Oppose Gina Haspel action May 9

In Focus - Front Page // Film

Prosecution not Nomination: #OpposeHaspel

 

We invite you to participate in an action on the morning of the Gina Haspel confirmation hearing.

Wednesday, May 9 at 8:30 AM – 9:30 AM
Hart Senate Office Building

Last month, President Trump nominated Gina Haspel, the current Deputy Director of the CIA to become Director. Haspel is best known for overseeing a CIA black site in Thailand in 2002 where two Guantanamo detainees, Abu Zubaydah and Al-Nashiri, were waterboarded and tortured. Furthermore, Haspel was involved in destroying agency interrogation tapes – a move clearly designed to erase the possibility of transparency and accountability.

Because of her involvement in torture, Haspel should be prosecuted Instead of rewarded. Thus, this action will be held on the morning of Haspel’s confirmation hearing with the goal of centering the Muslim victims of CIA Black sites in the War on Terror. The call will also be made for Congressional members to oppose her confirmation and to demand accountability for those who designed, conducted, oversaw, and/or implemented the CIA’s Rendition, Detention, and Interrogation program.

Leonce Byimana, executive director of Torture Abolition and Survivors Support Coalition, in a May 3rd opinion piece for the Washington Post, writes:

Haspel’s promotion would be a direct endorsement of torture, sending that message both to governments that torture and to the people who endure horrific abuse.

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WAT responds to Trump’s executive order on Guantanamo

In Focus - Front Page // Film

It was with heavy hearts that we, as members of Witness Against Torture, listened to Trump’s State of the Union address Tuesday evening. We heard him attempt to stoke fear in his listeners with wave after wave of references to terrorists and criminals. He began by linking terror to “illegal immigrants,” border walls, “chain migration,” and visa lotteries, before moving on to ISIS, Al Qaida, rogue regimes, unlawful enemy combatants and more.

By the time he mentioned the prison at Guantanamo, he had already clearly connected the foreigner and the immigrant with the idea of danger in his listeners’ minds. He had already skillfully set the stage when he announced his executive order to keep open the detention facilities at Guantánamo Bay. In Guantanamo, he reassured his listeners, we would “have all necessary power to detain terrorists — wherever we chase them down.”

The prison at Guantanamo has always depended for its existence on xenophobic fear, fueled by racism and Islamophobia. Stoking this fear helps leaders aggrandize their power, as the history of authoritarian regimes has amply demonstrated.

Witness Against Torture from its founding has sought to counter this hatred by recognizing the human dignity of each prisoner, beginning with our attempt to visit the prisoners in 2005, to fast in solidarity with their hunger strikes, and to lift their names, faces, and stories in the public eye and before the seats of power in Washington year after year. We have spoken up relentlessly for the right of every detainee to trial or release.

We continue to stand against the horror of the torture these men have suffered. We regard as an ominous warning Trump’s stated resolve to bring more “unlawful enemy combatants” to Guantanamo where “they should be treated like the terrorists they are.”

And so we resolutely continue. We turn our eyes with hope to the major legal challenge to Donald Trump’s continued detention of the men at Guantanamo, filed by the Center for Constitutional Rights, Reprieve, and co-counsel on the 16th anniversary of the opening of the prison. We are deeply grateful to our friends and allies who continue to plan rallies and actions in support of closing the prison.


New Yorkers gather to protest Trump’s Guantanamo policy

On Thursday, Feb. 1, human rights activists from Witness Against Torture, the Justice for Muslims Collective, World Can’t Wait, the Center for Constitutional Rights and other groups gathered at Grand Central Station to protest Trump’s recent Executive Order on Guantanamo. Announced in the State of the Union address, the Order directs that the detention camp remain open, reversing the policy of President Obama to try to close the prison.

The camp at Guantanamo has been a place of torture and other gross human rights abuses. It continues to imprison 41 men — including 26 held without charge or trial and 5 whom the US government had already cleared for release. Trump’s policy also freezes any releases from the prison and orders that new captives can be brought there.

Guantanamo remains a blight on the US Constitution, the rule of law and basic democratic values. Trump’s policy, as challenged in a lawsuit brought by the Center for Constitutional Rights, is based in his well-documented racism and Islamophobia.

“Trump’s Executive Order brings us back to the darkest days of the Bush administration, when lawlessness and cruelty ruled,” says Jeremy Varon, an organizer with Witness Against Torture from Brooklyn. “President Trump is an anti-Muslim bigot, pro-torture, and favors keeping a torture prison open forever,” says Maha Hilal of the Justice for Muslims Collective. “With the Guantanamo policy, New Yorkers and the peoples of the world now have another reason to loathe this terrible leader.”

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I Refuse to Participate in this Criminal Act

News // Film

Navy Nurse Refuses to Torture Guantánamo Prisoner

By Helen Schietinger and Jeremy Varon
July 16, 2014 | 22:57EST

These are the words of a Navy nurse assigned to force-feed prisoners who are hunger striking at Guantánamo Bay prison:

I refuse to participate in this criminal act.

Abu Wael Dhiab, one of the hunger strikers, witnessed the nurse’s courageous stand and reported it to his lawyer. Dhiab, as quoted through his attorney, described the nurse as “very compassionate” in his treatment of detainees over the prior months. “Initially, he did carry out his orders,” says Dhiab. “He decided he could not do it anymore.”

The nurse’s refusal is an extraordinary act of conscience.  It speaks to the brutality of forced-feeding, which the hunger strikers describe as torture and medical and human rights bodies have denounced. It affirms the ethical obligations of medical professionals, which prohibit forced-feeding.  And it underscores the broader criminality of Guantánamo, where men are held indefinitely without charge or trial and further brutalized when they protest.

Witness Against Torture praises the heroic act of the Guantánamo nurse, who should not suffer disciplinary consequences for his principled stand. We hope his act inspires other staff at Guantánamo to refuse to execute camp orders. Most of all, we hope the nurse’s resistance further awakens the American people and President Obama to the barbarity of Guantánamo and hastens the closure of the prison.

Force feeding poster

Refusing food is among the only means the detained men have to protest their indefinite detention and abusive treatment. Such treatment includes the defilement of the Quran, genital and body cavity searches before and after leaving their cells, being beaten by Forcible Cell Extraction teams when taken from cells, and being held in solitary confinement for months and even years.

Rather than addressing these grievances, President Obama has allowed the continuation of forced-feeding — a tactic the military admits is intended to break the 18-month-long hunger strike. The procedure, while couched in secrecy, is shockingly violent compared to medically warranted tube-feeding.

As described in letters from detainee Emad Hassan, the hunger striker is strapped into a restraining chair, often tightly around the abdomen. A tube larger than one used for standard nasogastric tube-feeding is forced through delicate nasal passages, down the throat, and into the victim’s stomach. Nutritional supplement, at times containing medication or water, is injected rapidly in large quantities into the stomach, sometimes causing nausea, vomiting, and abdominal pain. The tube is then removed — and is sometimes yanked quickly from the nose, causing trauma in the nasal passages.

Dhiab’s lawyers are challenging his forced-feeding in federal court. In a related lawsuit, Judge Gladys Kessler granted the disclosure of videotapes of forced-feeding sessions to attorneys. One attorney described the footage as “so ‘grim’ that I had trouble sleeping.” Media groups are asking a judge to release the videos to the public, which absolutely should happen.  Regardless of the ruling on the tapes, President Obama should view them and ask himself if forced-feeding is something he or the United States can condone.

The nurse refusing to obey the order to force-feed prisoners displayed great courage and integrity. Nonetheless, it is astounding that it has taken until now for a medical professional to refuse to engage in forced-feeding.The professional code of ethics directs all nurses to “practice with compassion and respect for the inherent dignity, worth and uniqueness of every individual” and “protect the health, safety, and rights of the patient.” (American Nurses Association Code of Ethics, 2001)  The World Medical Association insists that, “Forcible feeding is never ethically acceptable. Even if intended to benefit, feeding accompanied by threats, coercion, force or use of physical restraints is a form of inhuman and degrading treatment.” (WMA Declaration of Malta on Hunger Strikers, 2006).  In a letter to the Pentagon, the American Medical Association stated, “the forced feeding of detainees violates core ethical values of the medical profession.” (J. Lazarus, AMA President, 4/25/2013)

The military defends forced-feeding as a humanitarian measure to save the lives of detainees. The men, however, are crying out against their abusive treatment by prison staff and their unjust detention. They don’t have to be force-fed to be kept alive. The solution is for the Obama administration to: 1) order the military to immediately end forced-feeding and cease and desist from all abuse of the prisoners in its custody 2) release without delay all the men who have been cleared for transfer by the US government 3) and finally close Guantánamo, ensuring human rights and proper due process for all the men detained there.

Abu Wael Dhiab is among the six prisoners whom Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel just recently designated for transfer to Uruguay. His release would mean the dismissal of his lawsuit seeking an end to his forced-feeding. But the forced-feeding of others — and lawsuits challenging their treatment — will continue, as will the immoral and illegal detention of men at Guantánamo. We owe it to Mr. Dhiab, to those who continue to suffer at Guantánamo, and the men who have died there to close Guantánamo and newly respect the human rights and dignity of all.

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