Rupture and reckoning: 20 years of Guantánamo

11 September 2021, 3:00 pm

An interdisciplinary event series reflecting on the legacy of the notorious detention camp and US counter-terrorism policy two decades after 9/11

Exactly four months after the 11 September 2001 attacks that led US President George W Bush to launch the global “war on terror,” the US military began transferring detainees to the US detention center in Guantánamo Bay. The first images from the camp showed men in orange jumpsuits, shackled and fitted with sensory deprivation gear, forced to kneel on gravel in front of metal outdoor cages. US officials strategically chose the isolated detention camp on the island of Cuba because they asserted it to be beyond the reach of law. Since then, Guantánamo has become synonymous with horrific crimes, including rendition, torture and indefinite detention without charge or trial.

Still in operation today, Guantánamo remains a global symbol of injustice and an enduring stain on the US. It also calls into question the viability of the global human rights system that has, to date, failed to shutter it. Guantánamo’s legacy – of norms, principles and law pushed to and beyond their breaking point in ways both spectacularly brutal and banal – does not belong to the past. Its echoes are evident in today’s mass surveillance systems, fortressed borders, and drone warfare around the world.

As an organization that has worked closely with former Guantánamo detainees and partner organizations to seek justice and accountability in European courts, ECCHR will convene an interdisciplinary event series between the twenty-year anniversaries of the 9/11 attacks and Guantánamo’s opening on 11 January 2002.

Between September 2021 and January 2022, anchored in but not limited to Berlin, the series will engage with Guantánamo’s legacy through a variety of mediums, formats and disciplines. It will feature film screenings, book talks, panel discussions, visual art exhibitions, and the launch of an anthology. The series aims to spur public reflection, debate and ideas for closing the detention camp, on the erosion of international law and charting a different future.

11 September 2021: Book talk @ Internationales Literaturfestival Berlin

Guantanamo voices: True accounts from the world’s most infamous prison

Hosted by Lilian Pithan, author Sarah Mirk talks with Andreas Schüller (ECCHR) about her graphic novel depicting interviews with ten people whose lives have been shaped and affected by Guantánamo, including former prisoners, lawyers, social workers, and service members.

In cooperation with Internationales Literaturfestival Berlin

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11 September 2021: Open air film screening and talk @ Human Rights Film Festival Berlin

In Search of Monsters

For many years, Mohamedou Slahi was considered one of the most dangerous terrorists in the world. For 14 years, he was incarcerated in Guantánamo Bay and was tortured under the brutal “special interrogation” procedure. After two years of intensive research, filmmakers John Goetz and Ben Hopkins have been able to identify his tormentors. Some members of the torture team still believe he is guilty. Others see their former victim in a different way. This investigative documentary accompanies perpetrator and victim on their quest for forgiveness.

In cooperation with Human Rights Film Festival Berlin

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21 September 2021: Panel discussion (online)

The war on terror in court

Talk with Andreas Schüller (ECCHR) and Baraa Shiban (Reprieve)

In cooperation with Medizinische Flüchtlingshilfe Bochum and medico international

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November 2021: Book talk @ ECCHR (Berlin)

Moving the bar: My life as a radical lawyer by Michael Ratner

Lawyer Michael Ratner handled some of the most significant cases in American history – this book tells why and how he did it. For example, Ratner organized some 600 lawyers to successfully defend habeas corpus for Guantánamo detainees, that is, the ancient right of someone accused of a crime to have a lawyer and to be brought before a judge. Compelling and instructive, Moving the bar is an indispensable manual for the next generation of activists and their lawyers.

In cooperation with Bertha Foundation

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December 2021: Digital art exhibition @ ECCHR (online)

Gitmo images and imaginaries

This digital exhibition presents five short videos exploring depictions of or other conceptual engagements with Guantánamo through diverse artistic mediums, in conversation with the artists themselves. They cover detainee art (painting, drawing and sculpture), comics, journalism, photography, speculative institution-making, and courtroom illustration.

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January 2022: Talk at photo exhibition @ Stadthaus Ulm

Welcome to Camp America: Inside Guantánamo Bay

Photographer and civil rights lawyer Debi Cornwall’s exhibition is on display from December 2021 at Stadthaus Ulm. It explores the personal experience at Guantánamo from different vantage points, including the perspective of prisoners, guards and former inmates. The exhibition program includes a panel discussion with Debi Cornwall, a former detainee, and ECCHR’s International Crimes and Accountability program director Andreas Schüller.

In cooperation with Stadthaus Ulm

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January 2022: Launch of anthology and event @ ECCHR

Guantanamo turns 20

Around the occasion of the 20th anniversary of the first arrivals of detainees at Guantánamo, ECCHR and partners plan the launch of an anthology and further events.

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Human rights in times of crises: Resistance and concrete utopias

22 September 2021, 6:00 pm

Event series, May – November 2021

Human rights are a concrete utopia worth defending. But how to defend them needs to be constantly reinvented. As we find ourselves in a time of profound, global…


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