Come to DC for WAT’s Fast for Justice: Jan. 7-13, 2020

Campaigns // Film

A week of witness against Guantanamo and all it represents

Witness Against Torture will begin to gather on Tuesday evening, January 7th, to embrace the 40 Muslim men still locked up in Guantanamo and the hundreds of others forever scarred and haunted by the trauma of having been there.  We will remember, we will witness and we will move forward in community with each other.

The highlight will be Saturday, January 11th, with a rally and action marking 18 years since the U.S. landed the first plane full of Muslim men bound for that house of horrors.  We’re also planning an evening concert, a panel addressing mass incarceration, and a showing of Justice for Muslims Collective’s poster display Shattering Justice & Re-Making the Muslim Threat.  We invite you to join us to sing, create, plan, witness, act, fast if you wish, and celebrate our community.  RSVP by emailing witnesstorture@gmail.com:  include your name, phone number and the dates you plan to be there.  We will get back to you with housing and other information.  

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Manijeh Saba Acquitted in Jan 9, 2019 Supreme Court Protest Case

Fast for Justice 2019 // Film

March 29, 2019

On March 27, U.S. District Court Judge Deborah A Robinson granted Manijeh Saba’s Motion for Judgment of Acquittal of the charge of illegally protesting on the steps of the Supreme Court on January 9, 2019. She agreed that the government failed to show that Manijeh had violated the statute by bringing into public notice a party, organization or movement.  Judge Robinson went on to explain that although she appeared as one of five holding a sign, the sign did not refer to a party, organization or movement.  The sign read, “We Target, We Torture, We Terrify: Who Are We?”  There was no mention of Guantanamo Bay on her clothing or on the sign or in the words to the song they were singing: “Know where you stand — No More War; Know where you stand and stand there!”

Manijeh’s trial began on March 6.  On March 27, she continued her cross-examination of Supreme Court Chief of Police, Jeffery Smith.  Acting as her own attorney (pro se), she asked carefully constructed questions making the point that the charged offenses, and subsequent treatment during over 24 hours in police custody, were far harsher than the defendant’s nonviolent conduct warranted.

Here is an excerpt from her cross examination of the Supreme Court Chief Of Police:

Saba: Were we orderly and peaceful? Smith: Yes

Saba: Is it true that we did not interfere with ingress or egress to the Supreme Court? Smith: Yes

Saba: Was it standard procedure to arrest me?  Smith: Yes.

Saba: Did you know they would hold me overnight? Smith: Yes.

Saba: Was it standard procedure not to have a phone call?  Smith: I can’t answer that.

Saba: Was it standard procedure not to have enough clothing? ….. My outer garments were removed and held, and when I was released from jail without any ID or money I had to find my way back to the Supreme Court without winter garments. Smith: That was transport.  I cannot speak for what happened.

When all the testimony had been presented, Manijeh delivered her Motion for Judgment of Acquittal (MJOA), a motion asking that the charges be dropped. Her statement began:

Firstly, the law is too broad, as Chief Judge Howell articulated [in Hodge v. Tarsi].  The law is intended to ensure decorum and prevent disruptive demonstrations that would prevent ingress or egress to the Court, which did not occur in this case.  Therefore, a conviction for being behind a banner on the lower steps is not in keeping with the intention of the legislature and is an improper application of this law.

Secondly, the charge is for a de minimus violation which should not result in a conviction. There is no signage to indicate that you lose your first amendment rights at the temple of justice, the very place where such rights should be protected. There was no proper warning, since the police could have easily told us that we could lawfully demonstrate just a few feet away on the sidewalk. It is not proper for the police to say that the warning is meaningful, since they say “You are in violation of Title 40″ – am I really in violation of all several hundred pages of that title of the US code?

Judge Robinson obviously understood the reasonableness of Manijeh’s MJOA and the importance of the First Amendment.  After hearing the government’s and defendant’s testimony and reviewing the videotape of the arrests and arrest photos she concluded that the government failed to offer evidence that their purpose was for assemblage or display to bring into public notice a movement.  Moreover, she stated that there was no proof that Manijeh was in a nexus with the people on the sidewalk who were protesting Guantanamo.

Afterwards Mark Goldstone, her Attorney Advisor, said, “Manijeh Saba has tirelessly advocated for First Amendment freedom of speech rights since becoming a citizen many years ago.  She spoke out non-violently on the steps of the Supreme Court.  She defended herself in Court and her voice was heard as she won an acquittal using her voice to speak truth to power.”

Manijeh’s persistence should give us hope, even in the times when we do not prevail in court. She had no idea she would be acquitted when she said in her opening statement on March 6:

I engaged in a peaceful, inspiring demonstration against unending bombing and killing of Yemenis that our government supports.  With respect to Guantanamo, I was protesting the unlawful detentions and demanding the release of five Muslim men who have been approved for release, and 32 Muslim men who shouldn’t have been detained in the first place, as determined by the courts.  I was standing on the safe public grand plaza of the Supreme Court.  I crossed no barrier or barricade.  My conduct was heartfelt and peaceful in defense of my inalienable right to speak for peace and Justice.  Therefore, it did not seem reasonable to me for the officer to stop us from speaking out peacefully by arresting us.  

Manijeh’s legal defense was expensive and although WAT has been able to contribute some from general funds, she’s still got a long way to go.  To help her, write checks out to Witness Against Torture, with “Manijeh legal defense” in the subject line and mail to:

New York Catholic Worker
Attn: Witness Against Torture
55 East Third St.
New York, NY 10003

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Manijeh Saba fell ill during court proceeding: Her trial continues on March 27

In Focus - Front Page // Film

Manijeh Saba’s trial in U.S. District Court for the charge of protesting on the steps of the Supreme Court began on Wednesday March 6th.  On January 9, she and four others were calling out the U.S. government’s complicity in war atrocities against the people of Yemen as well as its ongoing torture of Muslim men at Guantanamo Prison.  They were arrested on January 9, but charges were dropped against three others and Joanne Lingle pleaded guilty.

Early in Wednesday’s proceedings Manijeh fainted, and Judge Deborah A. Robinson scheduled a continuation of the trial on March 27 at 10:30 in Courtroom 4 of the Prettyman U.S. District Courthouse, 333 Constitution Avenue NW, 2nd floor.  Please come for support, if you can!

After trial preliminaries Manijeh presented her opening statement.  As she spoke, she needed to pause as she became overcome with emotion and also began to feel faint.  Judge Robinson asked if she would like to sit down, but she insisted on completing her statement:    

Good Morning your Honor, I’m Manijeh Saba. 
 
Today, you will hear that I allegedly violated a law by protesting.  I intend to show you that my actions were not illegal, that they were an exercise of my First Amendment Rights.  I will ask you, at the end of this trial, to find me not guilty, because my conduct is protected by the First Amendment of our Constitution.
 
I am a 72 years old Iranian-American mother, grandmother of three, and married to Majid Maleki for 46 years.  I came to the United States in 1977 for graduate studies.  I am a political sociologist with focus on women and development.
 
I was born in Iran, in a military household during a short-lived, decade of burgeoning democracy whose life was cut short, thanks to the US-British coup d’état of 1953.  Hence, I have experienced two authoritarian regimes in Iran, one that of the Shah, and the other the continuing brutal theocracy of the Islamic Republic.  As a result, I know what it means to live under a dictatorial regime.  
 
As I remember, I have always been curious, asked questions, and pushed against unreasonable boundaries. Therefore, resistance against totalitarianism, regardless of where it exists, and however it rears its vicious head, is a fundamental part of who I am.  
 
I became a US citizen in 1996 and have voted in every election since then.  As part of the citizenship process, I took the oath to “support and defend the Constitution and the laws of the United States of America against all enemies, foreign and domestic”.  I have great respect for our constitution and carry a copy with me at all times.  I took the pledge of nonviolent resistance and have tried to follow the path of Mahatma Gandhi and Dr. Martin Luther King who, in the face of violence, gave their lives in promotion of peace and justice. 
 
It is this background that has brought me before you today. 
 
On January 6th of this year, the 17th anniversary of the opening of Guantanamo prison, I joined Witness Against Torture for a week in Washington DC to fast, remember, and raise awareness about the 9 Muslim men who died in Guantanamo, and the condition of the 40 remaining in the extrajudicial trap of indefinite detention each for at least 10 years.  Of the 40 Muslim men still detained there, 5 have been cleared for release, as not a threat to security.  The US Federal courts have determined that 32 others are detained unlawfully.  How could this happen in the United States?  I could neither forget nor stand by, when innocent people including the hundreds who have already been released without charge from Guantanamo are targeted and tortured with no end in sight.
 
Also, we spent the week remembering the horrific condition of the people of Yemen due to the US backed Saudi led coalition war since March 2015.  This war is being fought with the support of United States Intelligence as well sale of bombs made in the United States.  This forgotten war on Yemen has so far killed 146, 000 people, at least 70,000 of them children, and has displaced millions of people, causing a humanitarian catastrophe.  On August 9th 2018 a Saudi warplane dropped a US made 500 pounds laser-guided bomb killing 40 school boys and 11 adults.  And of the 79 civilians wounded by this bomb, 56 were children.  
 
On January 9, we marched to the United States Supreme Court protesting all forms of torture and the on-going Guantanamo detentions, as well as the unending wars and mass destruction that our government is concurrently involved in globally, particularly in Yemen since 2015.   
 
Dozens of us, members of Witness Against Torture, most in orange jump suits and black hoods, representing the Guantanamo detainees, arrived on the sidewalk before the steps of the Supreme Court in the early afternoon.  We were singing and chanting, we carried signs and banners denouncing the United States-backed Saudi bombing of Yemen and called for the closure of Guantanamo.  
 
Several people in orange jumpsuits and black hoods laid down on bloodied shrouds on the sidewalk.  We also placed 36 blue children’s book bags on a bloodied shroud, bearing names of the children killed in Yemen on a school trip.
 
At first, I stood without a sign at the foot of the steps.  Later, I was given a sign bringing attention to the boys Killed in Yemen.  I held it up high.  Several minutes later, someone else took the sign and I joined four others who were holding a banner that read:  
We Target, We Torture, We Terrify!   Who Are We? 
 
As we stood there we repeatedly all sang:   “Know where you stand. No more war. Know where you stand, and stand there.” 
 
A short while later, we who held the banner walked up the first few steps of the Supreme Court and stood on the grand front plaza.  It was a place that was safe, open for us, and we posed no threat and or obstruction to anyone who would enter or leave the building.  It was a very cold (about 35 degrees), quiet day with very little public activity on the front plaza of the court.  We repeatedly sang the song, along with our group standing on the sidewalk at foot of the steps.  
 
After a while standing there, a Supreme Court security officer gave us three warnings to disperse or get arrested.  I continued holding the banner and singing “Know where you stand, no more war.  Know where you stand and stand there.”  I risked arrest and did not leave.  Why didn’t I leave?  Because I believed then, as I do now, that the First Amendment of the United States constitution that states:  
 
“Congress shall make no law … abridging the freedom of speech, …or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances”   
 
protects my action.  
 
I engaged in a peaceful, inspiring demonstration against unending bombing and killing of Yemenis that our government supports.  With respect to Guantanamo, I was protesting the unlawful detentions and demanding the release of 5 Muslim men who have been approved for release, and 32 Muslim men who shouldn’t have been detained in the first place, as determined by the courts.  I was standing on the safe public grand plaza of the Supreme Court.  I crossed no barrier or barricade.  My conduct was heartfelt and peaceful in defense of my inalienable right to speak for peace and Justice.   Therefore, it did not seem reasonable to me for the officer to stop us from speaking out peacefully by arresting us.  Nor does it seem reasonable that they did not offer us the alternative to speak out with others a few feet away on the sidewalk.  There is nothing that distinguishes the sidewalk from the step.  
 
Around 1:00 PM I was arrested along with 4 other fellow protesters, and was taken to the basement of the Supreme Court for processing.  I was not given a phone call.  I was questioned after I said I did not want to speak without an attorney being present. And then, I was sent to jail overnight in terrible conditions before conviction.  My experience in custody of the Supreme Court police of the United State was most unusual and shocking. 
 
Who are We?
 
I appear before Your Honor today, asking if the Constitution condones the arrest and jailing of five peaceably assembled protesters.  It is my belief that it does not.  That is why I was there that day and why I continued to protest.  I will show the court throughout this trial that the law under which I am charged criminalizes peaceful demonstration of dissent, and therefore, it is a thoughtless affront to our Constitution and our values as Americans.  I hope you will find that peaceful political protest is fundamental to our democracy and not a crime in our society.  This is, who we are.

Read to the court on March 6, 2019.

The government then began its case by putting the Supreme Court Chief of Police, Jeffery Smith, on the stand.  Manijeh was sitting down while cross examining him, as she wasn’t feeling well.  Judge Robinson called a ten minute recess for her, but during that time Manijeh fainted.  She quickly revived, nurses and paramedics arrived, examined her and asked if she wished to go hospital but she declined. After the recess Judge Robinson decided to schedule a continuation at 10:30 am on Wednesday March 27 in Courtroom 4 of the Prettyman U.S. District Courthouse, 333 Constitution Avenue NW, 2nd floor.  

Many local peacemakers were unable to attend on March 6 because of other events, including the annual Ash Wednesday service in front of the White House.  Now everyone is encouraged to come to support on March 27th!

To help Manijeh with her legal defense, write checks to Witness Against Torture with “Manijeh legal defense” in the subject line and mail to:
New York Catholic Worker 
Attn: Witness Against Torture
55 East Third St.
New York, NY 10003    

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WAT Podcast Series “Is This Who We Are?” with Bar Crawl Radio

Fast for Justice 2019 // Film

We were delighted to host Alan Winson, a podcaster with Bar Crawl Radio, as he embedded himself with us for our 2019 Fast For Justice, interviewing our activists throughout the week. On our last evening in DC, he and his partner Rebecca McKean interviewed eight of us at the Iron Horse Tap Room, just blocks from our church hostel. You can listen to that program here.

Alan then took home to Manhattan the many hours of interviews he conducted throughout his week with us and produced four additional podcasts in a series he entitles “Is This Who We Are?” The podcasts are posted on iTunes, Spotify, and Stitcher.

The podcasts are also available on the Podcast Archives page at the Bar Crawl Radio website, listed as BCR #29 (the Iron Horse Tap Room broadcast) and BCR #29 Extra (the series “Is this who we are?” released in four parts Feb. 12 – 15).

Alan introduces the series in this message to his subscribers:

“Is this who we are?”  is an up-close, 4-part podcast series covering four days of protest by Witness Against Torture in Washington, D.C. to close the Guantanamo Prison.  Each episode presents the sounds and actions of one of the days of a week long action in early January, 2019. The schedule for posting each of the episodes follows.

I lived with WAT members in the First Lutheran Trinity Church Hostel – and followed their actions and talked with them about their experiences of fasting and being arrested. 

For me – it was a formative experience.
You can find the “Is this who we are?” podcast series at Bar Crawl Radio on iTunes / Stitcher / Spotify – or at barcrawlradio.com


Posting on –
Feb. 12 — Tuesday’s actions — Singing at Code Pink / Yelling at the White House.
Feb. 13 — Wednesday’s actions — Arrests at the Supreme Court.

Feb. 14 — Thursday’s actions — Arrests at McConnell’s office.

Feb. 15 — Friday’s actions — A long march to the White House.  An anti-WAT protestor. And the fast ends.
BCR#29 now posted — Conversation with WAT members at the Iron Horse Tap Room in Washington. D.C.

Alan used his interviews to hold up a mirror to ourselves. His questions challenged each of us to articulate what brings us to our work and how we sustain ourselves. Listening to the podcasts, we’re surprised and delighted to learn so much more about each other and to appreciate again how central community is to our work. Thanks, Alan and Rebecca, for your creative and strengthening work, lifting up our cause to close Guantanamo, end torture, and surely deepen compassion.

Learn more about BCR and subscribe to its podcasts at barcrawlradio.com. BCR is broadcast on Upper West Side Radio at upperwestsideradio.com.

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To let suffering speak: Our final update from our week in DC

Fast for Justice 2019 // Film

To let suffering speak is a condition of all truth. –Theodor Adorno

January 12, 2019

Dear friends,
After a full day in DC yesterday marking the day 17 years ago that the first prisoners were brought to Guantanamo, we took today to debrief our week-long Fast for Justice and look toward the future.  We opened with a circle of over 40 people, each person speaking to the question, what was the highlight of your experience.  One member of the circle quoted Theodor Adorno to make his point: “To let suffering speak is a condition of all truth.”

“To let suffering speak” captures the essence of the events that marked the January 11th anniversary of Guantanamo.  Stories of the detainees’ suffering were lifted up again and again during the day, during panels, a rally, and a post-rally procession through the streets of DC. 

See our photos below and then scroll down for more about all these events plus news of solidarity vigils in other cities.
Former Guantanamo detainee Mohamedou Slahi addressed a Congressional Briefing from Mauritania  by Skype.
 
Congressional Briefing on January 11

Mohamedou Slahi, former Guantanamo detainee and author of the Guantanamo Diary. addressed a Friday morning congressional briefing by Skype from Mauritania.  Mohamedou told us that “Guantanamo is a concept not a place,”  because detainees lives cannot return to normal after their release.  Mohamedou knows he risks a great deal by speaking out, but he continues because he wants to have the same freedom that Americans have. Members of our community were uplifted by Mohamedou’s smile as he observed the packed meeting room and answered questions. 

CCR Senior Attorney Pardiss Kebriaei spoke about her client Sharqawi Al Hajj.  While we see only his military mug shot taken 17 years ago, Pardiss reported that his face now shows decay. He weighs only 108 pounds and is in chronic pain.  She told us that the long years of imprisonment are causing accelerated physical decline in the men, adding 15 years to those in their 40’s and 50’s. One detainee shows up to his proceedings in a hospital bed.  She asserts that two major issues for the detainees is access to good medical care and to family contact.

What can Congress do?  Daphne Eviatar, Amnesty International, laid out three actions: Hold a congressional hearing about releasing those prisoners who have been cleared.
Lift restrictions on transfer to the US for trial and for medical care.
Do not fund transfers of any new prisoners to Guantanamo.
Panel at New America

Andy Worthington, who spoke on a later panel at New America, reports: Check out the video of the powerful panel discussion, ’17 Years of #Guantanamo‘, at the New America think-tank yesterday, the 17th anniversary of the prison’s opening. I was part of a panel discussion with the attorney Tom Wilner, my colleague in the Close Guantanamo campaign, and Laura Pitter of Human Rights Watch, moderated by David Sterman.
The event – which, I’m glad to note, was also broadcast live by C-SPAN – was extremely well-attended, and in complete contrast to last year, when everyone seemed crushed by Trump’s first year in office. This year there was a real spirit of resistance, in part because of people’s realization that there is no option but to resist, and partly because of the slim glimmer of hope offered by the Democrats taking the House of Representatives in the midterm elections.
 
J11 Rally to Close Guantanamo – Rule of Law, Not Rule of Trump
Stop Cruelty, Fear, Racism, Islamophobia, and Lies



We came together to demand the closure of Guantanamo and its legacy of institutionalizing Islamophobia, and to invite our government and fellow citizens to choose love, mercy and justice. A dozen organizations including WAT cosponsored the rally. In addition to the prison at Guantanamo, speakers also addressed connected issues such as the war in Yemen, Latin American solidarity, Cuban sovereignty, and more.  WAT speakers included Luke Nephew, Kathy Kelly, Maria Luisa Rosal, and Maha Hilal.  Jessica and Leila Murphy, who lost their father at the World Trade Center on 9/11, spoke out against vengeance.  They believe the men imprisoned at Guantanamo must be dealt with justly and the prison closed before they can feel closure about their father’s death. They joined  September 11th Families for Peaceful Tomorrows in order to work toward this end.

After the rally, WAT members dressed in jumpsuits formed a circle in front of the White House, while members of the larger community presented them with candles of solidarity.  Then they processed singing —

“Courage Muslim brothers
You do not walk alone
We will walk with you and 
Sing your spirit home. “
 
We processed down Pennsylvania Avenue to Trump Hotel where we vigiled in solidarity with indigenous peoples.  We ended at a plaza above DC Central Cell Block where we stood in a circle and held a candlelight vigil in solidarity with the prisoners housed below ground, disappeared from public eyes.  Afterwards we headed back to the church to break our fast with a marvelous feast of Middle Eastern and Salvadoran food.

Over fifty of us circled up at the church Friday morning and many more allies joined us along the way.  More than forty stayed on for Saturday’s retreat.  A snowstorm greeted us as we emerged from the church and returned home!


Solidarity Vigils
 
We were pleased to receive word from a couple of groups who vigiled in solidarity on the J11 anniversary. 

From Peace and Justice Works in Portland, Oregon
Last night at the “Close Guantanamo– Still America’s Shame” action, the 12-foot-tall Tower of Peace was visible to thousands of Portlanders driving past Pioneer Square for 90+ minutes during rush hour.* Over 15 people participated in the rally/march and handed out roughly 150 fact sheets. About half the crowd wore orange jumpsuits to remind people of the dehumanization imposed on the inmates by the United States. Many passers-by in cars honked their horns and gave thumbs up, and pedestrians thanked us for being there. Several grassroots media folks including PSU students and the famous Joe Anybody came by to document the event.

New York City
Twenty-five people vigiled in New York City’s Union Square for an hour on Jan. 11 to mark the anniversary. Four students from Xavier University in Cincinnati, who were visiting the Catholic Worker, wore the orange jumpsuits.

We’ll be happy to receive news from other groups doing work in solidarity with us.  Email your news to  witnesstorture@gmail.com. 

For more photos and news of our work, please visit our website www.witnessagainsttorture.com. 

We’re deeply grateful for your solidarity.  Let’s challenge one another to continue to “let suffering speak” and to carry that truth to the American people.

In peace,
Witness Against Torture

 

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Schedule – 2019 Fast for Justice

Fast for Justice 2019 // Film

(Please check back periodically for latest updates.)
Sunday, January 6 to Sunday, January 13, 2019
First Trinity Lutheran Church Hostel
501 4th Street NW (entrance on 4th St)
Washington DC 20001 (4th and E Sts NW)
(Judiciary Square Metro)

Sunday, January 6
We gather: People can arrive after 3 pm.
Contact person on Sunday: Don Cunning (848 200 0847)
7 pm: Last meal together before the fast begins on Monday
8 pm: Opening Community Circle

Monday, January 7
6:15am: Leave for Pentagon
7-8am: Pentagon Vigil w/ Dorothy Day Catholic Worker
9am: Community Circle and day of planning and action
1 pm Action planning meeting
8 pm: Conference call with solidarity fasters and Kings Bay Plowshares. Email us for call info.

Tuesday, January 8
9:00 am: Community Circle and day of planning and action
1 to 3 pm: Community Dialogue at Code Pink House (1241 Evarts St. NE, Washington, DC 20018) with local tenants rights activists struggling to protect their homes and local Poor Peoples Campaign activists demanding the minimum wage for all restaurant workers in DC.
7:00 pm Community Circle

Wednesday, January 9
9:00 am: Community Circle, day of planning and action
Noon: Demonstration against US violence in Yemen and Guantanamo,
Capitol lawn across from the Supreme Court
7:00 pm: Community Circle
8:00 pm:  Conference call with solidarity fasters

Thursday, January 10
9:00 am: Community Circle, and day of planning and action
Advocacy Day on Capitol Hill: Leave the hostel at 11:30 am to go to the Hill, reconvene at 2:30 at Russell Senate Office Bldg.
6:00 – 8:30 pm: Panel Presentation
The State of Muslim Rights in the US War on Terror,
Public Welfare Foundation Inc, 1200 U Street Northwest
Speaker list and RSVP are at this link.

Friday, January 11 – commemorating 17 years of Guantanamo
8:00 am: Community Circle
10:00 am: Congressional briefing on Guantanamo, 10:00 am, Friday, at Longworth House Office Building, Room 1539.
12:15 pm – 1:45 pm:  Panel-17 Years of Guantanamo
New America, 740 15th St NW #900 Washington, D.C. 20005
2:30 – 4:00 pm: Coalition Rally at White House.  See the Facebook event page  and WAT’s J11 Statement.
Post-rally: Candlelight procession back to hostel, followed by a meal to break the fast.

Saturday, January 12
9:00 am: Retreat to reflect on the week and plan moving forward

Sunday, January 13
9:00 am: Breakfast, closing circle and cleanup
12:00 noon: Return home

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Join Witness Against Torture in DC in January

Fast for Justice 2019 // Film

WAT’s 2019 Fast for Justice

We invite you to gather with us in community in Washington, DC, January 6th to 13th for Witness Against Torture’s 2019 Fast for Justice.

Once again we will fast and witness through dramatic actions to mark a tragic and ongoing history. Seventeen years ago on January 11th the prison camp at Guantanamo opened. To this day it remains a living symbol of US torture and human rights abuses, and is still a place of misery for 40 Muslim men.  And under this president we face the ominous threat that the number imprisoned there will rise again.

It is easy to lose hope in these troubling times. But hope resides in bearing witness to injustice, lifting up human dignity, and imploring our fellow citizens not to turn their eyes away. And so we gather. Learn about our actions in past years at witnessagainsttorture.com

See our Fast for Justice schedule.

Please join us – for the week or for a day, but especially on Friday January 11th.  To RSVP and to reserve your space at the hostel, send an email to witnesstorture@gmail.com. We will get back to you with more information.

If you would like to fast in solidarity with us from home, please let us know at witnesstorture@gmail.com.  We will keep in touch with you while we are in DC.

See our Fasting Tips 2019.

Read our messaging for the January 11 rally marking 17 years of Guantanamo.

 

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June Newsletter: Torture Awareness Month

In Focus - Front Page // Film

Please join us as we mark Torture Awareness month with a vigil and teach-in, described below.  For our full  newsletter, please click here.

The Dark Legacy of The War on Terror & Muslim Victims of Torture

Vigil & Teach-In

Tuesday, June 26, 6:30 pm
White House, Lafayette Park

From the Bush administration to the Trump administration, torture has continued to be a tactic in the War on Terror. With Gina Haspel, a known torturer now leading the CIA, torture in it’s most egregious form may soon be revived. In the course of all of this, those who have been targeted most by the U.S.’s post 9/11 torture apparatus – Muslims have been marginalized and invisiblized. Join us during torture awareness month on the UN Day in Support of Victims of Torture for a vigil and teach-in on torture in the War on Terror to uplift the voices and stories of Muslim survivors. The program will conclude with a light meal.

 

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June 15 Marks 6,000 Days of Guantánamo

In Focus - Front Page // Film

Rights Groups Tell Donald Trump to Close the Prison, Say “Not One Day More!”

PRESS RELEASE

Today, June 15, 2018, is a depressing milestone in the long history of U.S. detention at Guantánamo Bay. Today the Guantánamo prison, set up after the 9/11 attacks, has been open for 6,000 days.

Most of the men held at Guantánamo over the last 6,000 days (16 years, five months and four days) have been held without charge or trial, in defiance of international laws and treaties governing the treatment of prisoners. There are only two acceptable ways to deprive an individual of their liberty: either as a criminal suspect, to be tried in a federal court; or as a prisoner of war, held unmolested until the end of hostilities. The men at Guantánamo are neither. Instead, after 9/11, the Bush administration conceived of a novel category of prisoner — one without any rights whatsoever — and implemented this at Guantánamo.

Although the prisoners were granted constitutionally guaranteed habeas corpus rights by the Supreme Court in June 2008, those rights were eviscerated by a number of appeals court decisions between 2009 and 2011, effectively gutting habeas corpus of all meaning for the Guantánamo prisoners. The unacceptable reality of Guantánamo now is that the men still held can only be freed at the whim of the president, a statutory change by the U.S. Congress, or a landmark judicial decision. None of these possibilities are remotely plausible at present.

Donald Trump inherited 41 prisoners from Barack Obama, but he has only released one man, a Saudi repatriated to ongoing imprisonment as part of a plea deal he agreed in the military commission trial system in 2014. Of the 40 men still held, only nine are facing, or have faced trials. Five were approved for release by high-level government review processes under President Obama, but are still held, while the other 26, accurately described as “forever prisoners” by the media, are being held indefinitely without charge or trial.

Every day that Guantánamo remains open is a black mark against America’s notion of itself as a nation founded on the rule of law, which respects the rule of law. We call on Donald Trump to close it without further delay, and to charge or release those still held.

Andy Worthington, the co-founder of the Close Guantánamo campaign, said: “6,000 days is far longer than the two world wars combined. It is outrageous that the U.S. government continues to perpetuate the myth of an ‘endless war,’ as a supposed justification for holding prisoners indefinitely without charge or trial, when this is, in fact, a policy for which there is no justification whatsoever.”

Sue Udry, Executive Director of Defending Rights & Dissent said: “Guantánamo Bay prison is a living symbol of America’s refusal to live up to the promise of our Constitution. Although President Trump has made clear his disinterest in human rights, due process, and the rule of law, we call on him to choose justice over inhumanity and close the prison immediately.”

Helen Schietinger of Witness Against Torture said: “It is significant — and not accidental — that all the men who have been imprisoned at Guantánamo are Muslim. How many holy months of Ramadan have they missed during these 6000 days? How many more must they endure, never being allowed visits by their families?”

Close Guantánamo
Defending Rights & Dissent
Dorothy Day Catholic Worker
London Guantánamo Campaign
No More Guantánamos
September 11th Families for Peaceful Tomorrows
TASSC International (Torture Abolition and Survivors Support Coalition)
The Tea Project
Voices for Creative Nonviolence
Witness Against Torture
World Can’t Wait

Please note that the photo used above is from the Close Guantánamo campaign’s Gitmo Clock initiative. The clock counts in real time how long Guantánamo has been open, and throughout the year supporters of the campaign have been taking photos with posters counting how long the prison has been open, and urging Donald Trump to close it. Those photos can be found here.

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For further information, please contact:

Andy Worthington, the co-founder of CloseGuantanamo.org on +44 20 8691 9316 or at info@closeguantanamo.org

Jeremy Varon of Witness Against Torture on 732-979-3119 or at jvaron@aol.com

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Invitation: Action opposing Gina Haspel for CIA on Wednesday

In Focus - Front Page // Film

May 7, 2018

Dear Friends and Supporters,

My name is Dr. Maha Hilal and I am a member of Witness Against Torture’s organizing team.  I’m writing to you today to express my rage and sadness over President Trump’s nomination for CIA Director – Gina Haspel.  For those of you who might be unfamiliar with Haspel, she played a critical role in the CIA’s torture, interrogation, and rendition program, supervising the first black site in Thailand where both Abu Zubaydah and Al-Nashiri were waterboarded repeatedly.  The torture that was inflicted on them would be replicated again and again as this first site provided a blueprint for others.  The Senate Select Committee on Intelligence provides extensive detail on the CIA torture apparatus, identifying at least 119 prisoners – all Muslims in the report they published in December of 2014.  

It is Haspel’s participation in this violent apparatus of torture that makes it outrageous for her to be nominated, when she should, instead, be prosecuted.  But not only does the U.S. have a long and sorted history when it comes to the practice of torture, the era of the War on Terror has created an entirely separate system of justice where the laws that apply to others are malleable when it comes to Muslims.  This is by design, not accident.  But because the dehumanization and degradation of Muslims in the context of torture has been almost entirely omitted by the mainstream narrative, I wrote this piece to highlight the many Muslim victims of the CIA and beyond.

As a Muslim, knowing that the country I live in and of which I’m a citizen has chosen to promote an individual who participated in the torture and criminalization of other Muslims is outrageous and inexplicable.  That’s why I’m leading an action on Wednesday between 8:30-9:30 AM in front of the Hart building where Haspel’s hearing is set to take place at 9:30 in room 216.  I hope you will consider joining this action and helping us push back on the gamut of racist, xenophobic, and Islamophobic acts of state violence that the CIA has spearheaded against Muslims in the War on Terror. We need to make it clear that torturers should not be promoted, but should instead, be held accountable.  Moreover, this is a critical time to hold the CIA accountable for their crimes of torture that spans the globe.

Will I see you on Wednesday at the Hart building?  I hope so.

Sincerely,
Dr. Maha Hilal

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