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What we learned touring Close Guantanamo NOW


By War Criminals Watch - Posted on 24 January 2014

by Debra Sweet         5 years ago yesterday Obama signed an executive order to close Guantanamo. But the Obama administration is still making arguments in US federal court, and to the public that indefinite detention is necessary in Bagram, Afghanistan, as well as other places. From Guantanamo and beyond: indefinite detention and other forms of torture are wrong and must be stopped!

Andy Worthington's back in London now. But for 12 days, the Close Guantanamo NOW Tour, featuring Andy, visited New York City, Washington DC, the SF Bay Area and Los Angeles area, meeting with groups of people and speaking to students who wanted to learn more and do something to shut down the prison at Guantanamo. View videos, read reports and press coverage.

 



Almost 1,000 people in groups smaller and larger at these gatherings had the opportunity to hear first-hand from the world's foremost expert on the infamous prison and the human beings who have been held and tortured there for so long. He and other participants in the tour appeared on nationally syndicated progressive and mainstream radio shows. Students at Stanford University, Hastings College of Law, and Cal Poly Pomona (in an assembly of approximately 240) learned from Andy and other experts about the illegal prison their government opened when many of them were only 7 years old.

The Close Guantanamo NOW Tour also participated in dramatic and powerful protest actions in DC on the anniversary of the prison's opening. The documentary Doctors of the Darkside was shown four times, provoking intense discussion about the how medical professionals could have colluded with torture, including forced feeding and water-boarding. These doctors have remained unaccountable - just yesterday the American Psychological Association announced it was declining to rebuke psychologist John Leso, who participated in the brutal "interrogations" of a prisoner in 2002.

This tour was exactly the kind outreach we need to step up, challenging people to act on their belief that "America lives are not more important than other lives."

Monday morning, public radio KALW host Rose Aguilar devoted an entire hour broadcast on Your Call, the excellent news feature show. The panel was Andy Worthington, joined via phone interview by CCR Guantanamo attorney Ramzi Kassem, and Sharon Adams, chair of the Committee Against Torture of the San Francisco National Lawyers Guild (and now its Vice-President).

Listen to the show here.

 

One of the comments made by Ramzi is worth quoting at length. He was asked about the total “cost” of Guantanamo, and answered this way:

“My preference is to focus on the costs borne by the main victims of US policy at Guantanamo, and that's the prisoners, their families, and their communities. I think it's important to mention their families and communities because they also suffer from the single unchanged fact which has defined GTMO since 2002, which is not knowing whether they will ever be reunited with their loved ones...They are in the situation of not knowing when or if they will ever get out. That actually constitutes torture. Torture as understood by international law experts and… recognized medical experts is psychological torture... One of the most important forms of psychological torture is these prisoners have to deal with that reality of not knowing whether or not they will ever get out...

“Looking beyond Guantanamo, we know for a fact that torture is not only still taking place, but that it is openly embraced by the Obama administration as a valid policy option. We know that because when President Obama signed that executive order making it illegal for US government agencies to rely on enhanced interrogation techniques [from 1/22/09], what he said in that order…  was that US government agencies can conduct interrogations consistent with the US Army Field Manual, which defines permissible interrogation techniques to be used in military interrogations. The devil is in the details, and it was amended in 2006. There's something called Appendix M which allows for sleep deprivation, stress positions, and a number of other techniques taken in isolation or taken together amount to torture under international law and according to multiple recognized medical experts...

“…[T]he US govt has been picking up people, sometimes at sea, sometimes from other places like Libya, holding them on US military ships for a while, that period of time has stretched from weeks to months, interrogating them there, presumably using techniques from Appendix M, and only then bringing them over to the to the United States for trial. So torture is very much a part of our reality today, and it’s still ‘on the books’ so to speak.”


A prime example of who Guantanamo has victimized: Shaker Aamer is the last remaining British resident at Guantanamo. He was been cleared for release in 2007. He has long been an advocate for his rights and the rights of other prisoners at Guantanamo, and is reported to be back on hunger strike after striking off and on for almost all of 2013. He was featured in the full-page ad World Can't Wait placed in the New York Times last May.

Shaker Aamer


 

Outside Stanford

Thanks to everyone who donated to make this tour possible, and spread the word to your friends, family and online. With the help of 34 donors on the Indiegogo campaign and an even larger number of donors who pitched in at events, we were able to surpass the $2500 goal and make this tour possible.

Thank you also to all the participants and hosts for the panels, protests, media appearances, and more: Andy Worthington, Todd Pierce, Steven Reisner, Ray McGovern, Jeff Kaye, Michael Kearns, Jason Leopold, Ramzi Kassem, Martha Davis, Sharon Adams, Eric Sapp, Adam Hudson. Dennis Bernstein, Michael Slate, Rose Aguilar, Margaret Prescod, Hadar Aviram, Hastings chapters of the National Lawyers Guild and the American Constitution Society, the Hastings Race and Poverty Law Journal, Stanford Says No To War, Progressive Christians at Stanford,  Jolie DePauw, Catherine Watters, the Peace Task Force of All Souls Church, Festival Center, Stanford University, Revolution Books Berkeley, Holman United Methodist Church, Revolution Books Los Angeles, Anaheim Unitarian Church, Immanuel Presbyterian Church, Cal Poly Pomona, Hastings College of Law, ICUJP in Los Angeles, and many more.


 

 Read reports and watch videos from the Close Guantanamo NOW Tour.  

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