Twenty years ago, a group of lawyers, a doctor and a few young researchers in London came together out of a concern for the rule of law in upholding the rights of the world’s “most wanted and hated” prisoners - the 780 faceless, hooded-and-shackled orange jumpsuits that had been herded up and caged in Guantanamo since January 2002.
In 2003, the organisation CagePrisoners was born, on the foundational vision to “give a voice to the voiceless” in the war on terror; we started by demanding justice for the Guantanamo detainees, despite high-decibel global outrage, including calls to kill, torture and maim.
The work broadened to include revealing not only the torture of detainees in Guantanamo but the kidnapping and abuse of hundreds of men by a global environment enabled by it, including the locations of previously secret black sites around the world and the complicity of governments in a network of torture and detainment still blindsided by the veto-bound UN.
Guided by the Islamic belief that truth is always easy to tell, and that it is best told simply and humanely, while it is falsehood that presents itself as difficult to explain, CAGE started simply: it released the first list of names of those held at Guantanamo, and by doing so it quickly but effectively unmasked them.
Besides names, they were assigned families, homes and qualifications. Soon, CAGE released their voices - and their voices told their stories, and their stories told the truth.
From truth, comes change then justice
Following this simple but effective formula, CAGE members have often gone out on a limb to support survivors to tell the truth, or do so themselves, in so doing breaking new ground and creating new narratives calling for an end to the war on terror in all its guises.
After the first ten years, CagePrisoners became CAGE. We began to call out other more insidious abuses of the war on terror through the voices of those who witnessed and survived them. This included taking the kinds of actions and breaking the kind of news that shook the British counter-terrorism establishment at its core.
CAGE outed the secret prison studies underpinning Prevent; it leaked outrageously racist and Islamophobic Prevent training modules WRAP training 1 and 2; it produced detailed reports of how the UK government employed Cold War tactics to astroturf “grassroots organisations” to manufacture consent for Prevent.
It took actions that were brazen - and successful. For one, It hauled the Charity Commission to the High Court and then it won, a victory “welcomed” by Britain’s charities’ trustees; in 2022, the UK government launched a review of Prevent and admitted and accepted it as “a failure”; and, let’s not forget, it called out Mi5 harassment when it was necessary, but unpopular, to do so.
A global reach
By maintaining its strong links to the Muslim community, CAGE International now hopes to continue as a role model for others around the world. This means to be brave and call for positive change, as well as an end to the war on terror, by replacing it with justice and accountability.
CAGE International will remain rooted in its values and ethics, continuing to honour the very early mission, a world free from oppression and an end to the global ‘War on Terror’ here in the UK but now with the same mobilisation globally.
CAGE International will forge strategic alliances and partnerships across the world with like-minded organisations to amplify its impact and promote a more just world.
Our values remain the same but the impact will be bigger.
The growing shift that symbolises CAGE International is illustrated by a number of key international successes achieved over the years. The organisation has attended the OSCE’s Human Dimension Conference over the years with 57 participating states. Taking advantage of the world’s largest regional security intergovernmental organisation’s conference, CAGE has highlighted state-led Islamophobia affecting Muslim communities in the UK and across Europe.
CAGE International has built strategic partnerships with like minded organisations in Sweden, Denmark, Germany, Austria, the Netherlands and France. We are also overseeing the development of our work in Afghanistan, Bangladesh and the Middle East.
CAGE International hopes to continue to employ its foresight as a unique and resilient organisation that remains independent from official state and other partisan political narratives. Its vision is available here, and its invitation to support and join them now extends around the world.