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Released From Guantanamo | FRONTLINE 2017 Documentary

When President Barack Obama first took office, he signed an executive order to close the controversial military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba — where the U.S. has held terror suspects for years without charges. Though he didn’t succeed in closing Gitmo, a symbol of the post-9/11 “war on terror,” Obama made a final push to clear out the camp before President Donald Trump took over. The documentary “Out of Gitmo” examines the challenges and complexities of releasing men who were once deemed “indefinite detainees” — those never charged with a crime but considered too great a risk to let go. “Out of Gitmo” was a collaboration with NPR and WGBH News. The writer and producer was James Jacoby. The correspondent was NPR/WGBH News reporter Arun Rath. The senior producer was Frank Koughan. The senior investigations editor for NPR was Robert Little. “Out of Gitmo” was a production with Left/Right Docs. The executive producers for Left/Right Docs were Ken Druckerman and Banks Tarver. The executive producer for FRONTLINE was Raney Aronson-Rath. Explore additional reporting on “Out of Gitmo” on our website:

Supreme Court rules against disclosure in torture case

npr.org — March 3, 2022

The Supreme Court ruled Thursday that the federal government can shield former government contractors from testifying about the torture of a post-9/11 detainee. The decision likely will make it harder for victims to expose secret government misconduct in the future.

Abu Zubaydah was the first prisoner held by the CIA to undergo what, at the time, was euphemistically called “enhanced interrogation.” During one 20-day period, he was waterboarded 83 times, 24 hours a day. During that period, the suspected terrorist was also slammed against walls, put in a coffin-like box for hours at a time to simulate live burial, and subjected to something the government called “rectal rehydration.”

In the end, the two CIA contractors who supervised Zubaydah’s interrogation concluded that they had the wrong man. He was not a high-level al-Qaida operative, as the CIA had thought.

Read the rest of this article.

Link to longer article about this case at NYTimes

Editor’s note:  All the great religions teach the Golden Rule:  We should treat others as we would wish to be treated.  Following this rule, along with making us fairer to others, would also have the side-effect of preventing us from making morally catastrophic mistakes, such as the torture of an innocent bystander, as appears to be the case in the above incident.




MAY 2015 — FRONTLINE filmmaker Michael Kirk tells the dramatic story of the fight over the CIA’s controversial interrogation methods, widely criticized as torture. Based on recently declassified documents and interviews with key political leaders and CIA insiders, the film investigates what the CIA did — and whether it worked. Click for video.

December 2014: READ: The Senate’s ‘Torture Report’ Summary

December 2014 — Reflections on Broken Promises
regarding Legal Proceeding Against Prisoners of War

The issue of “Kangaroo Courts”: In signing the Geneva Convention III of 1949 relative to the Treatment of Prisoners of War (see especially Section III), the United States agreed to the principle that prisoners of war accused of a crime should be treated in accordance with generally accepted laws of criminal proceedings, including a ban on physical coercion, and a requirement that a country holding a prisoner of war must apply to prisoners of war the same code of military justice that it applies to members of its own armed forces.  This rules out “Kangaroo Courts,” special courts designed to ensure that anyone brought before them will be found guilty, regardless of evidence.  In the following videos, a U.S. military officer describes some of the difficulties he encountered in trying to provide fair trials for Guantanamo detainees (prisoners of war).

Recent Book:

The Geneva Conventions Under Assault

Sarah Perrigo and Jim Whitman, Editors (Paperback – March 30, 2010)
[Amazon Link] ISBN-13: 978-0745329130  ISBN-10: 0745329136

Outrages committed during violent conflict and as part of the ‘war on terror’ are not only an affront to human dignity — they also violate the Geneva Conventions. This book examines recent high-profile cases of repeated and open abuse of the Conventions. The contributors explore why these and related violations of international humanitarian law cannot be viewed as anomalies, but must be regarded as part of a pattern which is set to undermine the Geneva Conventions as a whole. The contributors argue that an international system in which there is diminishing legal restraint on the use of force means that the world will become less secure and more volatile, even for those in the most powerful countries. Individuals everywhere face the prospect of a horrifying vulnerability. This is the first scholarly yet accessible work to consider the meanings of outrages such as the normalisation of torture, as well as the worrying new normative, technical and tactical developments that challenge the purpose and standing of the Geneva Conventions.

May 2012: Reckoning With Torture — Video from Bill Moyers



Visit Reckoning With Torture Web Site

Order Book: Reckoning with Torture

A 2011 editorial:
Torture vs. Democracy: Why every U.S. citizen should be
concerned about torture and an advocate for the Geneva Conventions

 2011 news story:
L.A. Times: Suspected insurgents tortured in Afghanistan, U.N. says

You are invited to become a citizen advocate for the Geneva Conventions and related agreements in International Humanitarian Law.

The Citizens’ Interfaith Coalition to Reaffirm and Extend the Geneva Conventions provides information and welcomes your participation, expressions of concern, and advocacy regarding injury to civilians in the conduct of war, and about the treatment of wartime detainees and prisoners, including citizens of one’s own country, imprisoned within one’s own country in the name of national security. These concerns, defined by the Geneva Conventions (click here for brief summary) and codified over 140 years, continue to be the focus of medical aid societies around the world flying the Red Cross, Red Crescent (Muslim) and Red Crystal (universal) flags. These compassionate concerns about restraining the violence of war have also been carried forward by a new generation of international treaties, including

The total body of law represented by The Geneva Conventions and these more recent treaties is now referred to as “International Humanitarian Law.”

Unfortunately for everyone in the world, great documents such as the Geneva Conventions and these more recent treaties do not automatically implement themselves, and several of the largest countries have not yet ratified all the treaties mentioned above. The horrific tragedies unfolding in Iraq, Sudan and other places convince us that only when a great many people know about these treaties, champion their observance, and press public officials to do the same on an ongoing basis, will governments actually implement the principles and restraints contained in the treaties. This is the great work we invite you to join as a citizen advocate.

What are the Geneva Conventions?

The Geneva Conventions are a series of international treaties intended to limit the violence of war and protect civilians, prisoners and wounded soldiers in time of war and civil conflict. For example, wounded soldiers must be cared for regardless of which side they were fighting for. Prisoners of war may not be killed or mistreated. Detainees may not be tortured to extract information from them. Attacks must focus on military targets only. The first Geneva Convention treaty was signed in 1864, and the treaty has been renegotiated and expanded several times since then, most recently in 1949 and 1977. The United States is a signatory to the Geneva Conventions, and therefore they have the force of law for U.S. citizens. (For more information, please see the Summary at the bottom of this page, visit our Library Page, or click here for an excellent summary from the Peace Pledge Union )

How did the Geneva Conventions get started?

In June of 1859, Jean Henri Dunant, a devout Swiss businessman, came upon the aftermath of the battle of Solferino (Italy). Approximately 30,000 wounded troops had been abandoned by their armies and left to die on what had been the battlefield. Deeply moved by the plight of the dying soldiers, Dunant organized a makeshift field hospital with the help of women from nearby towns, and spent his own money to buy needed supplies. Out of this experience grew both the Red Cross and the Geneva Conventions. In 1901, Dunant was awarded the first-ever Nobel Peace Prize for his role in founding the International Red Cross movement and initiating the first Geneva Convention treaty. (for more information, see the Wikipedia article about Henri Dunant)

Why are the Geneva Conventions and related treaties important today?

First, war has changed dramatically in the last century and is continuing to change today. Recent studies indicate that ninety percent of the casualties of modern wars are civilians. Weapons such as landmines, cluster bombs and depleted uranium anti-tank shells will continue to injure and poison civilians for many decades, and even centuries, after the armies have gone home. People of goodwill around the world need to make a conscious effort to renew and extend the Geneva Conventions, or even the modest protections they seek to provide will be lost and the world will become a more brutal place than it already is.

Second, war tends to bring out the worst in people, as recent attacks on civilians and the torturing to death of prisoners illustrates. Even those who accept war as a legitimate action have many reasons to put restraints on the conduct of war, the treatment of prisoners and the injuring of civilians. Torture destroys the minds and emotions of those who inflict it, so everyone needs to abide by the Geneva Conventions in order to preserve their own sanity. (for more information see the Call to Action)

What can I do? A Five Point Program of Action

You can help as an individual by asking your highest government officials (President, Senators and Representatives in the U.S.) to take the following five steps. You can help as a group by having your civic group or religious community pass formal resolutions in favor of the following steps and then informing both government officials and the media of such resolutions of support.

  1. Reaffirmation: press to have your country reaffirm the Geneva Conventions, and treat detainees, civilian or military, in accordance with their standards. (This means no torture of any person under any circumstances.)
  2. A continuing dialogue about implementation: talk to public officials about taking specific steps to ensure that the Geneva Conventions are complied with by every government agency, employee, contractor, and member of the armed forces, without exception.
  3. Extensions and ratifications: extend the Geneva Conventions to ban the use of new weapons that do not discriminate between combatants and non-combatants, such as depleted uranium munitions and cluster bombs [1]. Advocate ratification of the treaty against landmines in countries that have not yet done so (US, Russia, China, India).
  4. Study: make study of the Geneva Conventions and the evolving treaties of international humanitarian law a required part of high school civics courses, college study and military training in your country.
  5. Bearing Witness: participate in personal acts of bearing witness, speaking out, personal penance, and remembrance regarding those who have, at the hands of one’s own government,
    …….…died under interrogation,
    …….…been imprisoned and tortured to extract “confessions,” and
    …….…been killed or wounded by weapons of indiscriminate destructiveness,

all in violation of the Geneva Conventions. We suggest wearing an orange (the color of prison jump suits) arm band, wrist band or bracelet, bearing the words “Reaffirm the Geneva Conventions,” “No Torture in My Name,” or other similar statements of conscience. (Please see our Bearing Witness page. We also have print-it-yourself bumper stickers and car-window posters on our Bumper Sticker page.)

Your statements, letters and resolutions can become part of this web site.
Please submit them through our Contact page.

A Layperson’s Overview of the Geneva Conventions

A summary of the basic rules of international humanitarian law in armed conflicts, as codified by the Geneva Conventions and their Additional Protocols. Compiled by Dennis Rivers.

1. Persons no longer fighting (hors de combat) and those who do not take a direct part in hostilities are entitled to respect for their lives and their moral and physical integrity. They shall in all circumstances be protected and treated humanely without any adverse distinction.

2. It is forbidden to kill or injure an enemy who surrenders, or who is no longer fighting (hors de combat) due to injury, illness or changed circumstances that render persons incapable of fighting (such as sailors who have abandoned ship in the open sea).

3. The wounded and sick shall be collected and cared for by the party to the conflict which has them in its power. Protection of the wounded and sick shall be extended to cover medical personnel, establishments, transports and equipment. The emblems of the red cross, red crescent and red crystal [2007] are the signs of such protection and must be respected.

4. Captured combatants and civilians under the authority of an adverse party are entitled to respect for their lives, dignity, personal rights and convictions. They shall be protected against all acts of violence and reprisals. They shall have the right to correspond with their families and to receive relief.

5. Everyone shall be entitled to benefit from fundamental judicial guarantees. No one shall be held responsible for an act they have not committed. No one shall be subjected to physical or mental torture, corporal punishment or cruel or degrading treatment.

6. Parties to a conflict and members of their armed forces do not have an unlimited choice of methods and means of warfare. It is prohibited to employ weapons or methods of warfare of a nature to cause unnecessary losses or excessive suffering. (Editor’s note: This is very clearly seen in the cases of land mines and cluster munitions, which continue to injure and kill civilians for many years, even decades, after the combatants have left the field.  There are new international treaties prohibiting both land mines and cluster weapons, but several large countries have not yet joined them.]

7. Parties to a conflict shall at all times distinguish between the civilian population and combatants in order to spare civilian population and property. Neither the civilian population as such nor civilian persons shall be the object of attack. Attacks shall be directed solely against military objectives.

Edited for presentation on this site by Dennis Rivers from material in the publications of the International Committee of the Red Cross. Please note, this is a general summary of very detailed treaty provisions including over 600 paragraphs. Please click here for a more extended summary from the ICRC web site.

Recommend page to friend/co-worker/colleague.


1. Regarding nuclear weapons, which clearly violate the Geneva Conventions but have their own set of treaties, please visit the web sites of the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation and the Nuclear Control Institute.