowledge on them so I can’t comment definitively on them. Maybe sliabhluachra has a link?

  • sliabhluachra

    Mr Lamarr: I have had my say. I mention two people in the post above. Two great people. You will apreciate that time moves on but the Conlon family or any others cannot sing highly enough about those two (the late Sr Clarke and Fr Faul).and neither can I.
    Amnesty International did NOT. To me, they are a fraudulent organisation who, in the past, used to falsely boast about standing up to all and sundry. They did not. Ask them if you wsh. i already gave their party line above.
    As regards Ms Couvert: the statement you quote cannot be right and defies reason. There was a major (squalid little) war going on. Sure, people were campaigning on her types of issues and maybe planning a Gay Pride march or two. But such things are hard to do in the midst of a major sectarian conflict.
    So yes, there were good Malone Road gays fighting the good fight but most of them, like members of the trade union movement, had to box clever. They had, in other words, to shut up and for anyone who says otherwise, I say: read Faustus by Thomas Mann.

  • Catherine Couvert

    Sliabhluachra, it seems to me there is too much ‘either or’ in what you are saying.
    Even in the 80s and 90s, when a lot of us had to ‘box clever’ as you call it, gays were part of the left, in prisons, in working class areas, sometimes outspoken, sometimes not.
    As for the first Belfast pride marches in the early 90s, I was there and there weren’t many ‘Malone Road gays’ there (actually, there weren’t many of anything there, it took us several years to get appreciable numbers). The people who attended then were people whose ‘kind of issues’ tended to be wider than you give them credit for: gay rights then tended to be an extension of our wider politics.
    As for deciding how cosy or difficult our lives are or have been which make us feel we need to fight for our rights (here and round the world), it’s rather more complex as well, and it’s a bit simplistic to scoff at how ‘easy’ our lives were/are compared to the ‘really oppressed’ people who deserve proper support. So it’s got better in the last decade (in spite of high rate of bullying, physical harrassment, assault, poor treatment of our kids in schools etc). Well, as someone who believe in justice you must be pleased that there is progress?
    Again, in my view it’s not either or and that is why I don’t think you strengthen your point on Amnesty by following this line.
    To me it’s the Conlon family AND gay rights AND human rights abuses by paramilitaries and government AND strip searches AND human rights abuses round the world…
    And yes, I do take your point Hedley and Patrick, that it was an Amnesty policy that was not restricted to Ireland. I do have issues with it but I understand it.
    I am kind of sorry that we are side-tracking and getting into an argument that is not about Guantanamo Bay, which is an important issue too, so I’ll stop here.

  • Indeed, this thread has drifted off course.

  • sliabhluachra

    Ms Couvert: http://tinyurl.com/gayfascists So much for “gay” “leftism”.
    Mr Canuck: What element of AI’s propaganda would you like to discuss?
    A. AI said the US actions were giving the green light to enemy states to torture and generally do naughty things. (with Israel, the world’s major terrorist state.
    B. The weak attempt at humo(u) in the video linked to in the post?

  • Mr. sliabhluachra ,

    The blog is about the disgraceful behaviour of the USA in regards to the detainees at Gitmo. I’m more than happy to discuss that.

  • Catherine Couvert

    Sliabhluachra, this is really getting too silly. Back to Guantanamo Bay issue maybe?

  • Catherine,

    Don’t forget the advice about not feeding trolls.

  • Hedley Lamarr

    Sorry guys. I didn’t mean to stray off the topic.