We went to Chicago to strategize, to reflect, to look at our structure and internal workings (and unworkings). The plan was to hole up in a convent on the West End, do a lot of exercises like “Allies Spectrum” and “Story Meme” and “Pillars of the Problem.” I think I sort of made up the names of all those exercises just now, but anyone who has been to a strategic planning workshop or a nonprofit retreat knows what I am talking about.
In the course of the weekend, the plan was to use a lot of butcher paper, inhale a lot of marker fumes, drink a lot of beer and plan and strategize and envision a way to shut down Guantánamo, end torture and indefinite detention and ensure accountability for the architects of this illegal and immoral morass.
But, instead of stepping back, we had to step forward.
Turning on the radio the day before we all headed to the Witness Against Torture strategy retreat in the Windy City, many of us heard Democracy Now! reporting that more than 100 men at Guantánamo were entering the fifth week of a new hunger strike. Pardiss Kebriaei was one of the retreat’s guests. A senior staff attorney for Center for Constitutional Rights, Pardiss is a tireless advocate for justice and human rights, and she represents a number of men at Guantánamo. After 11 years of detention and with conditions deteriorating, she said that some of them have lost hope and see no other way to protest their detention and treatment than a hunger strike. CCR has received reports of men coughing up blood, being hospitalized, losing consciousness, and becoming weak and fatigued. Soon, the men on hunger strike will be risking permanent physical injury and even death.
I tried to assimilate this new tragedy. There are 166 men still detained at Guantánamo (more than four years after President Barack Obama pledged to shut down Guantánamo within a year), 86 of whom have been “Cleared for Release” by U.S. authorities. Not charged with any crime of terrorism or violence, they linger in the prison because of the Obama administration’s and Congress’s callous disregard for their basic legal and human rights.
All of the men at Guantánamo — subjected to routine indignities and abuses — are waiting for real justice: their release and resettlement if innocent or the chance to plead their case in a legitimate court of law. These basic rights have been denied them for far too long. In fact, more men have died at Guantánamo (nine) than have had trial and judgment (seven). While President Obama has failed to close the Guantánamo prison in the last four years, he has closed something: in January he shut down the office within the State Department that was tasked with shutting down Guantánamo and repatriating and resettling released detainees.
One of the detainees cleared for release, a Yemeni named Adnan Latif, died in September 2012 at Guantánamo. He described the place that was his home for nearly 10 years as a “piece of hell that kills everything.”
With those words ringing in my ears, I packed my bags and headed for our meetings. We established Witness Against Torture in 2005 with a brazen act — 25 of us flew to Cuba, walked more than 60 miles over five or six days with the hope of gaining access to the U.S. Naval Base where more than 700 men were then detained. The Naval Base authorities denied our requests for entry and so we fasted and vigiled for five days, before returning home to organize a movement to shut down Guantánamo, end torture and indefinite detention. Since that time we have organized actions and demonstrations every January 11, the date in 2002 when the first “unlawful enemy combatants” arrived at Guantánamo. The American people have since learned the truth — the vast majority of these men were not the “worst of the worst,” as Bush administration officials claimed. They were chicken farmers, illiterate tribesmen and well-traveled, well-meaning students: 93 percent of the men at Guantánamo were captured by bounty hunters or allied governments such as Pakistan and handed over to U.S. forces, according to a study by Mark Denbeaux, a professor at Seton Hall Law School.
Each year after January 11, we say goodbye and tell each other that we hope not to have to organize again the next year. And each year, we come together again — happy to see one another, angry and outraged that we have to protest something so inhumane and abhorrent as torture and indefinite detention.
In Chicago, we did not form a board or write our mission statement or develop a strategic plan for the next four years, but we did come up with a plan to fast and demonstration throughout the week before Easter — Holy Week in the Christian tradition. We’re calling it Hungering for Justice, and we hope you will join us.
Waging Nonviolence is hiring a writer to interview leading movement figures and analysts and produce one Q&A-style article per week. The writer will work with our small editorial team to identify the interview subject each week. For the most part, we’ll be looking to hear from activists, organizers and scholars who can shed light on… More
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People power, not national legislation, will free the prisoners at Guantanamo, and bring justice to this troubled world. That has always been the case. And always will be the case. Power to the peaceful!
I hope ‘yall don’t have to meet again next year. Keep up the push, Kalamazoo Peace Center is with you, writing prisoners and skipping meals when we can.
Stop the war first- and then the inhumane imprisonment of prisoners in Guantanamo will have to end.
However, Guantanamo is just one detention centre- there are others such as the Bagram Theater Internment Facility Charikar in Parvan, Afghanistan where torture also took place.
According to this report from February 2013, 54 countries took part in aiding secret CIA prisons:-
CIA prisons were found in Bucharest, Romania, according to the BBC in late 2011:- http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-16093106
In this report 20 people are noted as ‘missing’ from CIA detention centres:-
By now we can deduct that if you are an ‘enemy combatant’ and just happen to be picked up by U.S troops somewhere-even in your own country, then kiss goodbye to the rights you had in your country, your right to a lawyer or a fair trial, the right to humane treatment…
Perhaps we should go back to the drawing board and raise the fact that no country should have legal precedent over another country, and that American Government and U.S laws should only apply to people in the U.S.
Too much power has been assumed (not given) in America. Just because the U.S is the most violent and forcefully dominant country in the World does not give the U.S Government a free ticket to ride shotgun over any nation it chooses.
It’s really great not living in America, because I can say what I feel without fear of the S.S turning up at my house- and also so I can put it bluntly. The World outside of America thinks virtually nothing good of America’s Government, and believes that we are in an era of new fascism. Unlawful and inhumane detention centres are just proof that America’s Govt has no self-control nor true morality of human rights. The World has really not become a safer place in the last 10 years. The majority of Muslims have not been ‘freed’- and the radical Islam element has been manufactured by U.S war provocation, which only creates more political manoeuvering towards more war, and people of the Mid-East mainly recognize what the U.S can do when it is unconstrained.
People of the Mid-East don’t want their dictatorships to be replaced by U.S military occupation. Perhaps America has set a really bad example in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan? Muslims might have been able to peacefully change their own Governments in the natural course of time, but have been forced into civil uprisings, many hoping that the U.S would free them, but realizing quickly that they have become a resistance- doing the bidding of the Bush’s, Rumsfelds and Cheney’s of the political and business world, and fighting alone in many cases such as in Bahrain and Saudi Arabia, where the U.S and the West are clearly absent from intervening or supporting uprisings…
Which angle would Muslims rather choose- being hooded and shackled or being used to fight their own leaderships? Why should America force the Mid-East to make such a dangerous choice?
Except in Syria, where the U.S has openly chosen on behalf of Syria to support specific ‘Al-Qaeda-style’ groups, similar to the support the U.S gave for both Iran and Iraq, which merely helped create a war in those regions thirty five years ago…Both Iranians and Iraqis were aided and controlled by the U.S. to eventually attack each other- millions died without the U.S having to fire a single shot…
Today Iraq is mostly a wreck. Iran is refusing to talk. So the U.S Govt instead are building up South Korea and focusing on North Korea’s naughty antics. Perhaps we’ll see some N.Korean Govt officials in orange jumpsuits soon?
Perhaps the U.S should just go back home and rebuild their own nation and stay in their own nation for the next 10 years, so the World can rebuild itself and perhaps one day might even have 1 percent trust in America again?
The World cannot accept being one great big U.S detention centre- that’s what the Nazis were aiming for.