WAT Denounces Trump Administration’s Draft Executive Order on Detention

In Focus - Front Page // Film

Witness Against Torture Calls for the Rejection of Executive Order Measures, Warns of Broad Dangers of Trump Agenda

The draft of an Executive Order on US detention and interrogations threatens a nightmarish return to the illegal, immoral, and un-American torture policies of the Bush administration.  Its proposed measures — from the re-establishment of CIA “black sites,” to the review of interrogation practices as detailed in Army Field Manual, to the denial of International Committee of the Red Cross access to US detention centers — point to one thing: the resumption of the cruel, inhuman, degrading, and torturous abuse of Muslims.   

The draft’s proposal to halt all transfers from Guantánamo and bring new captives to the prison is also outrageous.  Guantánamo has never been, as the draft claims, a “critical tool” in the fight against global threats.  It has been a place of rampant torture; a detention center for hundreds of innocent men making up the prison’s great majority; a cause of radicalization worldwide; and a stain on America’s reputation. 

The executive order is based in two fictions: that US torture “worked” in securing critical intelligence, and that nearly one-third of men released from Guantánamo then engaged in anti-American violence.  The US Senate Torture Report refutes the claim of torture’s efficacy.  The figure on post-release violence is grossly inflated and obscures that only a tiny fraction of the men released under President Obama are even suspected of engaging in anti-US hostilities.

“Torture has weakened American security and brought misery to its Muslim victims and their families,” says Jerica Arents, a Witness Against Torture organizer from Chicago. “It is frightening that we are even discussing its return.”  “Tough talk on Guantánamo,” says Maha Hilal, the Executive Director of the National Coalition to Protect Civil Freedoms, “only reinforces Islamophobic fears that threaten the civil and human rights of Muslims, at home and abroad.  The demonization of Muslims must end.”

“That the Trump administration would consider the executive order,” says history professor and Witness Against Torture member Jeremy Varon, “speaks to our worst fears: that Trump is an authoritarian strongman willing to use lies and criminal violence in service of a dangerous, nationalist agenda.  History warns us where that leads.”

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WAT Responds to Fate of Jihad Ahmed Mustafa Dhiab, Ex-GTMO Detainee/Hunger Striker

In Focus - Front Page // Film

Witness Against Torture, a US-based human rights organization, pleads for continuing assurances from all relevant authorities of the safety of Jihad Ahmed Mustafa Dhiab (aka Jihad Ahmed Deyab). Dhiab poses no threat to any nation, society, or people. He should immediately be set free so that he can continue to rebuild his life after years of detention at Guantánamo.

We also call on all governments — and the United States government in particular — not to impede Dhiab’s wish to travel to reunite with his family. Dhiab spent 12 years in US detention at Guantánamo, though he was never charged with a crime. As with so many of the detained men, no credible evidence links him at any time to anti-US hostilities.

At Guantánamo, Dhiab suffered unimaginable abuse, including years of brutal forced- feedings to break his protest of his indefinite detention by hunger strike. A pending case in US federal court seeks the public release of hours of videotape of the forced-feedings. An attorney for Dhiab, who privately screened the tapes, describes them as “Abu Ghraib redux.”

Released by the US government to Uruguay in 2014, Dhiab has experienced continued hardship. This includes physical and emotional distress, financial difficulties, and the pain of separation from his family and broader culture. While still at Guantánamo, he was promised that his family would meet him in Montevideo upon his release. Until now he has not been reunited with his family. Born in Lebanon and raised in Syria, Dhiab seeks to live within the Arabic-speaking world, reconnected with his loved ones.

The United States owes Dhiab, like other men it has held at Guantánamo, an official apology, substantial financial compensation, and other resources to aid in their resettlement. They are victims, in the vast majority, of wrongful detention. All have suffered torture, physical or psychological, at US hands.

And yet, the United States assumes little to no responsibility for the well-being of men it has kidnapped, tortured, and spat out of its island prison — often years after clearing them for release. It imposes onerous restrictions on their travel. It burdens countries like Uruguay, generous in taking in men from Guantánamo, with financial costs and other challenges associated with resettlement. Finally, some in the media and US government use grossly exaggerated concerns of former detainees engaging in anti-US hostilities to falsely paint innocent men like Dhiab as villains and to thwart further transfers from the prison.

Dhiab deserves the world’s sympathy, assurances of safety, reunion with his family, and just compensation from the US government. The videotapes of his forced-feedings should be released so that that people may see — as Dhiab himself wants — the detail of his abuse at Guantánamo. The prison must close, with the United States contributing to the long-term well-being of the men it has detained and tortured.

Witness Against Torture (WAT) formed in 2005 with the goals of closing the prison camp at Guantánamo and ending US torture. It has held marches and solidarity fasts, lobbied Congress and other US officials, sponsored petitions, held numerous educational events, and engaged in non-violent direct action. WAT members have twice been to Cuba to protest the prison, first in 2005 and again in 2015.

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Groups to Rally Monday at White House on 14th Guantánamo Anniversary

News // Film

Washington, DC – This Monday, a coalition of human rights activists, torture survivors, Guantánamo attorneys, and members of diverse faith communities will hold a rally at the White House to mark the 14th anniversary of the first arrival of detainees at Guantánamo on January 11, 2002.

The coalition is calling on the Obama administration in its last, crucial year in office, to close Guantánamo and end indefinite detention. With recent transfers, 104 men remain at Guantánamo, dozens of them cleared for release, the majority from Yemen.

The rally will include a giant, inflatable figure of Shaker Aamer – the last UK resident held at Guantánamo, released in October. The figure was displayed outside the British Parliament where MPs and celebrities posed with it to press for Mr. Aamer’s release. Members of the coalition will share the words of Mr. Aamer and of Mohammed Al Hamiri, Ghaleb Al Bihani, Zaher Hamdoun, and Mustafa al-Hawsawi, all of whom remain at Guantánamo. The rally will be followed by a “detainee procession” of figures in orange jumpsuits and black hoods and signs marking the anniversary.

The organizations drafted a call to action:

Last Chance for Leadership: Close Guantánamo

President Obama has just one year left to fulfill his first-term promise by closing Guantánamo and ending indefinite detention. Doing so will demonstrate leadership and fidelity to the principles on which he campaigned and won office.

On January 11, 2016, the prison at Guantánamo will enter its 15th year of operation. More than 100 men remain there; the vast majority will never be charged with crimes. Dozens of prisoners are cleared for transfer. Some remain on hunger strike and are force-fed, and a handful are facing charges in unfair trials. There has been no accountability for the torture that many detainees have suffered.

Though Congress has placed obstacles to closing Guantánamo, President Obama can and should make significant progress towards reducing the population and shuttering the prison. He must order the Secretary of Defense to expedite transfers and accelerate the Periodic Review Board process, and tell the Justice Department not to reflexively oppose habeas petitions in federal court. He must also reject a policy of indefinite detention, and formally try or release all detainees.

In addition, President Obama should order all relevant agencies to read the full Senate torture report. Refusing to read the report, more than a year after receiving it, reflects the “bury your head in the sand” mentality that will prevent the country from adequately learning from its past and permanently ending torture. Further, the Obama administration should prompt the Department of Justice to open a new, comprehensive investigation into the clear acts of criminality described in the report.

Now is the time for Obama to accomplish a central goal of his administration by closing Guantánamo. There is today a renewed climate of fear and hate reminiscent of the post-September 11 mindset that led to torture and indefinite detention in the first place. Guantánamo is the bitter legacy of a politics of fear, which must be rejected.

This is the president’s last chance to keep his promise and close Guantánamo. If he does not do so, there is a real chance that the current detainees will die there, and that more detainees will join them.

We cannot let that happen.  Close Guantánamo now.

Schedule

12:00pm:  Interfaith service in front of the White House sponsored by the National Religious Coalition Against Torture

12:30pm:  Rally and program in front of the White House, followed by procession

Sponsors: Amnesty International USA, Bill of Rights Defense Committee and Defending Dissent Foundation, Center for Constitutional Rights, CODEPINK, Council on American-Islamic Relations, CloseGuantanamo.org, Interfaith Action for Human Rights, National Coalition to Protect Civil Freedoms, National Religious Campaign Against Torture, No More Guantanamos, September 11th Families for Peaceful Tomorrows, Torture Abolition and Survivors Support Coalition (TASSC), Witness Against Torture, and others.

Organizational Quotes

“Every year, for the last seven years, concerned activists and citizens have called on President Obama to fulfill his promise during his first year in office and demanded that Guantanamo be closed once and for all; every year, these calls have remained unheeded. This is President Obama’s final year in office. That means this is also his final opportunity to follow through on his promise, shut down Guantanamo, and restore some semblance of dignity to our justice system. This opportunity must not be left ignored.” ~ Dr. Zainab Chaudry, Interfaith Action for Human Rights

“It’s not enough for President Obama to say he tried, but that Congress and other obstacles are preventing him from closing Guantanamo. Obama has the authority to make significant progress. He is the Commander in Chief, yet officials within the Department of Defense openly defy his policy objectives and derail closure efforts. He could order the Department of Justice not to fight the habeas petitions of cleared men like 74-lb Tariq Ba Odah, but he hasn’t. There are more than 40 men, cleared for release, who could go home today, yet they continue to languish as the prison enters its 15th year. The president has real choices in front of him. Now is the time for him to take meaningful action. The clock is ticking.” ~ Aliya Hussain, Center for Constitutional Rights

“In November 2015, a CODEPINK delegation traveled to Guantanamo Bay and met with members of the Cuban government and civil society who are calling for the base to be closed immediately and the land given back to the Cubans. The Cubans are horrified that the United States government has committed torture on their land and continues to indefinitely detain prisoners who have never been charged with any crime. The prison facility within the naval base is a stain on US foreign policy, and we urge President Obama to issue an executive order to close the prison — and the base — immediately.” ~ Nancy Mancias, organizer, CODEPINK

“One day let alone 14 years is too long for the U.S. to imprison one hundred men at Guantanamo without charge or trial. For seven years the president has promised to close this prison – a blemish on our nation’s commitment to the rule of law – yet the situation has not improved. We are responsible for safeguarding the constitutional values which are meant to protect all Americans, persons who reside in the U.S., and those in our custody from the abuses of indefinite detention and lack of due process. We must shut down Guantanamo.” ~ Nihad Awad, national executive director, Council on American-Islamic Relations

“It must be stated clearly and boldly that the premise upon which Guantanamo Bay prison exists is illegal.  Moreover, the prison symbolizes the ways in which Muslims have been dehumanized, while at the same time, criminalizing the Muslim identity by virtue of housing a population of men adhering to Islam. While the number of prisoners has decreased from its height at 779 to 104, it is disturbing that the United States government continues to house men cleared for release while holding others hostage in protracted military commissions that seemingly have no resolution in sight. We call on President Obama to close the prison once and for all and end the destructive policies of the War on Terror that have so callously targeted Muslims.”  ~ Dr. Maha Hilal, executive director, National Coalition to Protect Civil Freedoms

“After fourteen years, our experience with an official policy of detaining suspected terrorists without trial has not brought us security, but only more fear, more terrorism and worst of all, a deep stain on our honor and debasement of our most basic values. It’s long past time for us to end this inhumane and profoundly ineffective experiment with lawlessness.” ~ Bruce Miller, president, No More Guantánamos

“As an organization that serves torture survivors from all over the world, TASSC is appalled by the fact that Guantanamo –synonymous with a U.S. torture chamber – is still open after 14 years.  During his last year in office, President Obama should honor his promise to finally close this facility and either release the detainees or transfer them to other locations where they have access to justice.” ~ Gizachew Emiru, Esq., executive director, Torture Abolition and Survivors Support Coalition (TASSC)

“As Guantánamo enters its fifteenth year of operation, there is a real risk it is becoming a permanent offshore prison for an endless global war. The longer Guantánamo stays open, the more likely it is to become a fixture of U.S. counterterrorism—and a permanent system of American injustice. President Obama has just one year left in office to make good on his commitment to close Guantánamo. His human rights legacy, and that of the nation, are on the line. It won’t be easy, but President Obama can and must come through.” ~ Naureen Shah, director of Amnesty International USA’s Security With Human Rights Program

“Guantanamo is a moral disaster zone where the U.S. tortured people and continues to hold people without charge or trial, some for more than a decade. It would be a grave sin and a national disgrace for President Obama to leave office without closing Guantanamo.” ~ Rev. Ron Stief, executive director, National Religious Campaign Against Torture

“Guantanamo is the bitter legacy of the vengeful over-reaction to 9-11. A politics of fear and Islamophobia still rage. The United States can never truly embrace human rights, the rule of law, and its own democratic values so long as Guantanamo remains open. Obama doesn’t get points for trying to close the prison. Either he gets it done this year, or adds to his disgrace on this issue. ~ Mason Otaibi, Witness Against Torture

“It’s now or never. Seven years after he promised to close Guantanamo within a year, President Obama now has just one year left to make sure that a failure to close the prison, as promised, is not part of his legacy. There must be no more excuses. Guantanamo is a legal, moral and ethical abomination, and every day it remains open poisons the U.S.’s claims to be a nation that respects the rule of law.” ~ Andy Worthington, CloseGuantanamo.org

 

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US Human Rights Advocates Hold Protest at Guantánamo Naval Base

Press Releases // Film

Demand Release of Detainees, Closure of the Detention Center and US Base

Activists Decry Islamophobia in the US Following Terrorist Attacks

The Peace Poets perform in Guantaánamo City

As people in the United States enjoys Thanksgiving with their families, 14 human rights activists with Witness Against Torture are in Cuba protesting the ongoing operation of the US prison at Guantánamo Bay. At an encampment outside the base, the delegation demands that the prison close and that it not simply be moved to North America by holding men without charge or trial in federal prisons. The group returns November 30 from Guantánamo to Havana, where it will request a meeting with the US ambassador.

Forced-Feeding, Not Feasting at Guantánamo

On Thanksgiving Day (Nov. 26), the delegation will hold a vigil outside the base under the banner “Forced-Feeding, Not Feasting at Guantánamo.” The vigil highlights the continued forced-feeding of hunger striking prisoners, as well as the separation of the detained men from their families. The US activists are fasting in solidarity with the prisoners.

“While most people in the US are enjoying meals with their families,” says Marie Shebeck, a social worker in Chicago, Illinois, “I am fasting at the site of one of our country’s greatest shames. If the detained men can’t have a homecoming, we must bring our humanity to them.”

With its vigil, WAT seeks to bridge the distance between their encampment and men like Tariq Ba Odah, detained without charge since 2002. Tariq weighs 74 pounds after years of hunger striking. “Our actions are a simple act of solidarity,” says Chris Knestrick from Cleveland, Ohio. “We are here to say: We know you are suffering; we have come to stand with you.”

“There is real power in showing compassion to Guantanamo prisoners,” says Omar Farah, an attorney representing Tariq Ba Odah. “I saw firsthand when I visited him a week ago the impact of his learning that there are people beyond the prison wires who bear witness to his torment.”

Time is Up: Close Guantánamo Now

Witness Against Torture, which visited the detention camp in 2005, is returning after 10 years. “We are impatient. That is the understatement of the century,” says Frank Lopez, an educator from New York City. “Obama promised to close Guantánamo in 2008, calling it a moral outrage. But there are still 47 prisoners who have been cleared for release. It’s great that Shaker Aamer and a couple others have been freed recently. But whole prison must shut down.”

The protestors carry a stern message for President Obama and for those in Congress who have stood in the way of the prison’s closure. “Failing to close Guantánamo will be a terrible stain on Obama’s legacy,” says Jeremy Varon, a Professor of History in New York City. “Those lawmakers who worked to keep scores of innocent men imprisoned will be judged harshly by history.”

Close, Don’t Move Guantánamo

The Obama administration is developing a plan to move the men in Guantánamo to prisons in the US, while detaining some indefinitely without charge or trial. “Simply moving Guantánamo is no solution,” says Helen Schietinger of Washington, D.C. “That would mean holding on to the barbaric practice of indefinite detention. Besides, the entire domestic system of ‘correctional’ institutions is a travesty, poisoned by racism. We need to overhaul the US justice system, not add Guantánamo to it.”

Say No to Islamophobia

In the wake of attacks in Paris, Lebanon and Mali, Islamophobia rages in the US, evident in anti-Muslim violence and the bigoted statements of presidential candidates and others in positions of power. Witness Against Torture denounces this surge of xenophobia and hatred. “Our presence at Guantanamo is more important than ever,” says Jerica Arents, a professor from Chicago. “Guantanamo is the bitter legacy of the US’s devastating reaction to 9/11, which has meant the unjust detention and torture of Muslim men. This is a disgrace we can’t repeat.”

Many Faiths, One Message

Two Muslim Americans are on the trip. “It’s important for me to come to Guantánamo,” says Maha Hilal, Executive Director of the National Coalition to Protect Civil Freedoms, “to protest a ‘war on terror’ that has so callously and indiscriminately targeted Muslims. My identity as a Muslim obliges me to pursue justice, while my identity as a US citizen demands that I challenge my government’s role in the dehumanization and torture of Muslim prisoners.”

The delegation includes Catholics, Protestants, Muslims, Jews, Buddhists, and atheists. Many members are affiliated with the Catholic Worker movement, whose founder Dorothy Day was praised by Pope Francis during his US visit. “Jesus teaches us that what we do to the least of us, we do to him,” says Frida Berrigan of New London, Connecticut. “As Pope Francis’ radical call for compassionate action breathes new life into the Catholic church, we are putting that call into practice by reaching out to the men in Guantánamo.”

US Military Out of Cuba

Witness Against Torture began this trip by participating in the International Seminar for Peace and Abolition of Foreign Military Bases on Nov. 23-25. The conference was held in Guantánamo Province, where the US has controlled a huge swath of territory for more than a century. Witness Against Torture is calling as well for the closure of the entire US Naval base in Cuba. “The military base itself is an unwelcome symbol of US power, which houses a torture chamber,” says Enmanuel Candelario, an artist from the New York. “No country should endure this breach of its sovereignty.”

The delegation in Cuba will make photographs, video, and statements available to the media during its trip, and be available for phone interviews. It is supported by solidarity efforts in the United States and the UK, including a rolling fast, a prayer chain, and a vigil at the White House on November 30th and at the US embassy in London on November 26. For solidarity actions, contact: Beth Brockman, brockman.beth@gmail.com

Witness Against Torture formed in 2005 when 25 US citizens went to Guantánamo and attempted to visit the detention facility. Back in the United States, the group began to organize more broadly to shut down Guantánamo, working with interfaith, human rights, and grassroots organizations. The group established an annual gathering—with days of fasting, demonstrations, vigils, and direct action —around January 11, the date when the first men were brought to Guantánamo in 2002. The trip to Guantánamo builds towards the annual fast and vigil in Washington, DC in January 2016.

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Witness Against Torture (WAT) on Trial

Press Releases // Film

CONFRONTING RACIST VIOLENCE FROM GUANTANAMO TO FERGUSON

Anti-Torture Activists Stand Trial for Alleged Disruption in US Capitol;
Condemn Lack of Accountability for Torture and Racist Police Violence

Media Contacts: Tom Casey, caseytpc@aol.com, 716-491-9172; Matt Daloisio, daloisio@earthlink.net, 201-264-4424

WASHINGTON, D.C. — On Thursday, June 25, members of Witness Against Torture (WAT) will defend themselves in Washington, D.C. Superior Court against charges stemming from their demand of accountability for torture and domestic police violence.

On January 12, 2015, ten people were arrested in the US Capitol Visitor Center after unfurling banners reading, “We Demand Accountability for Torture and Police Murder!” and “From Ferguson to Guantanamo: White Silence = State Violence.”

The trial will take place at DC Superior Court, 500 Indiana Avenue, Washington, D.C., NW at 2:30 pm.

The protests followed the release of the Senate’s report on the CIA’s use of torture, including waterboarding and “rectal feeding.” They also took place against the backdrop of grand juries’ refusal to indict police officers who killed young black men. The defendants will argue that the government itself is guilty of crimes and of failing to enforce its own laws.

In the Capitol, the protestors drew parallels between the abuse of detainees overseas and state violence against people of color here at home. “The CIA, US military, and political leaders get away with the torture of Muslim men, just like police get away with the killing of African American men,” says Beth Brockman, a WAT member from North Carolina arrested in the Visitor Center. “Both reflect the racism of our system and must stop.”

The trial comes in the wake of terrorist violence in South Carolina and the same week that human rights organizations called on Attorney General Lynch to appoint a Special Prosecutor to investigate CIA conduct in its interrogation program, as detailed in the Senate report.

“The United States has a race problem and a violence problem, and an unwillingness to confront either of them,” says Tom Casey, from Buffalo, New York. “The government itself must stand up for equality under the law, which means defending the rights of all people, no matter who violates them.”

On Monday, June 22, the case of 11 members of Witness Against Torture, who had allegedly disrupted a session of the US Senate in January, was dismissed when the government conceded that it was “not ready” to prosecute the defendants. “It’s sad and pathetic,” says Bob Cooke of Maryland. “The government can’t get its act together to prosecute US citizens, and drops the case. But it holds foreign, Muslim men at Guantanamo for more than a decade with any charge whatsoever. Something is terribly wrong here.”

*you can read more on this blog post by our friend Aliya from CCR — You Will Never Guess Who Is on Trial Due to the CIA Torture Report

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Rights Groups Send An Open Letter to President Obama and Ashton Carter: Free the 57 Guantánamo Prisoners Approved for Transfer

Press Releases // Film

Together the undersigned organizations call for the prison at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, to be closed, and we ask President Obama and Defense Secretary Ashton Carter to swiftly transfer the 57 prisoners at Guantánamo who have already been cleared for transfer—the majority for over five years—and release or charge in a federal court those who have not been cleared for transfer.

May 23 marks the second anniversary of President Obama’s promise to resume releasing prisoners from Guantánamo, after Congress raised legislative obstacles, which he made during remarks at the National Defense University. The President’s promise was prompted in particular by a prison-wide hunger strike at Guantánamo, undertaken by men who—according to SOUTHCOM Commander General John Kelly—were “devastated” that the administration had “backed off” closing the prison.  

Since that speech, 44 men have been freed. However, 122 men remain at Guantánamo, even though almost all of them have never been charged, let alone tried, for any crime. It is time for President Obama, and Defense Secretary Carter, to take action to transfer the 57 men still held who have already been approved to leave Guantánamo, and to release or charge in federal court those who remain.

Today, just days before the anniversary of President Obama’s promise, a delegation of British MPs is visiting Washington, D.C., to discuss the release of Shaker Aamer, one of the 57 and the last British resident in Guantánamo. This follows the creation of a cross-party Parliamentary Group, and a motion passed by the British Parliament in March, calling for his release and return to his family in the U.K., and a similar call made by Prime Minister David Cameron in a meeting with President Obama in January.

As well as calling for the transfer of the 57 men cleared for transfer, including Shaker Aamer, we also call on the administration to speed up the Periodic Review Boards (PRBs), designed to review the cases of the men who have not been cleared for transfer and are not facing trials. Since the PRBs began in November 2013, 14 men have been reviewed and nine have been cleared for transfer. If the process does not speed up, it will take until January 2021 to complete the reviews—19 years after Guantánamo first opened.

The prison at Guantánamo is an expensive mistake that—according to national security officials, and President Obama—harms U.S. security interests. The U.S. government must act to close the prison as quickly as possible.

For further information, please contact Andy Worthington of Close Guantánamo at: andyworthington87@gmail.com

or Matt Hawthorne of the National Religious Campaign Against Torture (NRCAT) at: mhawthorne@nrcat.org

For further information about the British Parliamentary delegation, please contact Katherine O’Shea of Reprieve at: katherine.oshea@reprieve.org

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21 Arrested: Demonstrators Interrupt US Senate; Block DC Central Cell Block Entrance

Campaigns // Film

Washington, D.C.— Witness Against Torture held two actions in Washington, DC condemning domestic racism and the violation of human rights in the War on Terror.

Banner Wide Straight

Inside the United States Senate chamber at 2:30 pm, thirteen demonstrators interrupted Senate proceedings to call for prosecutions of those who committed torture, as detailed in the US Senate report on CIA interrogations. Chanting “Torture, It’s Official, Prosecute Now!” the protestors addressed the Senate before being arrested by Capitol Police. In the Senate Visitors Center, another group held banners with such slogans as “Accountability for Police Murder, Accountability for Torture.” Nine were arrested in the Visitors Center.

At 4:45 pm, members of Witness Against Torture obstructed the entrance to DC Metro Police headquarters for 28 minutes, in recognition that a person of color is killed by police or vigilantes every 28 hours in the United States. They recited the names of dozens of victims of police violence and spoke the words of men indefinitely detained in Guantánamo Bay calling for justice. Activists from the DC Hands Up Coalition stood outside chanting and singing.

Earlier at the Department of Justice, Witness Against Torture joined the Hands Up DC Coalition at their Justice Monday Vigil to call for the indictment of law enforcement officers who have killed people of color. The two groups brought coffins marking the deaths of three African-Americans killed by police to the doors of the Justice Department and were addressed by the mother of Emmanuel Okutuga, killed in 2011 in Silver Spring, Maryland. They also conveyed the stories of men still detained at Guantanamo, despite being clear for release by the US government years ago.

“Grand juries refused even to indict the police murderers of Michael Brown and Eric Garner, just like the Justice Department has refused to prosecute CIA torturers, whose crimes are detailed in the Senate report,” said Marie Shebeck, from Chicago Illinois. “Where is justice if we are not equal under the law, if some people can literally get away with murder and torture.”

“We came to the US Senate, the Justice Department, and a DC jail,” says Uruj Sheikh, from New York City, “to convey with a new voice that racism and Islamophobia, torture tactics in US prisons like extended solitary confinement and the torture of indefinite detention at Guantánamo are two parts of the same system of white supremacy and militarized violence.”

The actions were the culmination of a week-long series of demonstrations calling for the closure of Guantánamo Bay prison, an end to torture, mass incarceration, and police violence. Activists are available for interviews.

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HandsUp Coalition DC to Bring ‘Coffin’ to Department of Justice

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Up CoalitionDC  To Bring ‘Coffin’ to Department of Justice 

January 13, 2015, Washington, D.C .Washington-based Hands Up Coalition DC will deliver a coffin to its ‘Justice Monday Vigil’ at the Department of Justice Monday, January 12, 4:00 PM. The coffin symbolizes the deaths of two mentally ill African Americans recently killed in police custody. We will also honor the life of unarmed Emmanuel Okutuga murdered by police.

“While most Americans observed the year-end holiday season, the slave patrol/ police force did not,” said Dr. Marsha Coleman-Adebayo. Citing the deaths of Matthew Ajibade, a bipolar sufferer who died in solitary confinement in Savannah, Georgia on New Years Day; and a January 2 ruling of homicide as the cause of death of schizophrenic, Tanisha Anderson in a Cleveland jail late last year. “Sadly,” Coleman-Adebayo added, “we mourn two more blacks killed while in police custody.”

Justice Mondays began after grand juries failed to indict the police officers responsible for the deaths of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo and Eric Garner in New York City.

This week the Hands Up Coalition DC will be joined by Witness Against Torture who will be emphasizing the link between Ferguson and Guantanamo. They will be highlighting the connection between white silence and state violence and calling for resistance to both anti-black racism and Islamaphobia. As a community that has focused largely on accountability for the government’s policies and practices of torture, they’re joining the Black Lives Matter movement in demanding accountability for rampant police brutality and murder of black people across the United States.

“There are specific, immediate and urgently-needed steps that Attorney General Eric Holder can take today,” said Kimone Freeman, Program Director of We Act Radio. “In the two years since AG Holder promised to investigate  Trayvon Martin’s murder, George Zimmerman has threatened to kill 4 other people. Just this week, the courts took his guns away.”

Why we march in front of the DOJ

  1. According to the Supreme Court: “[to] act willfully…[is to] act in open defiance or reckless disregard of a constitutional requirement…” of the Fourth Amendment right to be free from excessive force. Travon Martin, Michael Brown, Eric Garner, Tamir Rice and countless othersdeserved those same protections. AG Holder—with existing court precedents—could bring charges against the officers in these cases—today.
  2. In civil rights investigations regarding the murders of unarmed black boys and men, DOJ should release it’s findings as to whether the evidence merits bringing cases to trial. AG Holder could bring charges against the officers in these cases—today.
  3. There is no place in domestic policing for the militarization of police forces nationwide. AG Holder could withdraw all funding for militarization of police—today.
  4. There is widespread misuse of the Grand Jury process in cases involving police killing of blacks. Robert McCullough’s handling of the Michael Brown Grand Jury is a perfect example. McCullough is under investigation for ethics violations and a Michael Brown grand juror has sued to be relieved of a gag order. AG Holder could reopen that case—today.
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“Torturers Tour” at Homes of John Brennan and Dick Cheney, Followed by Vigil at CIA Headquarters

Press Releases // Film

Washington DC — On Saturday, January 10th, the eve of the anniversary Guantanamo Bay Prison’s opening, anti-torture activists from human rights groups CODEPINK and Witness Against Torture will gather to demonstrate at the homes of high-ranking officials who have previously authorized torture. These officials include former VP Dick Cheney and current Director of the CIA John Brennan. Activists will then hold a vigil at the CIA headquarters in Virginia. Between 30-60 protesters are expected to attend, most wearing orange Guantanamo-style prison orange jumpsuits and black hoods.

Schedule of events for Saturday, January 10, 2015:

8:00am: Meet at Frying Pan National Park in Herdon, VA

8:10: Leave park for John Brennan’s house right down the road (13351 Point Rider Lane, Herndon VA)

9:00: Leave John Brennan’s house

9:30: Arrive at Dick Cheney’s house (1126 Chain Bridge Road, McLean, VA)

10:00: Leave Dick Cheney’s house to go to CIA (1000 Colonial Farm Road, McLean, VA)

10:10-11:30: CIA Protest and Vigil

“The release of the Torture Report at the end of 2014 exposed the American government’s horrific human rights record,” said Alli McCracken, National Coordinator of the peace group CODEPINK. “The war criminals who lied about torture, and are getting away with it, should be prosecuted and Guantanamo prison must be closed now.”

“Giving a pass to yesterday’s torturers, like Dick Cheney, by failing to prosecute them,” said Witness Against Torture organizer Jeremy Varon, “gives a green light to tomorrow’s torturers and may doom the United States to repeating this awful crime.  We the people can judge Cheney and others for what they did, in hopes that the law might soon as well.”

“Dick Cheney has not only justified the US use of torture, but has said he’d do it all over again,” said CODEPINK cofounder Medea Benjamin. “We’re going to his house, and John Brennan’s house, to show that there are Americans who have moral values and are disgusted that these ‘leaders’ are not behind bars.”

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Groups to Rally Sunday at White House on 13th Guantánamo Anniversary

Fast for Justice 2015 // Film

Washington, DC – A coalition of human rights activists, torture survivors, Guantánamo attorneys, 9-11 family members, and members of diverse faith communities is holding a rally at the White House followed by a march to the Justice Department on Sunday, January 11, to mark the 13th anniversary of the first arrival of detainees at Guantanamo.  The event, titled “A Promise Still to Keep: Close Guantánamo, Stop Torture, and End Indefinite Detention,” will follow an interfaith service in front of the White House at 1pm.

The coalition is calling on the Obama administration and Congress to close Guantánamo, end indefinite detention, ensure accountability for torture, and reaffirm the absolute legal ban on torture.  The rally will be followed by a visually powerful “detainee procession” of figures in orange jumpsuits and black hoods and signs marking the anniversary.

The groups involved drafted a call to action:

On the second day of his administration, President Obama pledged to close the detention facility at Guantánamo and reaffirmed the ban on torture. But Guantánamo remains open.

On January 11, 2015 the detention facility will enter its 14th year of operation. Despite the recent release of some detained men, more than 100 remain at Guantánamo, including dozens who are cleared for transfer — the great majority of whom are from Yemen. Those still detained suffer the torment of separation from their families and ongoing, indefinite detention. Some detainees remain on hunger strike and are brutally force-fed.

The Senate report on the CIA’s Detention and Interrogation Program describes acts of torture that shock the conscience. President Obama banned the CIA torture program by executive order when he took office, but that is insufficient to ensure that torture and other ill-treatment are never used again. Obama’s Justice Department has refused to prosecute those who authorized, ordered, designed, and carried out a torture program that is in plain violation of U.S. law and treaty obligations.

President Obama, whose second term will soon end, must fulfill his promise to close the detention facility and end torture. The time to act is now.

1:00pm Interfaith service in front of the White House sponsored by the National Religious Coalition Against Torture and Interfaith Action for Human Rights

1:30pm Rally in front of the White House followed by a march to the Justice Department

Sponsors: Amnesty International USA, the Blue Lantern Project, the Center for Constitutional Rights, CloseGitmo.net, Code Pink, the Council on American-Islamic Relations, the National Religious Campaign Against Torture, Reprieve, September 11 Families for Peaceful Tomorrows, the Torture Abolition and Survivor and Support Coalition, Veterans for Peace, We Stand with Shaker, Witness Against Torture, World Can’t Wait, and others. 

Organizational Quotes

“We urge President Obama to continue to release men from Guantanamo and to bring renewed attention in particular to cleared Yemeni men – including our clients, Tariq Ba Odah, Mohammed Al Hamiri, Fahd Ghazy, and Ghaleb Al-Bihani – to put an end to their indefinite detention based on their Yemeni citizenship. Whatever pretense of authority to detain the men at Guantánamo existed during combat operations in Afghanistan, it has evaporated: it is past time to close the prison and bring a swift end to 13 years of indefinite detention without charge or trial.” ~ Baher Azmy, legal director, Center for Constitutional Rights

“The Guantanamo Bay prison facility is a travesty of our justice system that has globally tarnished America’s reputation. Continued detainment of these prisoners under such dire, harsh conditions without due process is unethical and unconscionable. Many inmates were cleared for release years ago, yet they still remain imprisoned. The Council on American-Islamic Relations calls on President Obama to hold true to his promise, bring all the detainees to trial or release them, and shut down Guantanamo once and for all.” ~ Zainab Chaudry, spokesperson, Council on American-Islamic Relations and board member, Interfaith Action for Human Rights

“Thirteen years on, it is a scandal that more than a hundred people remain imprisoned at Guantanamo without charge or trial, half of them long cleared for release. While the latest wave of transfers out of the prison is encouraging, there are still abuses happening at Guantanamo every day – and the White House continues to try to bury the evidence. Instead of covering up the failings of the prison, in 2015 Obama must redouble his efforts to close it once and for all.” ~ Cori Crider, strategic director, Reprieve, and a lawyer for several Guantanamo detainees

“Despite the White House’s efforts to close Guantanamo, 59 men who have already been cleared for release remain. TASSC calls on President Obama to fulfill his promise to close Guantanamo and on Congress not to hinder the Administration’s efforts to close Guantanamo.” ~ Gizachew Emiru, Esq., executive director, Torture Abolition and Survivors Support Coalition

“As we count a grim thirteenth year since Guantanamo opened, dozens of men continue to languish there with no idea when or even if their detention will end. The president has momentum and the legal authority to finally shut down Guantanamo, and must act quickly. Congress should not seek to restrict or slow these efforts.” ~ Noor Mir, associate field organizer, Amnesty International USA 

“Guantanamo symbolizes two immoral acts – torture and imprisonment without trial.  It should have been closed more than a decade ago.  The National Religious Campaign Against Torture applauds the Administration for transferring 28 detainees in 2014, now it’s time to close Guantanamo and sign legislation that permanently ends torture.” ~ Rev. Ron Stief, executive director, National Religious Campaign Against Torture

“The Bush regime opened the torture camp at Guantánamo Bay not just to imprison captives but to send a message to the world that the U.S. could operate with impunity outside the norms of international law.  The Obama administration has had six years to close it, punish those who ordered the torture, and forever repudiate indefinite detention and secret rendition as national policy, but to its great discredit, has not.  We who care about justice demand the closure of Guantanamo immediately.” ~ Debra Sweet, director, World Can’t Wait

“The Yemeni prisoners cleared for release or transfer still held at Guantánamo have waited more than a decade to see their families.  It will take the administration years to carry out its strategy of finding third countries where these 50+ men can be strangers.  Send them home today!” ~ Nancy Talanian, No More Guantanamos

“With the Senate report on CIA interrogations, we decisively know that the United States committed torture.  The ongoing operation of the prison at Guantanamo extends injustices that are hardly now in the past.  The eyes of the world are vigilantly watching to see if President Obama fulfills his pledge to close the prison, and will judge his presidency and the country he leads based on whether he succeeds.” ~ Jeremy Varon, Witness Against Torture

“We congratulate President Obama for his progress towards closing Guantanamo in the last year, but much more remains to be done – the release of the 59 men still held who have long been approved for release, and trials or release for all the other men still held. The president has two more years to fulfill the promise to close Guantanamo that he made when he took office six long years ago. He must not fail!” ~ Andy Worthington, CloseGuantanamo.org

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