Posts Tagged Witness Against Torture

Guantamano Turns 8 While More Lives Slip Away

Guantanamo prisonersMonday January 11 is the 8th anniversary of the U.S. detention center in Guantanamo. The emblematic symbol of the Bush regime’s “war on terror,” in which men were openly tortured, kept in isolation, force-fed, and for years deprived of any legal respresentation or contact with the outside world, is still open.

It’s being called “Obama’s prison” now.  On January 22, 2009, the new president announced that he would close Guantanamo in a year because it’s existence was a public relations nightmare for U.S. foreign policy makers.  As of this week, there’s no closing date, but a vague indication it could be closed in 2011.

I learned when reading the new book The Guantanamo Lawyers; Inside a Prison Outside the Law, edited by Mark Denbeaux and Jonathan Hafetz, that the Bush regime opened it on the grounds of a former prison where Haitians and others fleeing poverty were kept in the 80′s and 90′s.  The first detainees were kept in open cages, with almost no shelter from the elements.  Building new structures allowed the jailers to keep some men in complete isolation.

Book TV is showing a talk by the authors twice on Sunday January 10.

Andy Worthington, in Guantánamo: The Definitive Prisoner List (Updated for 2010), called it

a prison in which the overwhelming majority of those held — at least 93 percent of the 779 men and boys imprisoned in total — were either completely innocent people, seized as a result of dubious intelligence or sold for bounty payments, or Taliban foot soldiers, recruited to fight an inter-Muslim civil war that began long before the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, and that had nothing to do with al-Qaeda, Osama bin Laden or international terrorism.

Andy wrote this week about Attorney General Holder’s announcement that Obaidullah, an Afghan held in Guantanamo, will be tried by the Obama-style military commission for “war crimes” in Tortured Afghan Man Faces Trial by Military Commission.

Andy spoke with World Can’t Wait activists in early 2009, stating his hope, and some confidence, that the Obama administration would establish a process to release the innocent.  But he ends the current column on this note

With the news that Obaidullah is to be charged again, when he is not actually accused of harming a single American, and when he may, in fact, have been tortured, through sleep deprivation and “Palestinian hanging,” to produce false confessions against himself and at least one other prisoner, leads me not only to repeat the question, but to actively call for the open mockery of Attorney General Eric Holder and the lawyers and bureaucrats in the Justice Department and the Pentagon who thought that reviving the charges against him was a good idea.

The administration is fighting in federal court on many fronts to continue the Bush detention policies, and just won a victory.  According to Stephen Webster, the decision in al-Bihani v Obama “upholds the Bush administration’s broad claims of executive power to detain non-citizens.  See D.C. Court of Appeals: Obama’s Detention Powers not Limited by Laws.

But we are not just complaining on this anniversary.  There’s a Call to Action to Shut Down Guantanamo.  I’ll be joining Witness Against Torture in protests outside the White House Monday.  We will march to the National Press Club, where some of the lawyers defending detainees in Guantanamo will speak about their clients, organized by the Center for Constitutional Rights.  That evening, we’ll have a public meeting at Georgetown Law School.  I hope you’ll join in.

On a last note, the Obama administration has proposed the idea of relocating the detainees to an unused super-max federal prison in Thompson Illinois.  World Can’t Wait is completely opposed to the indefinite detention of anyone without legal rights, no matter what the location.  Prisoners are held in super-max American prisons already in complete isolation, and I can only imagine that the Guantanamo prisoners could disappear in plain sight along the Mississippi.

Margaret Kimberly, editor at the Black Agenda Report, went on a righteous rant, ending her piece called Guantanamo, Illinois with

In less than one year in office, Barack Obama has firmly established the continuation of Bush regime domestic, foreign and economic policy. While Guantanamo is unseen, Illinois is right in the middle of the United States. None of us can now claim absolution from our government sin. Obama and his supporters have made us all accomplices. The ongoing Guantanamo crime now belongs to the Nobel Peace Prize winner and to every American citizen.

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The Definitive Guantanamo Detainee List

The Guantanamo Files

Andy Worthington's definitive history of Guantanamo detainees and the injustice they've been subjected to

Andy Worthington has spent almost 8 years learning as much as he can about the Guantanamo detainees; all the aspects of their stories before, during, and some after Guantanamo.  World Can’t Wait and other organizations working on stopping the US torture state rely on his work, and we have learned much from his 2008 book The Guantanamo Files: The Stories of the 759 Detainees in America’s Illegal Prison and 2009 film Outside the Law; Stories from Guantanamo.

Andy wrote today:

In the hope of providing an antidote to the shameful propaganda and scaremongering that is currently dominating the media (following the failed Christmas plane bombing, and the would-be bomber’s alleged connections to a Yemen-based al-Qaeda group, which includes a former Guantanamo prisoner), I’ve just updated my definitive Guantanamo prisoner list (first published last March), which provides information and links about all 779 prisoners:

I hope that it’s useful not only as a historical document, but also as reference for the cases of the 198 men still held, as those of us opposed to indefinite detention without charge or trial maintain our struggle to close Guantanamo, and to see those still held either charged or released.   Please feel free to cross-post/circulate/publicize.

With the 8th anniversary of Guantanamo’s opening just one week from today, I hope you will study this list, and use it as an indictment of “America’s illegal prison” as Andy calls it.

Beginning Monday, 12 days of a fast, protest, meetings organized by Witness Against Torture and the Center for Constitutional Rights will concentrate on exposing the gap between Barack Obama’s promise to close Guantanamo by January 22, 2010, and the continued detention of 198 men, most all of them without charges, held indefinitely.

I’ll be there!  Join me.

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