Posts Tagged ‘torture’

We Must Close Guantanamo and Stop Torture

February 15, 2012

We have always known at some level of consciousness from the opening of the prison at Guantanamo, but since the release of some of the prisoners we know for sure that the US tortures them.  Below are damning sections of a report by Marjorie Cohn, former president of the National Lawyers Guild and fierce advocate for human rights:

“Although the Convention Against Torture, a treaty the United States has ratified, forbids the use of coercion under any circumstances to obtain information, prisoners released from Guantánamo have detailed assaults, prolonged shackling in uncomfortable positions, sexual abuse, and threats with dogs.  Mustafa Ait Idr, an Algerian citizen who was living in Bosnia when he was sent to Guantánamo, charged that U.S. military guards jumped on his head, resulting in a stroke that paralyzed his face. They also broke several of his fingers and nearly drowned him in a toilet. Mohammed Sagheer, a Pakistani cleric, claimed the wardens at Guantánamo used drugs “that made us senseless.” French citizen Mourad Benchellali, released from Guantánamo in July 2004, said, “I cannot describe in just a few lines the suffering and the torture; but the worst aspect of being at the camp was the despair, the feeling that whatever you say, it will never make a difference.”  Benchellali added, “There is unlimited cruelty in a system that seems to be unable to free the innocent and unable to punish the guilty.”

Prisoners kneeling in the sun

“Australian lawyer Richard Bourke, who has represented many of the men incarcerated at Guantánamo, charged that prisoners have been subjected to “good old-fashioned torture, as people would have understood it in the Dark Ages.” According to Bourke, “One of the detainees had described being taken out and tied to a post and having rubber bullets fired at them. They were being made to kneel cruciform in the sun until they collapsed.” Abdul Rahim Muslimdost, an Afghan who was released from Guantánamo in April 2005, said he suffered “indescribable torture” there.

“U.S. and international bodies have verified reports of torture and abuse.  Physicians for Human Rights found that “the United States has been engaged in systematic psychological torture of Guantánamo detainees” at least since 2002. FBI agents saw female interrogators forcibly squeeze male prisoners’ genitals and witnessed detainees stripped and shackled low to the floor for many hours. In February 2006, the United Nations Human Rights Commission reported that the violent force-feeding of detainees by the U.S. military at Guantánamo amounts to torture.”

Read the entire article here.

Will you turn away from these horrors or take responsibility and work to stop them?  I hold citizenship in a country that tortures people.  I cannot act as though this does not concern me. I join with others to protest and demand the end to torture by the US.

Lena spoke with old friends in France recently when she was there.  She said that they had seen news reports on that country’s media about the protest in Washington, DC on the anniversary of the opening of the torture camp at Guantanamo in January.  The US media, handmaidens of the ruling elite here, did not cover that event.  It is up to us to make these crimes against humanity by the US known and to resist them.

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Ed Reports on Washington Action

January 18, 2012

World Can’t Wait Contingent from NYC just off the bus, Ed is on the front row far left, camera in hand, ready to go!

So, I went down to our nation’s capital (second time, since High School field trip in ’84) to cover the 10th Anniversary of the Guantanamo Bay prison camp, and it was a pretty eye-opening experience.  Didn’t know too much about it, as our press doesn’t cover it, for obvious reasons:  There are innocent (our government even admits they’re innocent) people being tortured and detained in GITMO – being held there with no habeas corpus rights, no evidence, no trial – nothing.  And to make matters worse, Obama just signed a law, stating that the Federal Govt. now has the right to do this to American Citizens!  Isn’t this supposed to be a free country?  Why does the press not cover this and why is every single attorney and citizen not up in arms about this?  Gotta wonder.  Well, all walks of American life were out there in the rain letting their voices be heard, and here’s the footage…

Click here for Guantanamo Bay Protest in DC, January 11, 2012

Still from the video of Street Theater Before the Big March

and here for GITMO Spoken Word and Dance Protest

CCR Advocate about to read a poem by one of the Prisoners

and here for Andy Worthington and Other Protesters at Supreme Court

Other film stills showing people of all ages who participated

Ed’s Film of Andy on the Steps of the Supreme Court

January 16, 2012

Since there is precious little coverage of the protest last Wednesday, the 10th anniversary of the opening of the torture camp at Guantanamo, it is especially important for me to share the film Ed Haas made of the event.  Here is a link to remarks by Andy Worthington foremost authority on the prisoners at Guantanamo, from the steps of the Supreme Court Building.

Andy Worthington

See Andy’s new website here.

Close Guantanamo Protest, Jan. 11, 2012

January 13, 2012

We gathered at Lafayette Park across from the White House, protesters from all over who were determined on the date of the beginning of the 11th year of the infamous torture camp at Guantanamo Bay to see it closed.  Our group had gotten on the bus in New York at 6:30am to get there.

Speakers, including Col. Morris Davis, ret. who was a prosecutor at the prison and has denounced it, reminded us briefly of the horrors there and of the blight on the US of establishing and continuing this and other torture centers throughout the world.  It was cold and raining, but we were not daunted.  Many of us donned the orange jumpsuits that the prisoners wear.  We wanted to be as brightly visible to the people in Washington, DC as the prisoners are to their guards.

After a stop in front of the White House …

… we began a  long march of over two miles through the city to the Supreme Court Building.

Crossing the street to head up to the Supreme Court

We were noisy and spirited in spite of the weather.  “Hey, hey, ho, ho, Guantanamo has got to go!”  “What do we want?  Human rights!  When do we want them? Now?”  were chanted all along the way.

Some of our youngest protesters leading the chants

The World Can’t Wait contingent had two big banners that proclaimed to passers by and motorists just exactly what we demand.

We stopped at the Department of Justice to chant, “What do we want? Justice.  When do we want it? Now!”  and “Shame! Shame!”  Then we continued on.

Marching to the Supreme Court

When we finally got to the Supreme Court building, 171 protesters, representing the remaining prisoners at the Guantanamo torture camp, stood on the steps.

On the Steps of the Supreme Court

A few people who have been instrumental in the movement to close the camp and lawyers who have fought for the rights of the prisoners made brief remarks.

Debra Sweet told us we were there because we are “not adjusted to injustice,” earning a big cheer.

Debra Sweet, Director of The World Can’t Wait

I silently made a vow never to get adjusted to it.

Lots of people made photographs with digital cameras and cell phones in addition to some alternative media sources and filmmakers like Ed Haas whose film produced the stills on this post.

Andy Worthington, world authority on and advocate for the prisoners

One of the lawyers read a poem by her client, a prisoner whom the US has declared never to have been engaged in any violence much less against this country and who has endured torture and indefinite imprisonment for ten long years with no end in sight.  It was a tragic cry of desperation: will he ever see his children, his wife, his parents again?  It was my very great privilege to have been asked to dance as she read.

Some of the lawyers from the Center for Constitutional Rights who are at Guantanamo right now had called to let their colleagues know that the prisoners were aware we were protesting and had taken heart from that.  They were protesting, too, with a hunger strike on January 10, 11, and 12 and a sit down strike for those allowed to move about.  Not all of them are in that category.  I hated thinking about both the conditions of those others and the possible retribution for all of them.  I can only admire their continuing courage and humanity.

Union  Station where we were to get back on the bus was only a few blocks from the Supreme Court.  When the proceedings were over, we walked down to board the bus for the long ride home, cold, wet, and tired, but very glad to have been at this historic protest.  We have done what we could to

CLOSE GUANTANAMO NOW.

See Ed Haas’s film footage here.

Go to Closeguantanamo.org to join with others to close down this heinous torture camp.

The Prisoners Know

January 13, 2012

Word came today from Andy Worthington that the prisoners at Guantanamo know that there will be protests in Washington and other cities in the US and around the world to close Guantanamo tomorrow, January 11, the beginning of the 11th year of that torture camp.  They are going to protest also.

If they, who risk very serious repercussions indeed, are willing to protest, let us all make an effort.  If you cannot be at one of the planned actions, you can make a sign on a sheet of paper saying CLOSE QUANTANAMO NOW! and pin it to your clothes or hang it around your neck.

These prisoners, only a few of whom may have used violence against the US, have endured enough and the prison is a great disgrace to the US.  We can demand it be shut down.

Will you do that now?

My next report will be when I get back from Washington.

And I didn’t speak, because I wasn’t a ….

December 24, 2011

At this moment I am on a train stopped in Rochester with a border patrol officer hassling an English speaking national of another country in the seat behind me.  It is 11:30 at night, the car lights are dim, people are resting, some were sleeping.  We have been violently jerked awake and alert; the tension is very high in what had been a peaceful car.  No one of us makes a sound.  The poor young man is hauled off to custody for not having proper identification.  The young woman who sat beside him did have the right things and remains with us.

I had just signed on and was going to quote German pastor Martin Niemöller for another reason.  It seems fortuitous that I had found this statement before the officer burst in.

First they came for the communists,
and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a communist.

Then they came for the trade unionists,
and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a trade unionist.

Then they came for the Jews,
and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a Jew.

Then they came for me
and there was no one left to speak out for me

I felt during the incident as though I should have risen to the defense of this young man.  I do not have the skills to do that, nor the community of the occupation that Bonnie speaks about below.  I feel terrible.  I don’t know what would have happened if I had risen to his defense; probably nothing but that I, too, would have been arrested.

I just had a conversation with the two men next to me, one of whom, a professional photographer, had gotten to Liberty Square at 6am on the morning of the threatened eviction when Bonnie and I had been there all night.  The other, a student in Albany, had been there for a short time to support the movement.  The older man does not share my rage about this treatment of human beings, including the rest of the people on this train; he says I don’t know anything about the young well spoken man who was just hauled off. I replied that I know he is a human being and so are all of us.   The younger one says he shares my feelings, including that of helplessness and impotence in the face of this act of repression.

In a country where extra-judicial imprisonment and torture of anyone, anywhere is “legal,” the arrest of someone in this circumstance could be very serious.  Indeed, none of us is safe from this and we delude ourselves if we think we are.

I want to quote now from Bonnie’s article as I had intended to.  It is  about a different world that is already emerging, one where people resist police repression together.  She reports first hand of an incident at OWS:
“After Bloomberg’s shameless and violent paramilitary crackdown in the dead of night on OWS in Zuccotti Park last month, I attended the general assembly meeting there the night after. I was awed by the resilient communal spirit of the occupiers facillitating and attending the meeting.

“Suddenly there was a disturbing distraction to the proceedings. Some occupiers were sitting on top of a wall ledge on the south edge of the park. A few overzealous police officers were ordering them to get down. To my mind it seemed gratuitous power-flexing by the police.

“After hundreds of NYC Occupiers were roughed up and/or arrested, their tents and personal items damaged or destroyed, and metal barricades erected around every last inch of the encampment’s borders, with that night only four police-monitored entrances available, in which each entrant was carefully inspected (for sleeping bags?) while going in and clandestinely, no doubt, had his or her photo taken. After hundreds of occupiers now had to find alternative sleeping accommodations this ‘get off the ledge’ power dictum to a tiny cluster of peaceful occupiers seemed insult to injury.

“A young man near me began to aim a stream of expletives at one aggressive officer hassling a young woman in particular. I inhaled worriedly, sure that his provocation would not bode well for the individuals in direct line of police engagement. Would one hot head cop and one hot head occupier derail the civilized Occupation community this evening tending to its vital and noble business?

“Suddenly an attractive dark-haired young woman stood up on the ledge, cupped her hands around her mouth and queried loudly, ‘Should I get down from the wall?’ I twisted my head to view the crowd of occupiers behind me re-chanting her message earnestly but without inflated hysteria. How empowering for her and all of us was that rhetorical ritual! She would not get down unless called to by her Occupy community.

“I looked back to the feisty young woman and had to blink. Every inch of the ledge was suddenly — it seemed automatically — filled with bodies defiantly sitting. Had there been a lot more sitters all along and I had not registered them, or, more likely, had countless occupiers hastened to the wall to join the woman and her comrades? The message of this passionately bonded proactive community was clear, if she were to be forcibly removed and arrested so would they all be. I’d call it a ‘checkmate’ moment for the police.

“I was awed by the display of loyalty as well as savvy.

“The most aggressive policeman was clearly enraged by the dazzling dynamic and seemed all the more motivated to force the issue, but four of his fellow officers were backing away, encouraging him to let it go.

“I exhaled, believing that was the end of it. But from the front of the meeting, a message was chanted back to us that the meeting may be momentarily terminated. Again, no strident messaging. The voice of calm, conveying ‘Please stand by, we will handle this as we have handled so much already. More maturely than we have been treated, certainly.’ The police apparently were deciding if the wall incident should be used by them for more broadscale power-flexing.

“The meeting was allowed to go on. A meeting that was taking care of business. The business of finding sleeping accommodations for 300 people, which they did, informing people where they could go to retrieve whatever remnants of their personal possessions had not been destroyed by the violent police, informing the community of the status of their fellow occupiers who had been arrested, and sharing and soliciting preliminary plans for further action.”

You can read Bonnie’s full article here.

Thank you, Bonnie, for putting your body on the line with the OWS movement and for reporting on it.  Thank you to all the courageous, smart, committed occupiers who are showing us that another world is possible.

I don’t know what would have happened in this train car if I had asked my fellow passengers if I should rise to defend the young man.  The time did not seem right to try to find out, so I didn’t.  I long for the day when anyone could ask and know that the mass of other people would respond wisely and courageously  in such a situation.

Torture, Police Brutality, and Dehumanization

November 22, 2011

Though my focus both professionally and personally has been on the prisoners at Guantanamo Bay for almost a year, the Occupy Wall Street movement, which has changed the discourse in this country, has impacted my life as well.  I find myself on the streets with the occupiers and others to address the economic and social issues that are behind all the US depredations, including torture, within this country and abroad.

Since OWS calls attention to the complete failure and illegitimacy of the current social-political-economic system in the US, the occupiers are not focusing specifically on the wars and torture, but, with their skillful use of independent media including a twenty-four hour online broadcasting network, they are showing the world the brutality of militarized police state repression in the US.  The same things that led to US torture of prisoners of war obtain in torture of prisoners in the US and in the militarization and brutality of police here now.

They are forcing the New York City administration to show itself in its true colors: the servants and protectors of the corporate empire that has brought the people of this country and the world to economic distress and increasing loss of freedom, rights and dignity.  The NYPD leads signally, though the police of other cities compete well.

Below is a film still of deputy inspector Johnny Cardona punching a protestor in the face and another photograph.

Johnny Cardona hitting a protester in the face: video here

Cardona

Though NYPD commissioner Ray Kelly, implies that Mr. Rivera-Pitre was at fault. This report says it appears Cardona punched Rivera-Pitre in the face in response to a “look,” and was protesting with others.

For quite some time, it has been risky to “look” askance at a police officer or to join with others in protest.  A review of entries on this blog alone alone, especially during the Republican national convention in 2008, for instance, or media coverage before this blog existed of the 2004 convention in this city,  will give ample evidence of what police here and in other cities have been doing to peaceful protesters regularly.

Philadelphia Police Captain (ret) Ray Lewis

On Liberty Square yesterday, I met the retired police Captain Ray Lewis from Philadelphia  who joined OWS, was arrested last Thursday, and stays with the Occupation, continuing to support them and engage in civil disobedience.  He spent time with me, encouraging me to continue to suggest to police officers that they join us on our side of the barriers where they really belong.  But as people gathered around us, he began talking about how to deal with the police–standing up and walking away as opposed to “going limp” when arrested, for instance.  He said it makes the police work much harder when they have to carry someone away, causing resentment among them.  He said that police do not mind civil disobedience itself, but they do mind protesters making their work hard.

I see his point of view, but some may prefer making a statement.   The job of protesters is not to facilitate the work of the police.

How is all this related to the torture of prisoners at Guantanamo (and in Bagram and the Black Sites and of US prisoners in jails and prisons…)?  A huge effort especially since September 11, 2001, by US leaders of government and media serving the corporate empire has created the idea of “enemies” who are not like “us,” not entitled to the rights of human beings like us, in short not human.  They use skillful propaganda that makes the Nazi sort look crude; and they attach it to notions of public safety and supposed threats.  The corporate media have fed this diet of lies continuously to the US public for a decade in the context of media blackout about what is really happening.

Finally, with the advent of Occupy Wall Street, there are more people willing to challenge it.  Fortunately, too, OWS is endowed with its own skillful users of media who are able to get truth out to the world.  When we were handfuls of people on Foley Square crying out against torture and war, we were negligible.  We were watched, of course, and herded behind barriers, but I never saw a beating.  Police brutality was mostly reserved for young people of color and “Muslims” in targeted neighborhoods.  Now, there are many people challenging the whole system in public squares all over the country, and via media of all kinds.  They not only chant “the whole world is watching,” they are making certain that it is.

Statements by officials reveal what the “government” is doing about Constitutional rights.  Obama, a Harvard educated lawyer, said publicly that Bradley Manning, accused of leaking information to Wikileaks, “broke the law.”  That was about a year ago and Manning has not yet been tried.  He should be presumed innocent.  Worse, Obama issues orders to kill people anywhere in the world without any form of legal process.  Raymond Kelly says that it is okay for one of his officers to hit a person in the face if he looks at an officer and is part of a protest.

The treatment of Guantanamo prisoners was not televised, so few of us know about their dehumanization. But those prisoners have been deprived of any semblance of their rights under US and international law, are presumed guilty, and are tortured and continue to be deprived of their freedom.  Anyone that the police, the military, the mayor, the governor, or the president doesn’t like is now without rights.  We are all not human when they decide we are not.  It is chilling that most of the people in Guantanamo, those already released and those still held, are entirely innocent of any violence against the US or anyone.  These men have been tortured because the US government officials said they should be.

Do not be deceived; the same things that drive US torture drive the police brutality.  None of us is safe from this

More Evidence, If Any Were Needed

October 30, 2011

Speaking at a human rights conference at Bard College, retired US air force colonel Morris Davis, the former chief prosecutor at the Guantanamo Bay torture camp who resigned in protest, described the interrogation of prisoners as torture.

Retired Colonel Morris Davis

As reported by the Guardian today, Davis said that military personnel had been ordered to use unlawful procedures by civilian politicians.

Ultimately, he resigned and has spoken out against these practices.  It is worthy of noting that military personnel have also spoken with Scott Horton, the lawyer and journalist who broke the story of the “suicides” at the torture camp which could not possibly have been suicides.

Davis, who had been judge advocate for the US Air Force and is an expert on the law of war, is now the executive director and counsel for the Crimes of War project based in Washington.  He challenges not only the torture of prisoners in Guantanamo and other US black sites, but the notion of a “war on terror.”

The conference at Bard College was organized because the 10th anniversary of Bush’s executive order to establish military commissions to try terrorist suspects is November 13th.

Ten years of this torture is enough.  No More Torture is my cry.

Said al-Busayss: Cleared But Still Imprisoned

October 25, 2011

Said al-Busayss, from Yemen, went in 2000 to Afghanistan to help the Taliban government defend itself from the contast attack by other warlords in the country in the ongoing conflicts.  He was trained there and sent to the front lines.

When the US invaded,  Said al-Busayss was given the option of staying or escaping to Pakistan and he decided on the latter.  He gave up his weapon there and was arrested, no doubt sold to the US for bounty really, by the border authorities.

Again and again, it is necessary to repeat that there is no evidence Said al-Busayss ever fought against the US, who were after all the invaders in this country.  There is no evidence that he did any harm to the US in any way at any time.  At the end of the conflict with the US, even if he had been fighting agaisnt it, he should have been released.  And, of course, he should not have been tortured, but treated humanely.

Instead, Said al-Busayss has been tortured, sent half way around the world and kept in the Guantanamo torture camp, even though he was cleared at a military hearing at the prison there during the Bush regime. Many other prisoners like him have long since gone home, but Said al-Busayss is till in prison.  He must be released and indemnified.

Adham Mohammed Ali Awad

October 25, 2011

Gossamer Thin.  Would you want to be imprisoned indefinitely without charge on gossamer thin grounds?  What would that feel like to you?  Especially if you had been captured at age 19, tortured, transported to a hell on earth far from your home and family, and it is now a decade later?

These are the circumstances of Adman Mohammed Ali Awad.  From Yemen, he says he traveled to Afghanistan to visit a Muslim country, according to Andy Worthington’s account which you can read here, in September  2001. Worthington continues, that he said he “‘was injured and knocked unconscious during an air raid while walking through a market in Kandahar.’ When he woke up in the hospital, he said, he discovered that he had lost his right foot, ‘that he was heavily medicated, floated in and out of consciousness, slept constantly, and could barely sit up.’ He added that he ‘remained in this condition until his capture.’”

Against this statement are the usual wild and unsubstantiated allegations about Adham Mohammed Ali Awar, perhaps exacted under torture from another prisoner or given by bounty hunters at the time of his capture at the hospital.  In a horrible perversion of justice, US judge James Robertson said that the case against Awad was “gossimer thin,” “The evidence is of a kind fit only for these unique proceedings and has very little weight.”

Why are the proceedings “unique?”  Why does law not count in these circumstances?  What is the legal reason for suspending the legal system?  The fact that the law is suspended in Guantanamo and other black sites around the world has led, inevitably, to the suspension of the law elsewhere.  Now Obama claims to and does execute US citizens without any legal proceedings.   Let us not delude ourselves that the law will continue to be suspended any time it is convenient and anywhere.

In fact, Adham Mohammed Ali Awad is another of the men who languish in a living death in the Guantanamo torture camp without valid legal cause. He has never been charged nor tried. He is illegally and unjustly imprisoned with no hope of being released.

Can we not see that until he is free, none of us is safe from such extra-judicial treatment?  I have grandsons nearly his age when captured.  How would I feel if one of them, visiting a foreign country, were hurt, hospitalized, and turned over to an invading country to be tortured and imprisoned for over a decade with no end in sight?  Can we not act to make this right, not just for Adham Mohammed Ali Awad, but for all of us?  How does this relate to the hundreds of thousands of young men in New York city who are stopped and frisked and abused by the police every year on no grounds?  How does it relate to the largest prison population in the world, in which torture is also practiced, in the US itself?  Can we not see the erosion of rights in the US?  Can we not connect the dots from here to Guantanamo?

Adham Mohammed Ali Awad must be freed and indemnified.