Wednesday 8 May 2013

Extradited to a future of torture: the reality of solitary confinement and a screening of Valarie Kaur's film Worst of the Worst

UK premiere of film about the Connecticut Supermax prison that houses two extradited British nationals. With Amnesty International & Special Guests from the USA Solitary Watch.
Flagging up an upcoming special event entitled “Extradited to a future of torture: the reality of Solitary Confinement in the USA”, hosted by the International State Crime Initiative at King’s College. The event will feature the UK premiere of Worst of the Worst (link takes you to the trailer), a new 30 minute film made by Valarie Kaur with the Yale Visual Law Project. Valarie Kaur, is an award-winning filmmaker, civil rights advocate, and interfaith leader based in Connecticut who wanted to make this film on Supermax prisons after visiting Guantanamo Bay. She is the founder of Yale Visual Law which was launched in 2010 with two primary goals in mind: to create a cutting-edge pedagogical space where law students could be trained in the art of visual advocacy and to produce well-researched, professional documentary films on legal and policy issues. See the trailer online by clicking here. The film tour the UK with dates TBC in Scotland, Wales, North England in Summer 2013.

Worst of the Worst exposes the physically and psychologically abusive conditions of confinement in the Northern Correctional Institution in Somers, Connecticut, the prison that houses extradited British citizens Talha Ahsan and Babar Ahmad.

Talha Ahsan is an award-winning British muslim poet and translator. He was been detained over 6 years without trial, charge or prima facie evidence on the controversial 2003 US-UK Extradition treaty on allegations relating to association with an obsolete foreign jihad website from 1997-2002 covering Bosnia, Chechnya and Afghanistan. He was extradited to the USA on 5th October with his co-defendent Babar Ahmad and is now in solitary confinement in Connecticut at the Northern Correctional Institution. The trial will be in October 2013. Full details on the case and family campaign:

Babar Ahmad is Talha’s co-defendant. Before he was extradited, he was detained without trial for over 8 years, the longest period of detention without trial faced by any prisoner in British history. An e-petition to have his trial in the UK gathered over 149,000 signatures. See the site Free Babar Ahmad for more information.

Special guests from the USA James Ridgeway and Jean Casella, directors of Solitary Watch, and Amnesty International’s Tessa Murphy will discuss the issues in a human rights framework. James Ridgeway and media editor Jean Casella co-founded Solitary Watch in 2009, in order to "bring the widespread practice of solitary confinement out of the shadows and into the light of the public square." Their work has helped to fuel a growing national movement opposing the use of solitary in U.S. prisons, jails, juvenile facilities, and immigrant detention centers. 

The Amnesty International report on Supermax prisons by speaker Tessa Murphy can be read here. In a 2012 statement of concern about Talha Ahsan & Babar Ahmad’s extradition, Amnesty International noted: 
There is ample evidence in the USA and elsewhere that prolonged confinement to a cell with social isolation can cause serious physical and psychological harm. Concerns about such impact are heightened with regard to individuals, like some of those extradited, who have pre-existing medical conditions or mental disabilities. (Full statement available here).
Talha Ahsan’s new creative writing from Supermax prison will be read by his brother Hamja Ahsan. Writings from other prisoners in solitary confinement will be read by poet and playwright Avaes Mohammad.

Special guest James Ridgeway said :
Supermax prisons and solitary confinement units are America's domestic black sites, these are places where genuine torture takes place. 
People in the UK should care about what happens in American supermax prisons, just as they care about what happens at Guantanamo... [because] British nationals are now being extradited to the U.S. to face decades of torture in solitary confinement.
Aseem Mehta, co-director of Worst of the Worst, said :
In making the film, we listened to all of the actors whose lives were touched by supermax - the inmates in solitary, the guards who report for duty each day, the policymakers and officials who oversee the facility, the architect whose legacy has become the prison, the family members and friends whose loved ones are inside, the lawyers and advocates who navigate the law that governs the prison's logic. We came away with the conclusion that the institution harms everyone who it touches, that everyone who enters Northern ultimately leaves damaged.
The event host is Dr. Ian Patel of International State Crime Intitiative.  Dr. Patel is in the law department at King's College London. He specialises in criminal justice, criminal law, and international human rights. He is a fellow at the International State Crime Initiative. His recent article on Talha Ahsan case and prolonged solitary confinement was published in the New Statesman here.

Further resources: