Witnesstorture

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This morning Eve was ejected first from the courtroom, and then from the building — in handcuffs because she refused to leave any other way.  Once they led her outside, they (the Federal Protective Services branch of the Dept of Homeland Security, who were called by the security guards) released her. 
It all began at the security entrance when we arrived in the morning — Eve was told she couldn’t enter because she was wearing an orange WAT t-shirt (Shut Down Guantanamo in front; Stop Torture in back).   Ray McGovern arrived about the same time we did with an orange t-shirt that was visible just above the collar of his button-down shirt and spiffy blazer.  Hearing the controversy regarding Eve’s clothing, Ray quickly buttoned his top button and said he had on an orange undershirt.  Eve, who was wearing a white t-shirt beneath her WAT t-shirt, turned the orange t-shirt inside-out.  That wasn’t good enough because the letters were still visible, only backwards.  I then gave her my sweater, which she put on and zipped up.    
The guard had initially said neither of them could enter, but when called, the head of security gave them both permission to attend the hearing, with the warning that if they revealed their shirts they would be removed from the courtroom.  Once in the courtroom, Eve sat quietly for quite some time before first removing the sweater and then her orange T-shirt.  At that point the guard came over and confiscated the shirt, and Eve continued to sit quietly.  A bit later two guards came in and ordered her to come with them, saying she could leave her belongings in the courtroom.  She left with the guards, and soon afterwards a guard returned and took her belongings. 
A journalist who came about that time told me later she had seen Eve standing in the hall talking quietly and calmly to the security guards, giving them a lecture on the First Amendment.  Apparently it took them quite awhile to remove Eve Tetaz from the courthouse.

image

I’m not sure how to report on the first day of the hearing.  I started the day with the same gleam of optimism I had at the outset of the Uyghur hearing in the same District Court a few years ago.  Once again it was Matt’s matter-of-fact, deadpan prediction that nothing significant would come of it that brought me back down to earth.  But I’m outraged when I’m faced with how slowly the courts work and horrified that the our penal system has such unchecked power over the human beings in its custody.  I want to howl.

Instead, since you are my fellow howlers, who feel the same way I do, I’ll simply report two episodes I got to witness thanks to Judge Kessler’s decision not to hold a completely secret court as requested by the (Obama) government.

Point in plaintiff’s favor:  Mr. Dhiab’s legal team was questioning a physician with expertise in forced-feeding of hunger strikers.  The government tried to challenge her credibility by bringing up the fact that she had once obtained a court order to force-feed an anorexic patient.  Fortunately, the judge seemed to understand her distinction between an anorexic patient, deemed incompetent to make a rational decision regarding food, and a mentally competent hunger striker who is exercising the only form of protest at his disposal.

Point in government’s favor:  We got to see and hear discussed parts of Mr. Dhiab’s medical record!  At issue at one point was the fact that he had medical permission to use a wheelchair or crutches to and from appointments, but that the guards still insisted on using the FCE (Forcible Cell Extraction) procedure to and from being force-fed.  The record indicated “[redacted words] FCE” each time the term was used, and I was wondering what those words could possibly be that were supposedly dangerous to national security.  But before the expert could describe this special kind of FCEing, the government objected to discussion of FCEing at all in open court — Judge Kessler sustained the objection, saying they would discuss it in closed court.  That doesn’t bode well for institutionalized documentation of abuse during this hearing.

So those are two highlights.  The government is definitely playing hardball.  They tried to discredit both experts, but in particular Brig. Gen. Stephen Xenakis, a psychiatrist who has consistently challenged the abuse of the prisoners at Guantanamo.  The initial indication of their strategy was that the plaintiffs referred to him as general and the defense called him doctor.  When first on the stand, we heard about his long and impressive military service participating in and commanding military medical institutions.  Then on cross-examination the defense   worked hard to discredit him, questioning the long list of articles he has written in peer-reviewed journals on medical ethics regarding care and treatment of prisoners in the military.  They then brought out the fact at some point in the past he had been charged with wrong-doing and removed from his high-level post.  He countered that he had resigned from the post voluntarily, sued the government, won his suit, and retired from military service with his full rank and status.  I don’t know what the issue was, but I have appreciated Gen Xenakis’ courage in speaking out against government abuse, now and in the past.  I hope Judge Kessler too came away with respect for his integrity. With that I’ll close.

I’m going to try to sit through today’s hearing.  It’s hard.  The Federal courts are our last best hope, unlike the kangaroo proceedings of the military commissions at Guantanamo,  It’s the place where the government’s unchecked power can be challenged.  The social and political context is so much a part of the court’s fabric though.  The outlaw of slavery, universal suffrage, civil rights — they all were considered in the courts long before enlightened decisions were handed down.  But this era’s trend seems to be in the opposite direction, with the call for “national security of the homeland” justifying more and more government secrecy and limitations on human and civil rights.

In peace and solidarity,
Helen

Dear Friends, 
Today marks the second anniversary of Adnan Latif’s death. And still there has been no independent investigation regarding the true cause of his death. As we continue to call for justice for all the Guantanamo detainees, demand an end to indefinite detention and torture and that Guantanamo be closed, let us not forget those who died at Guantanamo, including  Adnan Latif.
With gratitude, Art

Adnan Farhan Abd Al Latif

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Adnan Farhan Abdul LatifISN 00156, Adnan Farhan Latif.jpg
Undated photo of Adnan Latif used by JTF-GTMO in 2008
Born(1975-12-27)December 27, 1975
Aluday, YemenDiedSeptember 8, 2012(2012-09-08)(aged 36)
Guantánamo BayCubaDetained atGuantanamo ISN156Charge(s)No charge extrajudicial detentionStatusdeath in custodyChildrenmarried, with childrenAdnan Farhan Abdul Latif (December 27, 1975 – September 8, 2012), also known as Allal Ab Aljallil Abd al Rahman, was a Yemeni citizen imprisoned at the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo BayCuba, from January 2002 until his death in custody there.[1][2]

Capture and detention[edit source | editbeta]

Adnan Latif was in a car accident in 1994, during which he suffered significant head injuries, which left him with on-going neurological problems.[3] Latif said he traveled from Yemen to Pakistan in August 2001 to seek medical treatment, while the U.S. government alleged he went there to receive military training from affiliates of al Qaeda.[4] He was captured in December 2001 at the Pakistan/Afghanistan border in a widespread dragnet of Arabs, and brought to Guantanamo prison in January, 2002.[1]

Judicial and quasi-judicial proceedings[edit source | editbeta]

Immediately after his imprisonment, Latif and Guantanamo prisoners generally were blocked from filing habeas corpus petitions because of PresidentGeorge W. Bush's doctrine that “war on terror" detainees were not covered by the Geneva Conventions, and so could be held indefinitely without charge and without an open and transparent review of the justifications for their detention.[5] In June 2004, however, the United States Supreme Court ruled, in Rasul v. Bush, that Guantanamo captives had basic habeas corpus rights, to be informed of and allowed to attempt to refute the allegations justifying their detention.
Latif attorneys Marc D. Falkoff and David Remes filed a habeas corpus petition on his behalf in 2004.[6][7]
Following the Supreme Court Rasul ruling, in July 2004 the Department of Defense set up its Combatant Status Review Tribunals (CSRT).[5] Scholars at theBrookings Institute, led by Benjamin Wittes, would later, in 2008, list detainees still held in Guantanamo, and the CSRT allegations against them.[8] The allegations were as follows regarding Adnan Latif: the military alleged he was an al Qaeda fighter and operative, that he went to Afghanistan for jihad, that he “… took military or terrorist training in Afghanistan,” and that he “… fought for the Taliban.”[8] Further allegations were that his name or alias had been found “on material seized in raids on Al Qaeda safehouses and facilities,”[8] and that he served on the security detail of Osama Bin Laden.[8] Annual CSRT status review hearings were held in 2004, 2005, 2006 and 2007,[9] and there is evidence Latif attended his 2004, 2005 and 2007 hearings.
Late in 2005, Guantanamo detainee habeas corpus rights were again restricted and largely replaced with a much more limited review known as “DTA appeal, after United States Congress passage of the Detainee Treatment Act of 2005 and the Military Commissions Act of 2006. However, in June 2008, theUnited States Supreme Court overturned provisions of those laws and restored detainee access to habeas corpus.
Responding to Latif’s habeas corpus petition in July, 2010, District Court judge Henry Kennedy ordered Latif’s release from detention, his ruling stating that the government had failed to show by a preponderance of evidence that he was part of al Qaeda or an affiliated force.[4][10] Latif attorney Remes said, “This is a mentally disturbed man who has said from the beginning that he went to Afghanistan seeking medical care because he was too poor to pay for it. Finally, a court has recognized that he’s been telling the truth, and ordered his release.”[11]
The decision was, however, appealed and a three judge DC Circuit Court of Appeals panel over-turned the ruling in an October 14, 2011 split decision which granted government allegations stronger credibility.[12][13][14] The Supreme Court decided not to review the appeals court decision.

Life at Guantanamo[edit source | editbeta]

Latif and other prisoners described Guantanamo conditions to Latif attorney Falkoff when he and other U.S. attorneys were first allowed to visit them in November 2004: “During the three years in which they had been held in total isolation, they had been subjected repeatedly to stress positions, sleep deprivation, blaring music, and extremes of heat and cold during endless interrogations.”[15] Latif also described to Lakoff a visit to his cell by an ‘Immediate Reaction Force” team:
A half-dozen soldiers in body armor, carrying shields and batons, had forcibly extracted him from his cell. His offense: stepping over a line, painted on the floor of his cell, while his lunch was being passed through the food slot of his door.
"Suddenly the riot police came," he recounted. "No one in the cellblock knew who for. They closed all the windows except mine. A female soldier came in with a big can of pepper spray. Eventually I figured out they were coming for me. She sprayed me. I couldn’t breathe. I fell down. I put a mattress over my head. I thought I was dying. They opened the door. I was lying on the bed but they were kicking and hitting me with the shields. They put my head in the toilet. They put me on a stretcher and carried me away."[15]
Latif became a frequent hunger striker, and described being force fed as “like having a dagger shoved down your throat.”[15] The Miami Herald writes that at times Latif “would smear his excrement on himself, throw blood at his lawyers, and on at least one occasion was brought to meet his lawyer clad only in a padded green garment called a ‘suicide smock’ held together by Velcro.”[16]
In 2008 Latif attorney Remes filed an emergency federal court motion stating that Latif was suffering seizures and was not being properly treated. The motion, which requested Latif’s medical records, a pillow and an additional blanket, was denied.[17][18] Falkoff recalled, “he was the guy that we tried unsuccessfully to get medical records for, and a blanket and mattress, after we found him lying on the floor of our interview cell, weak and emaciated.”[16][18]
In a letter described in an April 17, 2009, Al Jazeera report, Latif stated he had recently been abused at Guantanamo.[19] The report also quoted attorneyDavid Remes' observations on the appearance of Abdul Latif and his other clients:[19] ”Adnan Latif … has a badly dislocated shoulder blade. I’ve seen the evidence of physical torture and I’ve also heard about the evidence of psychological torture.”
Guantanamo’s Psychiatric ward, where Latif was reported to have been confined.
The Associated Press reported on May 11, 2009 that Remes said that Latif had slit his wrists during his most recent visit.[20] Remes said that Latif had used the edge of a strip of broken veneer from the side of a table in the interview room to sever a vein in his wrist, and used the interview table to hide his bleeding wrist from others and the room’s video camera. Remes stated that Latif had tried to commit suicide before, and therefore had at times been confined to the prison’s psychiatric facility.[20] Remes also said Latif needed mental health care, but all camp authorities were doing was attempting to keep him subdued.
A December 10, 2012 article at Truthout reported that Latif had written a letter to Remes complaining of his treatment at Guantanamo. Dated May 28, 2010, Latif complained in the letter that guards were placing contraband items, such as scissors, in his cell.[21] ”The way they deal with me proves to me that they want to get rid of me, but in a way that they cannot be accused of causing it,” he told his attorney. The same article reports that on two separate instances in 2010, camp officials tried to get Latif to fire Remes. On one of these occasions, he was given an injection with an unspecified drug before a meeting with a military lawyer. Latif told Remes later (according to attorney notes, as described in the Truthout article) that “they wanted to have no one report” his death.

Clearances for release[edit source | editbeta]

On April 25, 2011, whistleblower organization WikiLeaks published formerly secret assessments drafted by Joint Task Force Guantanamo analysts.[22][23]Latif’s nine page long assessment was drafted on January 17, 2008 and signed by camp commandant Mark Buzby, and it recommended that he be transferred out of Department of Defense control.[24][25] Historian Andy Worthington, the author of The Guantanamo Files, writes that the 2008 assessment repeated earlier recommendations that Latif be released.[26] Worthington reported that in addition to being cleared for release by Joint Task Force Guantanamo, and by the US District Court Judge Henry Kennedy, Latif had been cleared for release by the Guantánamo Review Task Force that President Barack Obama had set up when he came to office in 2009.

Death[edit source | editbeta]

n September 10, 2012, Latif died at Guantanamo.[27] He had been held there for 10 years, 7 months and 25 days, after arriving there on January 17, 2002.[9][28] On September 10, camp authorities informed the press that a detainee held in the punishment cells of Camp five had been found dead early in the afternoon of September 10, but did not reveal the detainee’s name, and stated that the cause of death was not apparent.[29] The next day it was acknowledged the prisoner was Adnan Latif, and later a military autopsy reportedly declared suicide the cause of death. The results of a full Naval Criminal Investigative Service investigation were not expected to be known until sometime in 2013.[27][30]
Before the publication of Latif’s identity, Wells Dixon, a lawyer who helped several Guantanamo detainees with their habeas corpus petitions, described the captives’ feelings of despair, which he attributed to recent judicial reverses.[29]

Further reading[edit source | editbeta]

See also[edit source | editbeta]

References[edit source | editbeta]

  1. a b "Military Identifies Guantánamo Detainee Who Died". Washington, DC: New York Times. September 11, 2012. 
  2. ^ "List of Individuals Detained by the Department of Defense at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba from January 2002 through May 15, 2006"United States Department of Defense. Archived from the original on 30 September 2007. Retrieved 2006-05-15.   Works related to List of Individuals Detained by the Department of Defense at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba from January 2002 through May 15, 2006 at Wikisource
  3. ^ Marjorie Cohn (2012-06-20). "Hope Dies at Guantanamo"The JuristArchived from the original on 2012-09-11. 
  4. a b "Adnan Farhan Abd Al Latif, Guantanamo Detainee, To Be Released For Lack Of Evidence". Washington, DC: Huffington Post. August 16, 2010. 
  5. a b "U.S. military reviews ‘enemy combatant’ use"USA Today. 2007-10-11. Archived from the original on 2012-08-11. 
  6. ^ "Latif Autopsy Report Calls Gitmo Death a Suicide: Questions Remain". truthout. November 26, 2012. 
  7. ^ Carol Rosenberg (2012-09-12). "Dead Guantánamo detainee won, then lost federal court-ordered release"Miami HeraldArchived from the original on 2012-09-13. Retrieved 2013-05-19. 
  8. a b c d Benjamin Wittes, Zaathira Wyne (2008-12-16). "The Current Detainee Population of Guantánamo: An Empirical Study"The Brookings Institute. Retrieved 2010-02-16.  mirror
  9. a b Margot Williams (2008-11-03). "Guantanamo Docket: Allal Ab Aljallil Abd Al Rahman". New York Times. Retrieved 2010-03-30. 
  10. ^ "Kennedy Ruling". Empty Wheel. August 16, 2010. 
  11. ^ Yemeni psych patient ordered freed - Guantánamo - MiamiHerald.com Archived 15 February 2011 at WebCite
  12. ^ "(No. 1:04-cv-01254)” (pdf). CADC. October 14, 2011. Retrieved 2013-05-19. 
  13. ^ Joe Wolverton (2011-11-14). "D.C. Court of Appeals Overturns Release of Gitmo Prisoner"New AmericanArchived from the original on 2012-09-13. 
  14. ^ Benjamin Wittes (2011-11-09). "Latif: A Very Big Deal"Lawfare. 
  15. a b c "Poems from Guantanamo". Amnesty International USA. December 12, 2007. 
  16. a b "Dead Guantánamo detainee won, then lost court-ordered release". Miami Herald. September 11, 2012. 
  17. ^ Thomas F. Hogan (2008-09-22). "Guantanamo Bay Detainee Litigation: Doc 471" (PDF). United States Department of Justice. Retrieved 2008-09-23.  mirror
  18. a b Tom Ramstack (2008-09-23). "Federal court won’t hear plea for blanket"Washington Times. Retrieved 2008-09-25.  mirror
  19. a b "New abuse claims at Guantanamo"Al Jazeera. 2009-04-17. Archived from the original on 2009-04-17. 
  20. a b Ben Fox (2009-05-11). "Lawyer: Gitmo prisoner slashed wrist, hurled blood". Associated Press. Archived from the original on 2009-05-11. 
  21. ^ "Lawyer: Latif Letter About Guantanamo Speaks From the Grave". Truthout. December 10, 2012. 
  22. ^ Christopher Hope, Robert Winnett, Holly Watt, Heidi Blake (2011-04-27). "WikiLeaks: Guantanamo Bay terrorist secrets revealed — Guantanamo Bay has been used to incarcerate dozens of terrorists who have admitted plotting terrifying attacks against the West – while imprisoning more than 150 totally innocent people, top-secret files disclose"The Telegraph (UK)Archived from the original on 2012-07-13. Retrieved 2012-07-13. “The Daily Telegraph, along with other newspapers including The Washington Post, today exposes America’s own analysis of almost ten years of controversial interrogations on the world’s most dangerous terrorists. This newspaper has been shown thousands of pages of top-secret files obtained by the WikiLeaks website.” 
  23. ^ "WikiLeaks: The Guantánamo files database"The Telegraph (UK). 2011-04-27. Retrieved 2012-07-10. 
  24. ^ Mark H. Buzby (2008-01-17). "Recommendation for Transfer out of DoD Control (TRO) for Guantanamo Detainee, ISN US9AG"Joint Task Force Guantanamo. Retrieved 2012-09-18.   Media related to File:ISN 00156, Adnan Farhan Latif’s Guantanamo detainee assessment.pdf at Wikimedia Commons
  25. ^ "Guantanamo Bay detainee file on Adnan Farhan Abd Allatif, US9YM-000156DP, passed to the Telegraph by Wikileaks"The Telegraph (UK). 2011-04-27. Retrieved 2012-09-18. “Recommendation: Transfer out of DoD control.” 
  26. ^ Andy Worthington (2012-09-12). "Obama, the Courts and Congress Are All Responsible for the Latest Death at Guantánamo"Archived from the original on 2012-09-18. Retrieved 2012-09-18. “He had been cleared for release under President Bush (in December 2006) and under President Obama (as a result of the Guantánamo Review Task Force’s deliberations in 2009). He had also had his habeas corpus petition granted in a US court, but, disgracefully, he had not been freed.” 
  27. a b "Guantanamo prisoner who died challenged his confinement, was rebuffed by Supreme Court"Newser. 2012-09-11. Archived from the original on 2012-09-11. 
  28. ^ "Measurements of Heights and Weights of Individuals Detained by the Department of Defense at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba (ordered and consolidated version)"Center for the Study of Human Rights in the Americas, from DoD data. Archived from the original on 2009-12-21. 
  29. a b "US says a prisoner has died at Guantanamo; investigation pending into cause"Washington Post. 2012-09-10. Archived from the original on 2012-09-10. 
  30. ^ "Latif Autopsy Report Calls Gitmo Death a Suicide: Questions Remain"Truthout. 2012-11-26. 

External links[edit source | editbeta]

shriekingtree:

Based on the poem “Is It True?” by Osama Abu Kabir (formerly detained in Guantánamo):

Is it true that the grass grows again after rain?
Is it true that the flowers will rise up again in the Spring?
Is it true that birds will migrate home again?
Is it true that the salmon swim back up their streams?

It is true. This is true. These are all miracles.
But is it true that one day we’ll leave Guantanamo Bay?
Is it true that one day we’ll go back to our homes?

I sail in my dreams. I am dreaming of home.
To be with my children, each one part of me;
To be with my wife and the ones that I love;
To be with my parents, my world’s tenderest hearts.
I dream to be home, to be free from this cage.

But do you hear me, oh Judge, do you hear me at all?
We are innocent, here, we’ve committed no crime.
Set me free, set us free, if anywhere still
Justice and compassion remain in this world!

Report Back from Torture Survivors Week: June 26 Photos, Video and Update

June 27, 2014 / The White House / Source: Flickr

June 27, 2014 / The White House / Source: Flickr

Last week, members of Witness Against Torture gathered in Washington, D.C. for the International Day in Support of Survivors of Torture. Our group of about fifteen attended a panel organized by National Religious Campaign Against Torture (NRCAT) on U.S. sanctioned torture, engaged in nonviolent direct action at Senator Ayotte and McCain’s offices, and participated in an all-day vigil with Torture Abolition and Survivors Support Coalition (TASSC)On Sunday, we retreated to the Peace Oasis to put in motion a framework for January 11, 2015.

No pushback now! Release those unjustly bound.

Got 90 seconds? Please watch & share the video of Witness Against Torture delivering letters to Senator Ayotte and McCain. This is our response to an amendment that could stop all transfers from Guantanamo. The bill has passed the House and is now awaiting the Senate before becoming law.

Click here to read full report & see photos.

Extended video

Click here to read the letters sent to Senator Ayotte and McCain Offices. 

SAVE THE DATE– January 513, 2015

Every January, the Witness Against Torture community gathers to fast and take action in Washington D.C. to remember the opening of the prison camp in Guantanamo.  This year January 11th, 2015 marks 13 years of torture and indefinite detention.  We will be gathering from January 5th 13th, 2015 to fast for justice and a week of actions. Join us as we stand in solidarity with those that remained unjustly detained. Save the date and stay tune for more information.If you have any questions please email WitnessTorture@gmail.com

Friday Fast for Justice

Susan / Boston

Susan / Boston

Join in solidarity with the men on hunger strike in Guantanamo by fasting on Fridays. We invite you to consider joining the Friday Fast for Justice. Go without food in solidarity with the hunger strikers in Guantánamo.  If you are already participating in or are interested in participating please sign up here. You can commit to fasting on a specific Friday; weekly for a particular time period; until Guantánamo is closed; or whatever works for you. If you join the fast, we would ask you to:

  • Fast on Friday, in any form you like;
  • Make three phone calls (click here to see who we are currently focusing our calls on)
  • Write to a prisoner at Guantánamo. (click here for instructions on how)
Dear Friends,
 
As nine of us gathered at the White House for our weekly Friday noon-time vigil our hearts were heavy with the news of the worsening violence in Iraq and increased U.S. military intervention. This vigil began in 1998, following my trip to Iraq with Voices in the Wilderness (since renamed Voices for creative Nonviolence). As the U.S. bombing continued on a regular basis and as U.S.-led UN economic sanctions were exacting such a lethal toll on Iraq, our Dorothy Day Catholic Worker community decided to sponsor a weekly White House vigil as a way to expose and resist the criminality of U.S. warmaking against the Iraqi people. The Iraqi people have endured untold suffering and death from over twenty years of U.S. bombings, economic sanctions, invasion and occupation. And now Iraq is again back in the news. In our vigil we focused on the role the U.S. has played and continues to play in Iraq. As the Guantanamo hunger strike continues, along with tortuous force-feeding, we also remembered the plight of the hunger strikers and of the urgent need to end indefinite detention and close Guantanamo. 
 
Below is a reflection I offered at the vigil. We also read the testimony of Yemeni Guantanamo hunger striker, Emad Hassan, who describes in detail the horrific forced-feeding he has endured. We sang several songs during the vigil and concluded with a prayer to end torture written by torture survivor Sr. Dianna Ortiz.
 
We continue to keep our eyes on the prize as we strive together to create the Beloved Community.
 
With gratitude, Art
 
 

Reflection by Art Laffin for June 20 White House Vigil

 

We greet all who have come to the White House in a spirit of peace. We, members of the DDCW and WAT come to the White House today to say YES to love and justice and NO to the lies and death-dealing policies of a national security state and warmaking empire.

The Dorothy Day Catholic Worker began a weekly Friday peace vigil in 1998 here at the White House to call for an end to U.S. criminal warmaking in Iraq and that we embrace God’s command to renounce all war and killing and reverence and protest all of life and creation. Since then our vigil has included calling for an end to all U.S. warmaking and military intervention in our world, for the abolition of all weapons of war—from nuclear weapons to killer drones, for an end to all U.S.-sponsored oppression and torture and justice for the poor and all victims. We remember and pray for all victims of our warmaking empire, including the nine men who have died at Guantanamo over the past seven years.

The U.S. continues to operate with impunity as it has waged lethal wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, uses deadly killer drones as part of its kill-list and assassination program in Pakistan, Yemen, Afghanistan, and Somalia, and continues its criminal policy of indefinite detention and torture at Guantanamo.

 

Regarding the present critical situation in Iraq, it is heartbreaking to see the violence and upheval taking place. This all didn’t happen in a vacuum. Listen to these insightful words by our friend and Iraqi political analyst, RAEDJARRAR, taken from a June 16 interview with Democracy Now

"Oh, I think (the present crisis) has everything to do with the U.S.-, British-led invasion and occupation. The idea of destroying the strong central government and creating three or more partitions in Iraq was heavily promoted at that time. It was promoted sometimes on the political level, but many times on the demographic level. We saw, during the occupation of Iraq, millions of Iraqis were displaced inside the country. Sunnis were kicked out of what we call now Shiite provinces, and Shiites were kicked out of what we call now Sunni provinces. Same happened with Kurds and Christians. So this ethnic cleansing happened during the occupation, laying grounds for making this partitioning a reality. So, I think, in retrospect, what’s happening in these few weeks of, you know, like an uprising in these Sunni-dominated provinces in Iraq can be directly traced to the divisions that were installed by the U.S.-led occupation in 2003…

The U.S. is still interfering in Iraq. Although the last U.S. soldier left the country at the end of 2011, the U.S. continues to supply the Iraqi central government with weapons, training and other military assistance. This year alone, the U.S. is sending billions of dollars’ worth of jet fighters and other weapons. We just included $150 million in the defense appropriations bill for training Iraqi forces, although many human rights organizations, including Human Rights Watch, have flagged a number of Iraqi security forces and militias as human rights abusers that the U.S. should stop funding. So in addition to the military funding, of course, there is a lot of support that—to legitimize the Iraqi central government. So this week’s narrative from the U.S. side is a good example of how the U.S. has been taking one side in this conflict all along. It has been arming and supporting one side of the conflict, and this side happens to be the Iraqi central government and the militias affiliated with it.”

There has been a lot of focus on the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) because it makes a good media story. It’s this crazy group. Everyone is an expert now on ISIS and where it came from. And it tells a compelling story for a U.S. intervention: There is an extremist terrorist group that is threatening a legitimate central government that is our friend. That is the narrative now. I think that is important to unpack and deconstruct, because, on the one hand, ISIS is one of many players in this uprising. It’s really naive to believe that one crazy terrorist group can take 50 percent of Iraq’s territory in a week. There are many other players, including—I think the most important players are tribal leaders in all of these provinces, and their armed militias, and former Iraqi officials from the Saddam Hussein government, led by the former vice president, Izzat al-Douri, who runs a group called al-Naqshbandi, a group. There are other smaller players like the Iraqi Islamic Army, the Mujahideen Army, the 1920 Brigades. There are, I would say, at least 12 other players. So it’s more indigenous. The vast majority, I would say, maybe almost everyone who’s fighting, is an Iraqi, unlike what the image that is being drawn by the Iraqi authorities.”

Raed Jarrar goes on to say that dialogue among all conflicted parties, which the al-Maliki government refuses to engage in and not military intervention, is the key to the solution to help resolve this crisis.

It is important to remember that he U.S. has never repented for or made reparations to the Iraqi people for waging war against Iraq for over twenty years. U.S.-led bombings, sanctions and occupation has claimed over 2 million Iraqi lives, displaced over four million Iraqis, destroyed Iraq’s infrastructure and society and created the instability and turmoil that now exists today in Iraq. On Monday, Mr. Obama authorized the deployment of 275 specialized troops to Iraq. And yesterday the president ordered 300 U.S. military advisers to Iraq. There are reports that the U.S. is considering other military options in Iraq, including the use of killer drones. Let’s be clear: the violence currently taking place in Iraq is a consequence of the violence that has been used by the U.S. and which continues to be used  by the al-Maliki regime since the US occupation formally ended. More U.S. bombing and military involvement will only perpetuate the cycle of violence now engulfing Iraq. What is needed is for the U.S. to repent for its past war crimes against Iraq, and that reparations be made to the Iraq people. A process of true reconciliation can then begin. This is the most important first step that is needed to begin to break the cycle of violence in Iraq. And then a diplomatic course of action must be pursued which brings together all the conflicted parties in the region to negotiate a peace process. We pray for an end to all violence in Iraq and for the protection of all people there, including those Iraqi Christians who live in fear of persecution.

And so we stand here today to say as clearly as we can: No to all violence and Yes to Life and Justice! Abolish the Crime of War! No to U.S. Military Intervention in Iraq! 

 

During this month of June, which marks Torture Awareness Month, let us also redouble our efforts to End the Crime of Torture and Indefinite Detention—Now! Let us Close Guantanamo Now!

 
Regarding the situation curently in Guantanamo, lawyers for some of the GITMO hunger strikers believe that, of the 149 men being held, about 34 are still on hunger strike and about 18 meet the guidelines for forced feeding feedings.
 
Regarding the recent prisoner swap, The Pentagon’s chief war crimes prosecutor, Army Brig. Gen. Mark Martins,  said Sunday that in 2011 he studied the files of the five Taliban prisoners recently traded for Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl and concluded they could not be prosecuted here. A reporter asked the general whether it was true that two of the long-held Afghan prisoners released by the Obama administration in the May 31 Bergdahl exchange were identified by the United Nations as war criminals. Martins replied that in 2009 a task force of federal and military prosecutors concluded: “There was not a successful prosecution to be had of any of those five.”The general added that when he took the job as chief prosecutor in 2011, he reviewed all detainee files, including the five Taliban who were traded, and concluded the same thing, “based on a careful searching look at everything that was available.”
 
As we conclude our vigil today, Let us recommit ourselves to labor together to create the Beloved Community, free of torture, oppression, violence and war. Let us never forget that we are all part of one human family. What affects one, affects all.
 

*Witness Against Torture’s Jeremy Varon has an important piece on the state of the movement to close Guantanamo at Wagingnonviolence.org. Please read, tweet, post, circulate, and let us know what you think.

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IN THIS UPDATE YOU WILL FIND:

-The Bergdahl-Guantanamo Prisoner Exchange

-Report on May 23rd Global Day of Action to Close Guantanamo

-June 26th – June 30th in Washington, DC

-Witness Against Torture FRIDAY FAST FOR JUSTICE

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The Bergdahl-Guantanamo Prisoner Exchange

In the midst of the media frenzy about the Bergdahl-Guantanamo Prisoner exchange, there has been a deeply troubling national discourse that portrays all the men in Guantanamo as security risks and calls for the prison to remain open indefinitely.

Witness Against Torture has engaged in the conversation, and our own Palina Prasasouk has written this piece for Truthout.org.  Our friend, Andy Worthington, has also written two important pieces, for PolicyMic & CloseGuantanamo.org that speak to the truth of what is happening, and the ongoing crisis of Guantanamo’s existence.

Please take a minute to read and share these pieces, along with Jeremy Varon’s analysis of where we stand as a movement.

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Report on May 23rd Global Day of action to close Guantanamo

The Global Day of Action to Close Guantanamo and End Indefinite Detention garnered national and international participation, with activity in over 50 cities in eight different countries.  It’s inspiring to see the photos and read reports from many of those who participated on May 23rd.

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June 26th – June 30th in Washington, DC

Participate in Torture Awareness Week with Witness Against Torture

June 26th is the date that the United Nations has marked as the International Day in Support of Survivors and Victims of Torture.  Every year Witness Against Torture travels to Washington D.C. to support events organized by the Torture Abolition and Survivors Support Coalition (TASSC) and other human rights organizations for Torture Awareness Week.

This year, we will be gathering in Washington, D.C. from June 26th to June 30th. You are invited to join us.

Email witnesstorture@gmail.com if you are interested in participating and/or helping to organize activities while in DC.

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Witness Against Torture FRIDAY FAST FOR JUSTICE

Join in solidarity with the men through the Fast for Justice

Please consider joining WAT’s Friday Fast for Justice.  If you join the fast, we would ask you to:

-Fast on Friday, in any form you like;

-Make three phone calls (click here to see who we are currently focusing our calls on

-Write to a prisoner at Guantánamo. (click here for instructions on how)

If you are already participating in or are interested in participating in theFriday Fast for Justice, please sign up here.

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WITNESS AGAINST TORTURE SOCIAL MEDIA

Please ‘like’ us on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/witnesstorture & Follow Us on Twitter & Instagram: https://twitter.com/witnesstorture -http://instagram.com/witnesstorture#

Post any pictures of your local activities to http://www.flickr.com/groups/witnesstorture/, and we will help spread the word onhttp://witnesstorture.tumblr.com/

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DONATE

Witness Against Torture is completely volunteer driven and run.  We have no paid staff, but do have expenses associated with our organizing work.  If you are able, please donate here.

www.witnesstorture.org

*to unsubscribe, email witnesstorture@gmail.com with ‘remove’ in the subject line

Why is President Obama now releasing “high-level” prisoners from the prison when he has repeatedly blamed Congress for blocking him from closing the prison? The swap means the President does have executive power after all.