May 17 will be 100th day of the Guantanamo Hunger strike, through which men detained at the Guantanamo Bay detention center have been protesting their immoral indefinite detention by the U.S. government. May 17th to May 19th are Global Days of Action to support the hunger strikers and demand that Guantanamo be shut down now.
Here in Chicago we will meet at Federal Plaza on Friday, May 17 at 4 P.M. for a brief rally and then hold a procession of people in orange jumpsuits and black hoods, which have come to symbolize the crime that is Guantanamo and to symbolize our solidarity with those being held there. RSVP for the action at https://www.facebook.com/events/592988150711229.
We will have posters of those who have been cleared for release as we process up State Street to Daley Plaza where we will read poems from Guantanamo prisoners and place the photos at the Eternal Flame. Please message us if you wish to wear an orange jump suit. The Chicago Coalition to Shut Down Guantanamo includes Chicago World Can’t Wait, Witness Against Torture, White Rose, Voices for Creative Non Violence, Illinois Coalition Against Torture, Chicago Free the Cuban 5, NW Indiana Vets for Peace, and individuals.
Now is the time for everyone who can to join us on May 17th to send a message to President Obama that we will not allow Guantanamo to become a death camp! Contrary to his recent statements, President Obama doesn’t need Congress to close Guantanamo. The truth is that Obama could close Guantanamo today. Section 1028 of the awful National Defense Authorization Act includes waiver provisions that give the Obama Administration the legal authority and ability to transfer detainees from Guantánamo.
President Obama justified force feeding of the prisoners by saying he didn’t want any of them to die, but force feeding is a violation of the conventions against torture. It is a brutally invasive procedure in which a tube is shoved into the nose and liquids are pumped down the throat while prisoners are strapped down in a chair. The United Nations Human Rights Commission, The World Medical Association, and the American Medical Association denounce force feeding as torture and/or unethical.
One thing is clear to people of conscience about this crisis—President Obama must close Guantanamo now! We must do what we can to create a political situation where Obama releases the cleared prisoners and closes Guantanamo. Not because it will “restore America’s reputation,” but because it was always wrong and no government should be able to do such things.
Hunger Strike Song
The Peace Poets and Witness Against Torture have collaborated on a Hunger Strike Video that WE NEED YOUR HELP posting, sharing & promoting. If you are on Facebook, please share directly from the Witness Against Torture page (& ‘like’ the page if you haven’t already). You can watch the video on YouTube at http://youtu.be/WKFqCI6bIs0.
More than 139,000 people have signed and the goal of 150,000 signatures has almost been reached.
The petition was started by Morris Davis, who served 25 years in the US Air Force, and was the Chief Prosecutor for the Terrorism Trials at Guantanamo Bay for more than two years. Here’s Mr. Davis’ statement:
“I personally charged Osama Bin Laden’s driver Salim Hamdan, Australian anathema David Hicks, and Canadian teen Omar Khadr. All three were convicted … and then they were released from Guantanamo. More than 160 men who have never been charged with any offense, much less convicted of a war crime, remain at Guantanamo with no end in sight. There is something fundamentally wrong with a system where not being charged with a war crime keeps you locked away indefinitely and a war crime conviction is your ticket home.
As of April 29, 2013 – 100 of the 166 men who remain in Guantanamo are engaged in a hunger strike in protest of their indefinite detention. Twenty-one of them are being force-fed and five are hospitalized. Some of the men have been in prison for more than eleven years without charge or trial. The United States has cleared a majority of the detainees for transfer out of Guantanamo, yet they remain in custody year after year because of their citizenship and ongoing political gamesmanship in the U.S.
That is why I am calling on Secretary of Defense Charles Hagel to use his authority to effect cleared transfers from Guantanamo and on President Obama to appoint an individual within the Administration to lead the effort to close Guantanamo. Obama announced on April 30 that he plans to do his part to close Guantanamo, but he has made this promise before. Now is the time to hold him to his promise and urge him to take the steps necessary to dismantle Guantanamo Bay Prison.
If any other country were treating prisoners the way we are treating those in Guantanamo we would roundly and rightly criticize that country. We can never retake the legal and moral high ground when we claim the right to do unto others that which we would vehemently condemn if done to one of us.
It is probably no surprise that human rights and activist groups like the Center For Constitutional Rights, Witness Against Torture and Amnesty International have been outspoken critics of Guantanamo. It may surprise you that a former military prosecutor and many other retired senior military officers and members of the intelligence community agree with them.
The Patriotic thing, the American thing, the Human thing to do here is to Close Guantanamo. Please join us in the fight by signing this petition.”
Starting this Friday the Chicago Coalition to Shut Down Guantanamo, of which the Illinois Coalition Against Torture is a member, is holding vigil at State and Jackson to support the Guantanamo Hunger Strikers and to demand the Guantanamo be shut down.
As each day passes the more urgent the situation for the men still remaining becomes.
The only way to ensure the health and safety of these men and end the Hunger Strike is that the 86 cleared for release be released and the rest be charged and given a fair trial.
It is on us to keep the hunger strike and the humanity of these men in the public eye.
Please join us every Friday at State and Jackson at 4:30.
Join the Facebook event at https://www.facebook.com/events/241829415957605/.
Chicago activists gather to demand an end to indefinite detention and the closure of the prison
Thanks to all who came out to the gathering yesterday in Chicago Federal plaza with Witness Against Torture, World Can’t Wait, Amnesty International and the Illinois Coalition Against Torture.
We had a silent procession through the busy streets of rush hour to our memorial at the eternal flame in Daley Plaza where we tied 166 orange ribbons for each man still in Guantanamo. There were 9 people in orange jumpsuits representing the 9 men who have already died at Guantanamo.
Thanks also to Pat Bronte, lawyer for Guantanamo detainees, for reporting on what’s going on there, how torture has increased, men denied clean water, sleep and human contact. Pat Bronte made clear that with the stroke of a pen Obama could release the 86 men unanimously approved for transfer by the nation’s top military, intelligence, diplomatic, and legal experts.
Here’s the media alert that went out prior to the action:
On Thursday, April 11th Chicago activists will join 18 other cities around the United States in solidarity with the hunger strikers in Guantanamo. Most of the men held there, according to detainee lawyers, have been of a hunger strike since February to protest their indefinite detention and a new wave of alleged abuses. Nine men have died in Guantanamo since it opened. One of these men, Adnan Latif, died last September after spending the last 11 years of his life imprisoned despite having been cleared for release and innocent of any crime
A recent editorial by The Boston Globe urged President Obama to close the prison because keeping Guantánamo open is “a challenge to our reputation around the world.” In another editorial, the New York Times said the prisoners’ action is “exposing the lawlessness of the system that marooned them there,” describing the indefinite detention of men long cleared for release as the “essence of what has been wrong with Guantánamo from the start.”
“The vast majority of the 166 men have been held for more than eleven years without any charge or fair trial, with no end to their detention in sight. The Obama administration must take swift measures to humanely address the immediate causes of the hunger strike and fulfill its promise to close the Guantánamo,” says Jay Becker of World Can’t Wait in Chicago.
April 11th is the national day of action calling for an end to indefinite detention and the closure of the prison. Protesters demand that President Obama release the men who have been cleared, give fair trials to the rest, and shut down Guantanamo
After a brief rally and press conference at Federal Plaza, protesters will proceed up State Street and end the march at Daley Plaza, where they will leave a public memorial for the men in Guantánamo.
Local endorsing groups of the April 11 action include Witness Against Torture, World Can’t Wait, Illinois Coalition Against Torture, Voices for Creative Non-Violence, 8th Day Center for Justice and Amnesty International.
By Benita Coffey
I grew up during the second world war in a time of overwhelming patriotism; our military was the finest and our country the greatest. I was proud of our land and its leaders.
Unfortunately, times have changed since the days of our “greatest generation,” and our nation’s moral compass has shifted. I’m still patriotic. I still love America and treasure the ideals of our founding fathers. But it is hard to be proud of a nation where our leaders have condoned torture and where those in power withhold information from its citizens. Our leaders have become a model of abuse of power, of disregard for the value of human beings and of unspeakably cruel behavior. Though President Barack Obama issued an executive order banning the use of torture as an interrogation technique or punishment, he has yet to close the most significant symbol of U.S. torture, the detention center at Guantanamo Bay, which he also promised to do.
I am deeply saddened that we have stooped this low. I am fearful of what might come next, if we do not assume our responsibility to uphold the common good and assure that what is done in this country reflects who we are as people of faith—and as Americans.
Admittedly, until the news reported police torture in Chicago and the atrocities at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq, I didn’t think about torture. The fact that it was going on seemed incredible, and I felt powerless. But, I refuse to be a bystander.
Torture is an egregious violation of the dignity and worth of each and every person. It dishonors the teachings of all major religions and goes against the virtues we instill in our children—to treat all people with the respect they deserve.
In 1994, the United States signed the U.N. Convention Against Torture, agreeing that “No exceptional circumstances whatsoever, whether a state of war or a threat of war, internal political instability or any other public emergency, may be invoked as a justification of torture.” Our government has openly disregarded this agreement, setting a scary precedent and posing scarier questions—what is next on this slippery slope? Our leaders must be held accountable.
Thanks to efforts such as the Senate Intelligence Committee’s three-year investigation into CIA torture, U.S. sponsored torture is no longer a secret, and today is front and center in the media and in Hollywood. But even with all of the attention, it can be hard to discern the truth.
“Zero Dark Thirty,” an Academy Award-nominated film, shows the insidious, abusive treatment of prisoners at the hands of a CIA agent and her colleagues who are engaged in the hunt for Osama bin Laden.
The movie may have led to the glorified presumption that information attained through torture is what directly led to the finding of bin Laden. The notion that torture was effective has been denied by top officials including soon-to-be-retiring Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta, former CIA Director Michael Hayden, acting CIA Director Michael Morell and multiple senators, including John McCain, who said, “It was not torture, or cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment of detainees that got us the major leads that ultimately enabled our intelligence community to find Osama bin Laden.”
This is why the government must be transparent about its past use of torture and release the report to the public. In a world where Hollywood, the media and even the government are spewing fiction about the realities of torture, Americans deserve to know the truth.
Sister Benita Coffey belongs to the Benedictine Sisters of Chicago and is a member of the Illinois Coalition Against Torture, which is part of the National Religious Campaign Against Torture.
This piece originally appeared in The Chicago Tribune on February 13, 2013.
With about 700 people in attendance, our February 1 Panel on Empire, Colonialism, and Torture with Oliver Stone was a great success. Thanks to all of those who came out and supported ICAT and the Puerto Rican Cultural Center! Make sure to check out Oliver Stone’s Untold History of the United States on Showtime and The Untold History of the United States book co-authored by Oliver Stone and Peter Kuznick. Below are photos from the event.
ICAT was one of the co-sponsors of a January 11 action at Federal Plaza in downtown Chicago calling for closure of the Guantanamo detention camp. On the 11th anniversary of the opening of Guantanamo in 2002, and four years after President Obama issued an executive order to close Guantanamo, 166 men still languish in captivity there.
Guantanamo should be closed and all the people detained must either be charged and fairly tried or released. The United States government has admitted that 86 the 166 men currently held at Guantanamo are cleared for release and that many of them were students, humanitarian aid workers, missionaries, or economic migrants just caught in the wrong place at the wrong time—often rounded up for the substantial bounty payments (averaging $5,000 a head) that were paid by the US military for supposed al-Qaeda and Taliban suspects. The names of the 55 known men cleared for release were read aloud at the protest.
Lines of protesters wearing the orange jumpsuits and black hoods that have become the widely recognized trademark of U.S. repression engaged in a procession through downtown Chicago. Our route terminated at the River East 21 Theater, where the controversial feature film Zero Dark Thirty had premiered in Chicago. By most accounts, Zero Dark Thirty suggests torture is a “necessary evil” to protect Americans against terrorism. We countered that it is immoral, illegal, and serves only to contributes to more terror.
Other groups participating in the Chicago event included Chicago World Can’t Wait, Christian Peacemaker Teams, Amnesty International, Voices for Creative Nonviolence, 8th Day Center for Justice, Wellington United Church of Christ, Gay Liberation Network, Tamms Year Ten, Chicago Committee Against Political Repression and Northwest Indiana Veterans for Peace.
Christian Peacemaker Teams made this great two-minute video of the action.
Here are some photos (click to enlarge). Photo credits to FJJ.
You can watch the entire press conference at http://blip.tv/cantv/press-conference-11-years-of-guantanamo-shut-it-down-now-6499663.