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Shut Down Guantanamo

category international | rights, freedoms and repression | press release author Tuesday January 12, 2010 20:00author by WAT - Witness Against Torture

Witness Against Torture begins the 2010 campaign to shut down Guantanamo and end torture.

Fasters bio's:

January 8, 2010
8:08 AM

CONTACT: Witness Against Torture [1]
Frida Berrigan, 347-683-4928 [2]
Jeremy Varon, 732-979-3119 [3]

Eight Years After Guantanamo, Lawyers and Activists Demonstrate, Demand Real Change
WASHINGTON - January 8 - Eight years ago next Monday, the Guantanamo prison opened for "war on terror" detainees. On January 11, activists and Guantanamo lawyers will mark the anniversary by demanding that President Obama make good on his pledge to close the prison as first step towards restoring the rule of law. Further, the group opposes any plan for holding prisoners without charge or trial in the U.S. and denounces the White House's expansion of Bush-style detention in Afghanistan.

Schedule, Monday, January 11, 2010


Demonstration with street theater, signs, and speakers, announcement of 12 day fast.
White House Plaza, between Lafayette Park and "picture postcard" zone

Begin prisoner procession, a silent walk of more than 40 jumpsuited "detainees"

Press Briefing with the Center for Constitutional Rights
National Press Club, 529 14th Street

Murrow Room

Members of Witness Against Torture will rally in front of the White House at 11:45 a.m. to protest the lack of progress toward justice for detainees since Obama took office and demand from the administration true change. Speakers will announce a 12-Day Fast for Justice in Washington DC, ending on January 22-- the Obama administration's self-declared, and now-voided, deadline for closing Guantanamo.

"As fear of terrorism again grips the nation, we need to stand more firmly on the principles of justice and the rule of law, and not go further down the disastrous path of the last eight years," says Matt Daloisio of Witness Against Torture. "Obama promised to break with the Bush administration. But in so many areas-- from the continued use of rendition, to the ongoing detention of innocent men at Guantanamo, to the refusal to prosecute alleged torturers-- he has sustained the policies of his predecessor and he is in the process of expanding these policies at the Bagram prison in Afghanistan."

After the demonstration, activists will stage a dramatic Guantanamo prisoner procession to the National Press Club. There, they will join the Center for Constitutional Rights for a press briefing featuring detainee lawyers and human rights activists. The briefing, led by CCR Executive Director Vince Warren, will include the reading of letters from men released from Guantanamo and exonerated of wrong doing. The letters directly appeal to President Obama and call for the prison's closure and justice for all men held there


Witness Against Torture [1] is a grassroots movement that came into being in December 2005 when 24 activists walked to Guantanamo to visit the prisoners and condemn torture policies. Since then, it has engaged in public education, community outreach, and non-violent direct action. For the first 100 days of the Obama administration, the group held a daily vigil at the White House, encouraging the new President to uphold his commitments to shut down Guantanamo.
Witness Against Torture Links: Homepage [1]

January 12, 2010

Dear Friends,

Yesterday, 70 or so of us gathered at the White House, many wearing orange jumpsuits and black hoods. After a street theater performance, we heard from a few speakers as people held a huge banner that read "Close Guantanamo." We have included two elements from the rally: Jeremy Varon's remarks and a letter from a man recently released from Guantanamo. We ended with the chant:
Where there is cruelty, there is no justice
Where there is no justice, there is no law
Where there is no law, there is no nation
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After that, we processed to the National Press Club in a solemn procession clad in the orange jumpsuits. Helen Schietinger offers a brief reflection from "behind the hood." At the Press Club, we participated in the Center for Constitutional Rights' Public Briefing. The briefing included presentations from CCR Executive Director Vince Warren and Pardiss Kebriaie, Staff Attorney with CCR's Guantánamo Global Justice Initiative. The most poignant component of the briefing was a live connection with Omar Deghayes and Lakhdar Boumediene, two men released from Guantanamo. The opportunity to connect directly with them and describe our fast and our daily vigil was powerful and totally appropriate as we marked eight years of Guantanamo. Frida Berrigan's remarks from the briefing are included below.

The day ended with a grassroots discussion at Georgetown Law School, where about 80 people gathered. Today, Tuesday, January 12, we take our daily vigil to Congress, where we will lobby and engage in creative witness. We will then gather at 5:30pm at the White House for an hour long presence there, continuing the weekly vigil that extended our 100 Days Campaign to Shut Down Guantanamo vigil from last spring.

For daily updates, reflections, photos and videos, pleae check our website, We will send updates to this announcement list every few days.

Thank you for all you are doing,
Peace with Justice,
Witness Against Torture

A Sampling of Press Hits from January 11, 2010
Jeremy Varon, Statement at Witness Against Torture Rally, White House
Mohammed Sulaymon Barre, statement from man released from Guantanamo, read at Witness Against Torture Rally, White House
Helen Schietinger, Reflection on the Guantanamo Prisoner Procession
Frida Berrigan, Statement at Public Briefing, National Press Club
1. Some Press Hits
Associated Press - Activists protest in DC over Guantanamo prison
ABC 7 Local TV News - Protesters Mark Guantanamo's 8th Anniversary - protesters demand Guantanamo closure on facility's eighth anniversary
Catholic Spirit - Group begins fast to push Obama to close Guantanamo Bay prison
New Strait Times - 8 years later, Guantanamo still angers activists
Free Speech Radio News - Activists demand closure of Guantanamo detention facility
Rally at the White House: "Witness Against Torture"
Eight Years of Guantánamo: What's Changed? by Frida Berrigan
See more press, video and photos!
2. Jeremy Varon, Witness Against Torture: Broken Promises — Obama's Guantanamo

Eight years ago today the first men, branded by a pseudo legal designation as "enemy combatants," were brought to the US prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Thus began the nightmare of illegal detention, torture, and extrajudicial power that has marked January 11 as both a tragic day in the history of our constitution and a demonic day in the spiritual life and sacred calendar of our nation.

By all rights, we should not be here – not, at least, in anger and sorrow, condemning the continued operation of the prison. No, we should be here in celebration of its closure, as President Obama promised nearly a year ago today.

But the prison hasn't closed. It won't be closed by the deadline Obama set. It won't likely be closed – they now tell us – anytime this year. And if forces of reaction, fed by the manipulated fears of the public and indulged by the feckless equivocation of President Obama, have their way, it may never be closed. It may instead become a fully institutionalized feature of American power – our democracy's own offshore gulag for the perpetual waging of cruelties that our laws should not permit and our conscience should not allow.

But we cannot, we will not, let that happen. So we are here today, again, calling for Guantanamo's immediate closure, in sorrow and anger, but also with a sense of hope, nourished by the untold millions in this country and around the world who share with us this vital demand.

We may ask ourselves, why is Guantanamo still open, and in our answer receive guidance in the message we must bear. We know well the reasons stated by our President, which now have the hollow ring of excuses. That Bush had left a legal mess, whose cleaning up takes time. We know well the sad politics at play – how the opportunism of the right, the timeless lure of tough-guy rhetoric, the cravenness of Congress, and the menacing howls of Cheney, have ensnared our institutions in moral paralysis. And we are painfully aware, as the last few weeks make plain, of the fragility of the American psyche, well trained to turn to vengeance as a salve for fear.

But these things neither explain nor excuse the broken promise of a President who challenged us to do great and difficult things, and pledged to lead us in that courage. The root of the failure, rather, lies in how President Obama has himself obscured the stakes of action on Guantanamo, and thereby absolved America of the responsibility to halt and atone for the evil it represents. Our president has repeatedly described Guantanamo as an administrative problem, an embarrassment, a negative symbol, and a foreign policy liability. It is all those things. But he has never confronted Guantanamo for what it truly is: a moral disaster and a political sin. It is only through this understanding — honest and unsparing — that we summon the fierce urgency of now required to close the prison. Otherwise, we are condemned to the fickle logic of political convenience, strategic calculation, and the management of a national brand. I say to President Obama that we need to close Guantanamo, not to please the liberal base, not because of what Europe or even some Al Qaeda wanabee may think of us, but for our own sake – because it has deformed our character, our laws, and our dignity, and because closing it is the good and the right thing to do. Guantanamo is our problem. It is our backyard. And it is ours to banish.

A second reason that Guantanamo remains open, I truly believe, may seem just the opposite: that we as a country think too often only of ourselves. Our politics, our security, our reputation, our traditions. Vanished from the question of what Guantanamo means for America is the question of what Guantanamo, and Bagram, and other secret prisons, have meant for those held captive within them. By now we well know, or should know, the harrowing tales of kidnapping, torture, and psychological torment. As men now released from Guantanamo share their stories with the world, we are learning more of the remarkable humanity of those who have every reason to be wholly cynical, about America and about life, but are not.

But the human dimension of America's crimes seems barely to have registered in the halls of power and within the broader public — as if there are no victims, save blows to abstract principles. In this way also we avoid responsibility. So I say to Obama that we owe it the men who have endured (and still endure) Guantanamo to close the prison and all others like it. We owe them as well an apology, compensation, and the prosecution of the perpetrators, whether of high or menial rank. Only by accepting the wrong we have done to others do we summon the conviction and humility to begin to try to set things right.

So what is our message at this moment? First, that our President can no longer be praised for good intentions; it is now his Guantanamo, and he must fulfill those intentions with action. We must continue to call on his conscience, while also calling him to account: not just for his failure on Guantanamo, but for a shameful pattern of sustaining the policies of his predecessor, illustrated in the signs we carry today – rendition, Bagram, immunity – each of which represents a public obscenity. We must say to the media and to all Americans that the political right has it exactly wrong: that Obama has not been too much a jurist, but too little one. He has been reckless not with our security, but with the constitution.

We have another task, to learn and share the names and the stories of the men who have been at Guantanamo and who remain there. We have carried these names throughout Washington DC in our protests. We have taken them into the Supreme Court. We have taken them into jail following our arrests. And we have taken them before US judges in our criminal trials to to dramatize the denial of legal and human rights to the men at Guantanamo. Frida Berrigan, as we entered one such trial said, "We will continue to carry these names until the men at Guantanamo can themselves walk a clear path through war politics, vengeful rhetoric, and insatiable violence." To this list of barriers that must be overcome, I add today "presidential hypocrisy and "broken promises."

3. Transcript of Statement from Mohammed Sulaymon Barre

Mohammed Sulaymon Barre was released from Guantanamo on December 20, 2009, and returned to his family in Somaliland. Mr. Barre had fled Somalia during the civil war in the early 1990s. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees granted Mr. Barre refugee status in Pakistan where he lived and worked freely for many years prior to his detention. In November 2001, soon after the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan, Pakistani authorities came to Mr. Barre's house in the middle of the night and arrested him. He is believed to have been sold to the United States for bounty at a time when the United States was offering sizable sums for the handover of purported enemies. Once in the custody of U.S. forces, Mr. Barre was sent to the U.S. military base at Bagram, where U.S. guards abused him and coercively interrogated him before transferring him to Guantánamo. He was never charged with any crime.

"I say to the torturers of Guantanamo, their leaders, and the politicians and people of power who back them in Washington: is it not time that you should awaken from your slumber? Is it not time that you should realize what you are doing and acknowledge the mistakes you have made? Time has passed, and time passes quickly. Hurry up and close this prison that has become a blot of shame upon all of America. Do it fast. Do it quickly.

"Closing this place should not mean just the transfer of these men to other prisons. That would only make things worse. Closing it should mean the release of these men and transferring them to where they can be safe.

"And that is not enough. There should be an appropriate and reasonable apology. "To those who say that they fear that those men, when released, would join enemy groups and therefore we should keep them in prison indefinitely, I say: don't you know that keeping these detainees in prison is the very thing that feeds the animus against the United States? I say to those who believe in these notions: the thing you fear is the very thing you cause by your wrongful actions. This is what constitutes the real threat to the national security of the United States, not the closing of the prison and the release of detainees.

"Peace be upon you."
-Mohammed Sulaymon

4. Helen Schietinger, Reflection on the Guantanamo Prisoner Procession

Once again we processed in single file, hooded in orange jump suits, our footsteps guided by Carmen Trotta's orders: "Detainees, follow me. Detainees, stop. Detainees, turn right." Carmen was playing the role of the soldier.

Inside the stuffy hood, my glasses fogged up. I kept my eyes on the person in front of me and tried to maintain the pace without stumbling -- light-headed on this, the first day of the fast. When would we get there? Block after block we walked -- slowly, deliberately, our handlers leap-frogging the procession to stand at curbs and warn us where we might stumble.

Today I could feel the presence of an amazing number of press people all around us. All along our route, photographers crouched to capture the solemn image of the human chain we have become. Newscasters posed beside our line, talking into the camera as we walked by, creating sound-bites for the evening news. Today the media attention never stopped.

When we arrived at the National Press Club and again stood in a line, cameras continued to snap photos of our hoods, our shapes, our collective statement. I hope they throw the images up on TV and computer screens and pique the conscience of the world.

5. Frida Berrigan, Statement at Public Briefing, National Press Club

Witness Against Torture is a grassroots movement that began with the question: "how do we resist the cruelty our country perpetrates in the name of opposing terror." In 2005, the answer led 25 of us to go to Cuba and walk to the U.S. Naval Base at Guantanamo with the intention of visiting the men detained there. Since then, we have organized demonstrations, vigils, rallies and direct action aimed at drawing attention to policies of torture, abuse and inhumanity and reminding the American people of the political and human costs of these policies.

And as such, Guantanamo—and all it represents—is not only the concern of the men detained, their families and their lawyers. It is something that should concern us all. And I am here to say that it does. There are conscientious people all over this country and throughout the world -- students, mothers and fathers, activists, regular people-- who are organizing to close Guantanamo, to make sure that the U.S. does not open new regimes of detention without charge or trial, to push the U.S. to charge or release the men held at Guantanamo and to ensure that those who have tortured are held accountable.

A year ago today, January 11 2009, we gathered in DC to mark what we hoped would be the last anniversary of Guantanamo's existence. We fasted until the inauguration of Barack Obama on January 20th. We shared the relief and satisfaction felt by many when-- on his second day in office—President Obama signed the Executive Order and pledged to close Guantanamo within the year. The hope that animated our coming together last year has now been replaced with anger and indignation. The promise of Guantanamo's closure, is mocked by the fact that—for the men at Guantanamo-- the only significant change they see is that the Presidential portrait hanging on the prison wall in Cuba, is of Barack Obama, not George W. Bush.

Today, in a moment marked by deeply manipulated and nearly hysterical fear and punctuated by some of the most hateful, retrograde rhetoric we've heard in nearly a decade, Witness Against Torture is launching another fast: a twelve-day fast and daily vigil through the streets and corridors of power of Washington. More than 50 of us are together in DC through this time and we are joined by over 100 more who are fasting and witnessing in their own communities.

For us, this fast is
An act of moral witness — against the crimes of torture, indefinite detention, rendition, and the denial of legal and human rights
A political demand — that Guantanamo close, tortured be definitively banned, and that all U.S. detainees receive true justice and equality before the law
An act of solidarity — with the suffering of the men, boys, and women held in Guantanamo, Bagram or other U.S. detention facilities around the world
An act of atonement — for our nations' violation of domestic and international law, human rights, and its own principle
An expression of hope — that President Barack Obama finally honor his pledge to close Guantanamo, not by exporting it to Illinois or hiding it away in Afghanistan, but by really closing it and ending the injustice it represents
An act of renewal — that calls America back to its senses and to its core values; that seeks to make those values stronger, inviolable; and which helps to reconnect America to the peoples of the world.
Speaking personally, I am not excited about fasting. I like food, a lot. But, President Obama's promises of change have atrophied into empty rhetoric. And, now, I watch in horror as my country rises up in fear and vengeance once again; as the debased torture policies of the Bush administration are defended and described once more as necessary.

Mahatma Gandhi said: "under certain circumstances, fasting is the one weapon God has given us for use in times of utter helplessness."

Binyam Mohamed participated in the hunger strikes at Guantanamo, and his reason was simple: "we ask only for justice: treat us as promised under the rules of the Geneva Conventions for civilians prisoners while we are held and either treat us fairly for valid criminal charges or set us free." And so, I fight against the feelings of "utter helplessness" with Gandhi's peaceful weapon, with Binyam's peaceful weapon-- by fasting. This act is my small attempt—as part of Witness Against Torture and in concert with all those working for justice-- to answer the ultimate question Guantanamo poses: how do we conquer fear and remain human?

Thank you.

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author by Courtpublication date Tue Apr 13, 2010 09:41author address author phone

Ft. Huachuca protester Joshua Harris, from Santa Barbara, California, will appear on Friday, April 23 at 9:30 a.m. in U.S. District Court, Tucson, Arizona. He intends to enter a change of plea and expects to be sentenced that day.

Josh was one of five protesters who entered Fort Huachuca (home of the U.S. Army Intelligence Center where interrogators are trained) on November 15, 2009 with a message for military personnel and civilian employees. They carried a statement (see below) opposing the cruel treatment and abuse of detainees from the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, and calling for the civilian oversight of all military interrogation practices. The statement also condemned the used of armed drones in warfare.

All five protesters were given a formal letter barring them from entering the base for a year. Because Josh initially refused to identify himself, instead saying he was there representing a victim of torture, he was also charged with trespass and refusing to provide a truthful name.

For more information about past and future protests at Ft. Huachuca, please visit and

The annual Ft. Huachuca demonstration will take place on Sunday, November 14, 2010.


We return to Fort Huachuca to call for an end to torture.

We are here because we desire dialogue with soldiers and commanders engaged in interrogation training. We are here because we still question whether soldiers are provided with adequate training about international human rights law so they would know to refuse illegal orders and other pressure to torture captives (including a guarantee that speaking out would not lead to retaliation or punishment). We are here in the hope that healing can take place--healing for the victims of torture, as well as the men and women who have been involved in carrying out torture.

Because the Obama administration has failed to close Guantanamo and the U.S. continues to imprison and interrogate thousands of captives at military prisons in Afghanistan, Iraq and places unknown, we renew our call for civilian, human-rights centered oversight of all interrogation training and practice.

Ft. Huachuca is also implicated in the rapidly expanding, legally questionable and morally reprehensible use of remotely-piloted aircraft, or drones, as a weapon of war. We're told that currently the Army only trains for the operation and maintenance of reconnaissance and surveillance drones at Ft. Huachuca. But we also know that the Army plans to weaponize some of these same drones.

Drone attacks have killed many more innocent civilians in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan and elsewhere, than alleged terrorists. The U.N. Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial Executions has asked whether the use of drones in targeting terrorists to be killed constitutes "arbitrary extrajudicial executions," or rogue assassinations in violation of international law. We are here today to call for an end to the use of armed drones in warfare. We believe this terrorizing and killing generates deep resentment in the region that incites hatred for the U.S., boosts recruitment for Taliban, Al Qaeda and other terrorist groups, and may spawn decades of retaliation.

We act in solidarity with the campaign to close the School of the Americas/Western Hemispheric Institute for Security Cooperation at Ft. Benning, Georgia, where the testimony of torture survivors has informed our outrage and moved us to action. We also act in solidarity with people in New York protesting the presence of Reaper drones at a NY Air National Guard base outside of Syracuse today.

Rogue assassinations and torture have damaged the soul of our nation and tarnished our image around the world. We know that a world without torture, without violence and without war is possible. We invite you to help us create that world.


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author by 27 on Trial in D.C.publication date Thu Jun 10, 2010 13:11author address author phone


Twenty-Seven to Go on Trial for Protesting the Obama Administration’s
Failure to Close Guantanamo, Plan for Indefinite Detention, and
Refusal to Prosecute Torture

WASHINGTON, D.C. — On Monday, June 14 twenty-seven will face trial
stemming from arrests at the U.S. Capitol on January 21, 2010 — the
date by which President Obama had promised the closure of the
Guantanamo detention camp. The human rights activists will hold a
press conference outside the courthouse defending their protest,
condemning the Obama administration’s continuation of Bush policies,
and explaining their use in court of the “necessity defense.” The
press conference will be held Monday, June 14th at 8:30 am, across
from the Federal District Courthouse (333 Constitution Avenue, NW).

On January 21, twenty-seven people dressed as Guantanamo prisoners
were arrested on the steps of the Capitol holding banners reading
“Broken Promises, Broken Laws, Broken Lives.” Inside the Capitol
Rotunda, at the location where deceased presidents lie in state,
fourteen activists were arrested performing a memorial service for
three men who died at Guantanamo in 2006. Initially reported as
suicides, the deaths may have been — as recent evidence suggests — the
result of the men being tortured to death (see Scott Horton, “Murders
at Guantanamo, March 2010, Harpers).

“The continued operation of the prison camp at Guantanamo is
unacceptable,” Matthew W. Daloisio of Witness Against Torture. “If
Guantanamo was a foreign policy liability and stain on the rule of law
on day one of the Obama presidency, it surely is eighteen months

“The deaths at Guantanamo show how barbaric US policies have been,”
says Helen Schietinger, a defendant in the trial. “We are still
waiting for accountability for those who designed and carried out
torture policies under President Bush. Obama can’t restore the rule
of law if he doesn’t enforce the law.”

The human rights activists plan to mount a “necessity defense” before
Judge Russell Canan. “We will be arguing that we broke the law only
after exhausting all legal means of opposing a much larger crime—the
indefinite detention, mistreatment, and torture of men at Guantanamo
and other US prisons,” says Jerica Arents of Chicago, Illinois,
another the defendants.

The January protests were the culmination of a twelve-day fast for
justice and an end to torture organized by Witness Against Torture in
Washington, DC. More than 100 people participated in the fast and
daily actions throughout the nation’s Capital.

Witness Against Torture formed in December 2005 when twenty-five
activists walked to Guantanamo to visit the prisoners and condemn
torture policies. Since then, it has engaged in public education,
community outreach, and non-violent civil disobedience. To learn more

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author by 27 acquitted in D.C. - Witness Against Torturepublication date Tue Jun 15, 2010 07:37author address Washington D.C. phone

Witness Against Torture
Acquittal: no convictions in Jan 21 civil disobedience case

Saying that "In my opinion, the defendants were not properly charged
in this case," D.C. Superior Court Judge Russell Canan today acquitted
24 activists of unlawful assembly in connection with civil
disobedience this past January 21 at the U.S. Capitol

In coordinated protests against America's continuing policies of
indefinite detention at the Guantanamo prison, some of the activists
had stood on the Capitol steps dressed in orange jumpsuits and black
hoods, many wearing the names of current detainees cleared for release
on their backs, holding signs reading “Broken Promises, Broken Laws,
Broken Lives.” Other activists had gone into the Capitol Rotunda,
where presidents lay in state, to hold a memorial service for three
detainees who died at Guantanamo in the spot in the Rotunda where
presidents lay in state.

Judge Canan found that the prosecution had not proved the charges of
unlawful assembly filed against the defendants, while suggesting that
charges of "unlawful entry" or "disrupting Congress" might have been

To this observer, the judge seemed to bend over backwards to find
fault with the charges filed. Lawyer Bill Quigley, who advised the
defendants, said, "In my opinion, the judge found a way to validate
the spirit of the protestors, and their struggle against the injustice
of Guantanamo."

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