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Festival of Conscience is being run in conjunction with the play, "Another Life", about the collective trauma post-9/11, greed, war and the ensuing U.S. torture program. Both events are produced by Theater Three Collaborative, Inc. in residence at the Irondale Center, Fort Greene, Brooklyn; March 8-24, 2012.
The goal of this three-week series is to foster meaningful dialogues across disciplines to address the most pressing questions facing us today: What kind of nation have we become? What kind of country do we want to be?
Festival of Conscience Calendar of Events
Darius Rejali presents: Torture & Democracy
Thursday, March 8
One of the United States foremost experts on torture discusses his latest book, Torture and Democracy, whichwon the 2007 Human Rights Book of the Year Award from the American Political Science Association, and the state of the US torture program ten years after 9/11.
Blackwater Revisited, Conversations of Privatization, Torture, and War From the Front Lines
Friday, March 9
From the front lines in the fight against Blackwater and Abu Ghraib, lawyer Susan Burke, who brought suits against private contracting firms for their role in the torture program, and Donovan Webster, journalist and author who accompanied Susan to Iraq to take testimony from torture survivors talk about their experience.
Tortured and Torturers
Saturday, March 10
Tortured and torturers: a contrasting discussion on how soldiers came to torture, and the consequences for both the victims and the perpetrators. The event will feature Zeke Johnson, National Security Director of Amnesty International and Joshua Phillips, author of None of Us Were Like This Before: Americans Soldiers and Torture, the story of American soldiers who tortured in Iraq.
Faith and Terror, Part 1
Tuesday, March 13
Religious leaders, journalists and activists come together for a two-part discussion about consciousness, belief, torture, and resistance. Join the National Religious Campaign Against Torture’s Director of Program Coordination John Humphries and New York St. Mary’s Episcopal Reverent Earl Kooperkamp for dialogue about faith, torture, and the religious communities response to torture and war in the shadow of 9/11.
South of the Constitution: Ten Years at Guantanamo
Wednesday, March 14
Lawyers representing Guantanamo detainees and Amnesty International discuss and debate Guantanamo today. The event features Tom Parker, National Security Director, Amnesty International, DC, and Baher Azmy, Legal Director for the Center for Constitutional Rights.
Thursday, March 15
Activists and authors discuss the intersections of torture, militarism, and the prison-industrial complex.
The War On Terror Comes Home
Friday, March 16
Lawyers, family members, and community leaders discuss how the war on terror has affected Arab Americans, and what is being done to change it. Leading the evening is Pardiss Kebriaei, a lawyer with the Center for Constitutional Rights currently working against the backlash of the domestic war on terror.
Occupy Movement Presents: A History of Non-Violent Resistance
Saturday, March 17
The Occupy Movement premiere a new documentary on the history of nonviolent resistance created for Occupy by videographer Paul McIsaac, plus performance by the high school students from Bedford-Stuyvesant’s Bailey’s Café arts initiative.
Women and Resistance
Tuesday, March 20
In conjunction with Women’s History Month, Code Pink co-founder Medea Benjamin and eco-feminist Ynestra King will lead a discussion with prominent women’s anti-war activists on women's role in the movements’ against militarism, nuclear weapons, war, and torture.
Mark Danner presents: Torture and the Forever War
Wednesday, March 21
Mark Danner Presents: Torture and the Forever War. Writer and Berkeley professor Mark Danner talks about the permanent "new normal" when it comes to human rights and torture in the post-9/11 era.
Faith and Terror, Part 2
Thursday, March 22
Religious leaders, journalists and activists come together for a two-part discussion about consciousness, belief, torture, and resistance. Rabbi Simkha Weintraub of Rabbis for Human Rights-North America, author David Swanson, and activist and CUNY professor Ramzi Kassem talk about the faith-based response to torture and the recent Witness Against Torture actions in Washington DC.
A Decade of Torture and Law
Friday, March 23
International human rights leaders Gabor Rona of Human Rights First, Jonathan Hafetz, of Seton Hall Law, and Alexander Abdo of the ACLU leads the night with the highs and lows in the legal battles against torture.
Closing Evening and Reception
Saturday March 24
In the finale of ‘Another Life’, playwright and producer Karen Malpede sits with Larry Siems, author of The Torture Report to discuss her inspiration, research, and motivations in developing and producing the play. Reception to follow.
By John Grant
I could have been a vicious raving monster who killed and killed and left towers of rotting flesh in my wake. Instead, here I was on the side of truth, justice and the American way. Still a monster, of course, but I cleaned up nicely afterward, and I was OUR monster, dressed in red, white and blue 100 percent synthetic virtue.
Dearly Devoted Dexter
I teach creative writing in a maximum security prison in Philadelphia. During the week I scour two thrift shops for 35-cent paperbacks that I haul in to stock a small lending library I created for inmates. Amazingly, the prison had no library.
By Dave Lindorff
The attacks and attempted attacks this week on Israeli embassy personnel in Georgia, India and Thailand should serve as a serious warning to the people of both Israel and the US that there will be an increasingly heavy price to pay for the kind of government-sponsored terror that both countries have long practiced, and that too many Americans and Israelis have mindlessly cheered on.
The technology of terror has become so wide-spread, and the materials needed to construct magnetically-attached car bombs, cell-phone detonators, armor-piercing IEDs, diesel/fertilizer bombs and the like, so accessable at consumer shops, hardware stores and local junkyards, that any government, and even any relatively savvy non-government group, can assemble and employ them.
Rights Group Submits Declaration Detailing Torture to Spanish Court after Judge Issues Order to Proceed with Guantánamo Torture Investigation
Document Highlights Treatment of Acknowledged Torture Victim
Mohammed al Qahtani, Helps Set Stage for Prosecution of Bush Administration Officials
February 8, 2012, New York and Madrid – Today, the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) submitted a declaration to a Spanish court detailing the torture of Mohammed al Qahtani, who has been detained without charge or trial at Guantánamo since 2002. The submission follows Spanish Investigating Judge Pablo Ruz Gutierrez’s recent order to proceed with the probe into the U.S. torture program.
Mr. al Qahtani was the victim of the “First Special Interrogation Plan,” a regime of aggressive interrogation techniques amounting to torture personally authorized by former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld. Mr. al Qahtani is the only prisoner held at Guantánamo Bay the U.S. has officially admitted to torturing. Mr. al Qahtani’s treatment, much of which is described in detail in the declaration through his own words, includes 48 days of sleep deprivation, 20-hour interrogations, forced nudity, sexual humiliation, religious humiliation, physical force, prolonged stress positions, and prolonged sensory overstimulation. In addition, the document details the effects of the interrogation, which included Mr. al Qahtani’s severe emotional distress, inability to control his bladder, and visual and auditory hallucinations. Time Magazine obtained and published a detailed log of his interrogations in 2005.
Katherine Gallagher, a Senior Staff Attorney at the Center for Constitution Rights, said, “This declaration details the severe psychological and physical trauma suffered by Mr. al Qahtani as a result of the brutal treatment he was subjected to at Guantánamo through techniques that are in direct violation of the Geneva Convention and the Convention Against Torture. That the high-level U.S. officials alleged to be responsible for this criminal conduct, including Donald Rumsfeld and Geoffrey Miller, continue to enjoy impunity domestically is a stain on the U.S. system of justice. We hope that this declaration will provide valuable evidence for use in holding these officials accountable in Spain, a venue that is willing to investigate torture.”
The declaration, compiled from Mr. al Qahtani’s own accounts by his attorney at CCR, provides a thorough description of his treatment in response to Judge Ruz’s request for more information about the program. Former CCR attorney Gitanjali Gutierrez conducted client interviews with Mr. al Qahtani during 27 trips to Guantánamo between December 2005 and November 2009. The declaration identifies Major General Geoffrey Miller as responsible for both authorizing and implementing the interrogation techniques used on Mr. al Qahtani that led to his torture. Miller was the commander of Guantánamo and was later implicated in the Abu Ghraib torture scandal after being appointed Deputy Commanding General of Detention Operations in Iraq.
Wolfgang Kaleck, Secretary General of the Berlin-based European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights (ECCHR), which joined CCR in providing a dossier outlining Geoffrey Miller’s liability for torture to Judge Ruz last year, said “The way the United States has dealt with established torture claims has been appalling. Those claims are now in the hands of the Spanish judiciary. Today’s submission before Judge Ruz greatly adds to the evidence previously presented against Geoffrey Miller and we hope the judge will act on it.”
The case, which Judge Ruz inherited from Judge Baltasar Garzón, has been ongoing since April 2009, when Garzón opened a preliminary investigation into what he termed “an authorized and systematic plan of torture and ill-treatment on persons deprived of their freedom without any charge and without the basic rights of any detainee…” The investigation stemmed from a previous court case in which four former Guantánamo detainees at the center of the case were found to have been tortured. That investigation concluded that facts of the case related to violations under the Spanish Penal Code, the Third and Fourth Geneva Conventions, the Convention Against Torture, the European Convention for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, and the Organic Law of the Judicial Power (article 23.4.) Judge Ruz’s recent order was precipitated, in part, by a decision to proceed with the investigation after the U.S. and U.K. governments failed to respond to letters rogatory issued by the Spanish court that requested information about any domestic investigations in those countries.
Details about the ongoing case in Spain and the full declaration are available here and here, respectively. Information about on-going litigation in U.S. courts related to Mr. al Qahtani is available here: http://www.ccrjustice.org/ourcases/current-cases/al-qahtani-v.-bush%2C-al-qahtani-v.-gates.
CCR filed cases against Donald Rumsfeld in Germany and France, and released a Bush Torture Indictment, under the Convention Against Torture, ready to be tailored to the specific laws of any of the 147 signatory countries to the Convention Against Torture where he may travel. CCR has led the legal battle over Guantanamo in the U.S. for the last 10 years – representing clients in two Supreme Court cases and organizing and coordinating hundreds of pro bono lawyers across the country to represent the men at Guantanamo, ensuring that nearly all have the option of legal representation. Among other Guantánamo cases, the Center represents the families of men who died at Guantánamo, and men who have been released and are seeking justice in international courts.
The Center for Constitutional Rights is dedicated to advancing and protecting the rights guaranteed by the United States Constitution and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Founded in 1966 by attorneys who represented civil rights movements in the South, CCR is a non-profit legal and educational organization committed to the creative use of law as a positive force for social change. Visit www.ccrjustice.org and follow @theCCR.
By Dave Lindorff
Something very small and yet enormous happened this past week.
On Feb. 2, two women who have been fighting for the freedom of Mumia Abu-Jamal, filmmaker/professor Johanna Fernandez and National Lawyers Guild Heidi Boghosian, executive director of the National Lawyers Guild, visited Abu-Jamal, as each has done in the past, but this time, because he has been moved off of death row, for the first time since 1995, he was able to greet them with a hug--free of leg shackles and handcuffs.
For the first time too, since 1995, there is a photo to record that seemingly mundane and ordinary event.
CHICAGO (CBS) – A City Council committee has endorsed a resolution that would declare Chicago a “Torture-Free Zone.”
As WBBM Newsradio Political Editor Craig Dellimore reports, the Committee on Human Relations held a hearing Thursday morning to discuss a resolution that would declare “the Mayor and the City Council of the City of Chicago stand firm against all forms of torture and inhuman treatment, and hereby proclaim Chicago to be a torture-free zone.”
In Air America: Under the Imperial Eye, Chris Floyd reports on the recent revelation that Iraq's supposedly "sovereign airspace" is constantly under surveillance by a network of drones operated by the State Department. Apparently the only reason this news came to light is because of a publicly available government appeal for private bids on the project. Neither we nor Iraqis were meant to know:
"Iraqis were outraged this week to find they are being spied upon by a fleet of American drones hovering constantly in their supposedly sovereign skies, long after the supposed withdrawal of American forces."
By Linn Washington, Jr.
Credit ‘people power’ for getting internationally known inmate Mumia Abu-Jamal sprung from his apparently punitive, seven-week placement in ‘The Hole.’
For the first time since receiving a controversial death sentence in 1982 for killing a Philadelphia policeman, the widely acclaimed author-activist finds himself in general population, a prison housing status far less restrictive than the solitary confinement of death row.
Inmates in general population have full privileges to visitation, telephone and commissary, along with access to all prison programs and services, all things denied or severely limited to convicts on death row waiting to be killed by the state.
Video of a Guantanamo Guard Who Won Conscientious Objector Status on Grounds That He'd Been Told to Torture People
By Linn Washington, Jr.
I made a mistake.
An article I wrote recently for TCBH about the Pennsylvania prison system’s latest punitive assault on now ex-death row inmate Mumia Abu-Jamal (unnecessarily continuing his solitary confinement) contained a factual misstatement.
Most journalists consider any inaccuracy an error, regardless of how small.
The Code of Ethics of the Society of Professional Journalists calls for admitting “mistakes” and correcting them promptly.
A well-researched report here: PDF.
19 January 2012 - A North Carolina human rights group is calling on state officials to investigate and stop alleged CIA missions originating in Johnston County that involve illegal torture.
North Carolina Stop Torture Now delivered a University of North Carolina School of Law report Wednesday to the governor, attorney general and others that claims the Central Intelligence Agency relies on Smithfield-based Aero Contractors Ltd. to provide planes and pilots to transport prisoners overseas from the Johnston County Airport for secret interrogation using torture techniques.
By Linn Washington, Jr.
Those intent on tormenting now ex-death-row inmate Mumia Abu-Jamal have done it again, this time perhaps even exceeding their past efforts to painfully harass this man widely perceived as a political prisoner.
Now, the Center for Constitutional Rights claims to have evidence of mistreatment of at least one detainee, Mohammed Al-Qahtani. He was believed to have been recruited by Al Qaeda to be one of the enforcers aboard the four hijacked planes on 9/11. He failed to join the 19 other terrorists because he was refused entry into the U.S. days earlier. He was subsequently hunted down, arrested in Afghanistan, and detained at the Guantanamo Bay compound. He has never gone to trial.
The human rights group claims Qahtani was tortured and subjected to "cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment" and that the Center's lawyers have seen videotape that proves it. The group has filed suit in federal court, demanding that the government release the tape for the public to see.
White House and State Department are in No Position to Issue Credible Denials Regarding Spying Charges
By Dave Lindorff
I wouldn’t want to be Amir Mirzaei Hekmati, the 28-year-old former US Marine just recently sentenced to death by a court in Iran after being convicted of being an American spy.
Hekmati, who was born in Arizona to Iranian exile parents, and who grew up in Michigan, is being defended by President Obama, whose White House spokesman Tommy Vietor, declared, “Allegations that Mr. Hekmati either worked for, or was sent to Iran by the CIA are false.” The White House, not content with that denial, went on to trash the Iranian government and legal system, with Vietor adding, “The Iranian regime has a history of falsely accusing people of being spies, of eliciting forced confessions, and of holding innocent Americans for political reasons.”
By Tom Mellen, Morning Star
Only one in 10 of the prisoners held at the US prison camp at Bagram airbase have been charged and many are being abused and tortured, Afghan investigators revealed on Saturday.
Gul Rahman Qazi of the government's constitution watchdog said that just 300 of the 3,000 detainees had legal cases against them and Nato forces don't have enough evidence against the rest.
Inmates say they are kept in dark, freezing cells and humiliated with body cavity searches.
Mr Qazi said one elderly man had been locked in a pitch-black room and lost a tooth when punched by a guard.
Fellow investigator Sayed Noorullah said: "If there is no evidence they have the right to be freed," and the Afghan government should take control of the prisoners "as soon as possible."
Dear Friends, We truly have transitioned. Long days of sitting in court room 312, wandering its halls, trying to ignore the pastries in the café while sipping hot tea, are over. Most of the day was spent out of doors – at Occupy Washington D.C., processing through the city, haunting the Washington Monument and the White House and introducing “the cage” to the public. And at four o’clock this afternoon, we lifted the Guantanamo Cell that had spent the day leading our procession around the city, over the stanchions that prevent vehicles from entering the White House grounds, and wheeled it onto Pennsylvania Avenue to begin what will be a continuous vigil (92 hours) until January 11th. As we write (11:30pm on Jan. 7th), three of our community are there at the White House, to be replaced by another shift soon.
Dear Friends, As we prepare this daily update, folks are trickling back to the church from a Clarification of Thought meeting on Witness Against Torture with our friends at the Dorothy Day Catholic Worker. Laughter is hushed as the lights are turned down, mattresses are spread out in every direction across the floor. Day 4 of our fast is coming to a close. We have all kinds of news to share with you today. Shortly after our morning began, the jury returned a guilty verdict for Judith Kelly. Mike Levinson delivered a statement that gripped the whole courtroom and was sentenced. Brian, Judith and Carmen will be sentenced on Thursday, January 12th. While we await the sentencing of these friends in Washington, DC, we also celebrate the release from prison of other friends; Bonnie Urfer, Michael Walli and Steve Baggarly. They each served eight months in prison for crossing the line at the
Dear Friends, We write to you this evening with the report that the jury found Brian Hynes, Mike Levinson, and Carmen Trotta guilty on all charges, but were “truly deadlocked” by the end of the day concerning Judith Kelly. The jury was sent home and will resume in the morning. With the close of the trial tomorrow, we will be shifting our efforts to be a presence on the street throughout the city. As we do so, we are ever mindful, as Matt Daloisio said tonight, that “there is a difficulty in choosing how to act and be in solidarity with those who have very little choice.” When we gathered tonight, instead of expressing in full our own reactions and questions of today’s court proceeding (we shared a single word each, which you will find below!), we read twice over the poetry of Abdul al Baddah, so that the most words shared in our circle would come from a man detained at Guantánamo.
Every time our court proceedings reconvene (and this happens several times a day because of the various breaks), these words are announced: “Now hearing the United States VS. Shakir Ami….” This statement never fails to surprise us. Mr. Aamer (as his name is correctly spelled) has been detained at Guantánamo since Febuary of 2002 and has spent much of his time there in solitary confinement. But Shaker Aamer’s name is spoken in the Superior Court of the District of Columbia today because two years ago on January 11th, Brian Hynes was arrested on the steps of the Capital Building and gave Mr. Aamer’s name as his own. Since then, within the District of Columbia, this name is legally (and bureaucratically) tied to Brian’s fingerprints. And beginning with an “A”, it has become the official title of our court case.
This recently released report, Indefensible: A Reference for Prosecuting Torture and Other Felonies Committed by U.S. Officials Following September 11th, serves as a practitioner’s reference addressing the domestic and international laws implicated by the actions of certain former high-ranking government officials. The report lays the groundwork for litigation against those responsible for approving and using illegal interrogation techniques that were the official policy of the Bush Administration.
More than a decade after the onset of the Bush Administration’s post-9/11 anti-terrorism policies, not a single torture survivor has succeeded in holding a top government official accountable in a U.S. court for the indefensible act of torture due in large part to legal maneuvering by both the Bush and Obama Administrations. While certain actions taken by President Obama indicate his desire to break with the lawlessness characterized by the Bush Administration, he has failed to fulfill his international legal obligation to investigate these crimes of torture and other cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment. The report is a call for action. If accountability cannot be achieved through the courts, it becomes even more critical that the U.S. government properly investigate acts of torture either through the appointment of a Special Counsel or alternatively by Congressional enactment of a Commission of Inquiry.
The report is the result of a multi-year collaborative effort between Human Rights USA and the International Human Rights Law Clinic at American University Washington College of Law.
Read the full report, and view the press release. In addition, you may request a hardcopy of the report by e-mailing email@example.com. Please include “Accountability Report Request” in the subject line, as well as the appropriate return address listed in the body of the e-mail. You may also make a request by calling (202) 296-5702.
Dear Friends, In its opening statement of our court trial, the government repeatedly insisted that “this was not the time and place” – not the time to present our grievances against the continuation (or, as is recently evident, perpetuation) of Guantánamo, not the forum for debating these issues. And yet we maintain that now is always the time and place to speak out against Guantánamo. This January 11th will be the tenth anniversary of the Guantánamo Bay detention center as the site of the torture and indefinite detention of men caught up in the United States “War on Terror.” Of the 171 men remaining there at this moment, eighty-nine are cleared for release but without any host country, most of the rest held without due process. None of these facts, however clear and basic, are permissible in the courtroom. The prosecutors fear that it runs the “risk of enflaming the passions of the jury.” Justly so! But why this fear? There are many groups of people working to counter that fear and the bureaucracy that upholds it, many people working to create viable means of closing such detention centers as Guantánamo and Bagram. And so both within and beyond those restrictive courtroom walls, it is our hope that over the next ten days our fast and vigils, our presence and witness, all of this community building that connects each of us across this country and world… it is our hope to enflame to passions of humanity to trust in itself again. In Peace, Witness Against Torture ***In this e-mail you will find: 1) DAY 1 – Update and Reflections (Compiled by Amy Nee) 2) DAY 1 – Courtroom Analysis (By Molly Kafka) 3) A link to the Blog of the Legal Times - http://tinyurl.com/7ove9ob 4) A link to “Final Curtain: Obama Signs Indefinite Detention of Citizens Into Law As Final Act of 2011, by Jonathan Turley” - http://tinyurl.com/7uzqttd 5) A link to Jan. 11, 2012 Press Advisory - http://2012.witnesstorture.org/pr-12-5-11 ===================================== Day One – Update and Reflections, compiled by Amy Nee
By Dave Lindorff
It’s fascinating to watch the long knives coming out for Texas Republican Rep. Ron Paul, now that according to some mainstream polls he has become the front-running candidate in the Jan. 3 GOP caucus race in Iowa, and perhaps also in the first primary campaign in New Hampshire.
By Dan DeWalt
Predator Odrona is about to sign a military authorization bill [Carl Levin's S-1867] that puts every one of us at risk of being detained by our own military. If the government decides that you are a terrorist threat, the military will be able to kidnap you and deny you the right to a trial or even the right to know why you're being held.
19 December 2011 - Almost two-thirds of countries asked by human rights groups about their involvement in extraordinary rendition flights have failed to comply with freedom of information requests – with European nations in particular accused of withholding evidence of the controversial CIA programme.
By John Grant
Ft. Meade -- Saturday, December 17th was Bradley Manning’s 24th birthday, and at least 300 supporters gathered outside Fort Meade, Maryland, where the military was in its second day of a preliminary hearing process that’s expected to take about a week. Manning worked in military intelligence and is alleged to have released military secrets to WikiLeaks, which released the material publicly.
By Dave Lindorff
No Execution for Mumia: 30 Years after a Police Shooting, Abu-Jamal Backers Vow to Free Him from Life in Prison
By Dave Lindorff
The mood was both celebratory and angry among a 1000-plus overflow audience packed into the balcony space of the Constitution Center in Philadelphia on the evening of Dec. 9.
The crowd of supporters of Philadelphia journalist and black political activist Mumia Abu-Jamal had come to denounce the over 29 years that he has spent locked in solitary confinement on Pennsylvania’s grim death row since his conviction for the shooting of a white police officer, Daniel Faulkner. But they were also there to celebrate the surprise decision, announced two days earlier by Philadelphia DA Seth Williams, not to seek to reinstate Abu-Jamal’s death sentence, which had been permanently vacated by a recent decision of the U.S. Supreme Court.