Damien Mahoney’s This is Camp X-ray will be viewed for the first time at Manchester’s Dancehouse Theatre on Sunday and will be immediately followed with an open forum for the public to express their reactions.
Commissioned by the UHC arts collective, the documentary features the build up to the creation of a life-size working replica of the Guantanamo Bay detention centres where volunteers were imprisoned in October 2003.
A testimony to the shocked and bewildered responses of the local community, the film also explores the range of emotions felt by volunteer detainees and guards during the nine-day project.
Mahoney told Aljazeera.net on Thursday that his own feelings of “the blatant injustice of holding people without charge for years” had intensified.
“How can the US and the UK preach about democracy in Iraq and elsewhere when they can deprive people found guilty of absolutely nothing the most simple of basic rights?
“We are not talking anything complicated here, I mean basic rights like the right to know what they are charged of and a right to defend themselves in courts. It is absolutely disgusting,” Mahoney said.
The dramatic prison reality of the estimated 600 held at Camp X-ray becomes all the more real with participation by the sisters of Jamal al-Harith, the Manchester local who was held without charge for two years before being released.
Inspiration for film
The film is based on Jai Redman’s This is Camp X-ray installation, which became one of the most critically acclaimed art events to take place in 2003, receiving widespread international press coverage.
The controversial installation – a meticulous working replica of the original camp in Cuba – stood for nine days in Hulme, an inner city suburb of Manchester.
“How can the US and the UK preach about democracy in Iraq and elsewhere when they can deprive people found guilty of absolutely nothing the most simple of basic rights?”
The nine volunteers incarcerated in the life-size camp symbolically represented the nine British detainees then held in Cuba. Featuring live prisoners and guards, it ran 24 hours a day and stuck rigorously to the regime of the actual camp.
Mahoney said a few people who had never heard of Guantanamo Bay believed that US soldiers really had set up a similar prison in Britain and had poured a shower of verbal abuse on the volunteers.
“Others were just shocked at how the American government can treat human beings,” he added. “But the scary thing is this type of thing is happening in the UK’s Belmarsh Prison too.”
Four years ago, Manchester resident Jamal al-Harith was in Afghanistan and was seized by the Taliban on suspicion of being a British spy.
After his incarceration in Kandahar he was freed by the Taliban, only to be arrested by US forces almost immediately. Now suspected of being a member of the Taliban, Jamal was flown to Cuba.
He remained there for two years. No charges were ever brought against him.
Al-Harith and three other former detainees in the UK are currently in preparation to have their cases against the US administration heard in the Federal Court in Washington DC.
The allegations against the administration include torture and other violations of human rights.
The US Federal Courts have also halted the proceedings of a controversial military commission involving an associate of Usama bin Ladin. This could stop all further court proceedings at the camp from taking place.