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VIEWER WARNING: This episodes contains verbal descriptions of graphic violence. Discretion advised.
The future of the prison at Guantánamo Bay, and of the men held there, has been at the top of the news this week -- President Obama has ordered the facility closed, one released detainee has now become the head of Al Qaeda in Yemen, and some around the world are calling for war crimes tribunals to be held over the torture some prisoners survived during rendition.
In this Boing Boing video episode, we are introduced to Binyam Ahmed Mohamed, an Ethiopian man in his thirties (ACLU bio and a detailed report about his case here). Mr. Mohamed survived extraordinary rendition, secret detention, and torture by the U.S. government working with various other governments worldwide.
The story of what he endured, which included horrific sexual violence during interrogation, was painful for us to watch in the studio, when we were editing this preview piece. But all of us on the BB Video team felt like this was an incredibly important story for the world to hear, and we were grateful for the ability to draw greater attention to the story at this time.
Speaking on my own behalf here: What happens with Guantánamo and the legal process surrounding the men still held there should matter to each person who reads this blog post. The safety of our nation does not require us to abandon universally-recognized principles of human rights. Torture and disappearances do not make America more secure.
Paraphrasing what one person from WITNESS told us in email -- if more Americans realized they live in a nation where, on a street corner in the town where you live, any one of us could be picked up, pushed into an unmarked van, then moved around detention centers all over the world, tortured, without a charge or a word to your family, surely there would be more outcry.
OUTLAWED was produced around the time when the Council of Europe issued a report on the topic of extraordinary rendition and torture involving America's "War on Terror." To document why those issues matter, WITNESS created a coalition with a number of US human rights and social justice 'project partners' such as Amnesty and the ACLU to distribute the video.
Mr. Mohamed is still being held at Guantánamo Bay.
(Special appreciation to Boing Boing Video producer Derek Bledsoe. Sincere thanks to Bryan Nunez, Grace Lile, and Yvette J. Alberdingk Thijm from WITNESS. Music in this episode graciously provided by Amon Tobin / Cinematic Orchestra.)
UPDATE, January 23, 2009:
In a declassified note to his lawyers dated Dec. 29, 2008
but only released by US officials this week, Mohamed says:
It has come to my attention through several reliable
sources that my release from Guantanamo to the
UK had been ordered several weeks ago.
It is a cruel tactic of delay to suspend my travel till
the last days of this [Bush] administration
while I should have been home a long time ago."
Mohamed's lawyers said they are concerned for his health.
He has been on a hunger strike over his continued
detention for more than four weeks.
Britain has formally requested Mohammed's release,
The U.S. has so far declined, "due to security concerns.