Guantanamo Bay prison protest marks shameful anniversaryBy Nisa Islam Muhammad -Staff Writer- | Last updated: Jan 21, 2013 - 12:41:59 PM
With the White House behind them, human rights organizations urged President Barack Obama to keep his promise and shut down the detention facility. The coalition demanded Jan. 11 that the U.S. government either release men still detained or charge them and give them a fair trial.
“President Obama promised to close Guantanamo and end the United States’ unlawful detention practices. Instead, he pivoted 180 degrees and embraced the policies initiated by his predecessor,” said Frank Jannuzi, of Amnesty International, one of the protest sponsors.
“By codifying indefinite detention, continuing military commission trials, failing to ensure accountability for abuses and otherwise ignoring the United States’ international legal obligations, the president has further entrenched the deeds he once criticized as immoral and illegal. In his final term, President Obama should keep the promise he made on his second day in office and close Guantanamo for good.”
Activists began with a rally in front of the Supreme Court, then marched down Pennsylvania Avenue to the southeast corner of the Ellipse for a vigil. Similar events occurred in Chicago, Dallas, Detroit, Los Angeles, Miami and London.
“I’m from Chicago and a member of Witness Against Torture. I’m involved with this because I think its moral suicide for our country and for the Obama administration to leave men locked in a prison cell without charge or trial,” Joshua Boller told The Final Call.
“I came here personally this year because a detainee, Adnan Latif, who died in his cell after being locked away at Guantanamo for 10 years without being charged was cleared for release by the Bush administration, and was cleared by the Obama administration but was never released. This year he was found dead in his cell. So that’s a personal reason that I’m here this year to protest that,” he explained.
Participants called on the Obama administration and Congress to uphold the rule of law. During the events, activists wore orange jumpsuits, held a myriad of signs and other visuals calling for closure of the detention center.
“The continued use of the prison at Guantánamo Bay challenges our nation’s commitment to the rule of law and worsens our international reputation. For the past four years Congress has repeatedly maneuvered to prevent the president from closing this illegal prison, prosecuting its detainees, or transferring them. The Council on American-Islamic Relations urges the president to close the Guantánamo prison once and for all as he promised to do in his first year in office,” said Corey Saylor, of the Council on American-Islamic Relations.
This year’s crowd was noticeably smaller than last year’s crowd of nearly 1,000.
“I just think there is so much going on in America that people often forget about the men detained in Guantanamo. We can’t forget about them. They are just languishing there. Last year we had the Occupy Movement and people were sensitive to the plight of others who comprise the 99 Percent,” David Harris from Baltimore told The Final Call.
“This year we don’t have that movement to keep us conscious. We are the faithful few here today. But just because there are small numbers doesn’t mean the problem is any less gigantic. These are people’s lives that have been halted by America’s quest for power and domination. Charge them with a crime or let the people go.”
Participating organizations included Bill of Rights Defense Committee, CloseGuantanamo.Org, Code Pink, International Justice Network, No More Guantánamos, North Carolina Stop Torture Now, Witness Against Torture, Women Against Military Madness, and World Can’t Wait.
Speakers at the rally and vigil included Terry Rockefeller of September 11th Families for Peaceful Tomorrows; Ramzi Kassem, an attorney for several men detained at Guantanamo and Debra Sweet, director of World Can’t Wait.
Col. Morris D. Davis, former Office of Military Commissions chief prosecutor, once directed overall prosecutions for United States military commissions and was the third prosecutor at Guantanamo Bay. He resigned because of what was going on and retired from the military.
“It is 2013, Guantanamo is still open and too many people have fallen silent. We expected leadership when President Obama took office not a spine like Gumby that we’ve seen on him standing up to torture at Guantanamo and restoring our reputation. So, I’m encouraged that you’re out here on another cold, dreary Jan. 11. Hopefully it won’t be necessary to come back next year because President Obama in his second term will keep the promise he made in 2008.”
Protesters want the Obama administration to also end cases against publicly cleared detainees, including Shaker Aamer and Djamel Ameziane; end indefinite detention and remove detention provisions from the National Defense Authorization Act; end unlawful killings with drones and other weapons; and ensure accountability for torture and other abuses.
Free from Guantanamo, Uighur nationalists meet with Min. Farrakhan (FCN, 08-08-2009)