Witness Against Torture Launch “Forever Human Beings,” a 41-Day Campaign for the 41 “Forever Prisoners” Still Held at Guantánamo

22.5.17

Protestors with Witness Against Torture outside the Supreme Court on January 11, 2017, the 15th anniversary of the opening of Guantanamo (Photo: Andy Worthington).Please support my work! I’m currently trying to raise $2500 (£2000) to support my writing and campaigning on Guantánamo and related issues over the next three months of the Trump administration.

 

Since Donald Trump became president just over four months ago, the aggressive, and often unconstitutional incompetence emanating from the White House every day, on so many fronts, has unfortunately meant that long-standing injustices like the prison at Guantánamo Bay are in danger of disappearing off the radar completely, even more comprehensively than during the particular lulls in the presidency of Barack Obama, who largely sat on his hands between 2011 and 2013, when confronted by cynical obstruction in Congress to his hopes of closing the prison, doing very little until the prisoners forced his hand, embarking on a prison-wide hunger strike that drew the world’s attention, and embarrassed him into renewed action.

Through the Close Guantánamo campaign that I established with the attorney Tom Wilner in 2012 I have tried to keep Trump’s responsibility for Guantánamo in the public eye. Since his inauguration, opponents of Guantánamo have been sending in photos of themselves holding posters calling for Trump to close Guantánamo, which I’ve been posting on the website, and on social media — particularly through Facebook — ever since. Over 40 photos have now been published, with many more to come. Please join us. This Wednesday marks 125 days of Trump’s presidency, a suitable occasion to remind him that Guantánamo must be closed.

I’m pleased also to endorse a new initiative by Witness Against Torture, the campaigning group whose work is very close to my heart. Every January, on my annual visits to call for the closure of Guantánamo on an around the anniversary of its opening (on January 11), I spend time with members of Witness, many of whom have, over the years, become my friends, and I was delighted, a few days ago, to receive an email notifying me about “Forever Human Beings,” a 41-day campaign for the 41 “forever prisoners” still held at Guantánamo, launching this Friday, May 26.

Below is their article announcing the new initiative, with many planned actions listed, including, in the first instance, a rolling fast in which you are invited to take part. You can contact them here, and please also follow them on Facebook and Twitter.

#foreverhumanbeings: A Campaign to Close Guantánamo

“Are we going to pretend they’re less than men and walk away?”
– Luke Nephew (Peace Poet), “There is a Man Under the Hood

Forty-one human beings remain incarcerated in the prison at Guantánamo. All potentially face lifetimes of detention. Five have been cleared for release by the US government itself. But they were still in Guantánamo when Trump took office, and Trump has halted all transfers from the prison.

Many more are “forever prisoners,” who have not been charged with crimes, and never will be. A small handful of men are facing charges in the illegitimate and unworkable Military Commissions. If convicted, they could receive lengthy sentences, likely served at Guantánamo, or even the death penalty.

Guantánamo has always been a place of torture and the violation of human rights. It must close, no matter who is president. President Obama failed in his pledge to shutter the prison. Trump has threatened to bring new captives there. The thought of Trump — whose reckless disregard for the US Constitution is every day revealed — having Guantánamo as his private, offshore gulag is terrifying. Any day, we could learn that the Trump administration has sent a new captive to Guantánamo.

The continued existence of Guantánamo also feeds a resurgent Islamophobia and politics of fear and hate, typified by Trump’s unconstitutional “Muslim travel ban.” Guantánamo never housed simply the “worst of the worst” terrorists, as the Bush administration claimed. The vast majority of men held there never engaged in hostilities against the United States. By staying open, Guantánamo reinforces the terrible lie that all Muslims are dangerous, to be feared or even cut out of American life. To work to close Guantánamo is to support tolerance, pluralism, and respect for the rule of law.

Witness Against Torture is launching on Friday May 26: #foreverhumanbeings – A Campaign to Close Guantánamo. For a period of 41 days, spanning the holy month of Ramadan and beyond, the campaign will bring awareness to the fate of each of the 41 men detained in Guantanamo Bay Prison, coordinate public action aimed at closing Guantánamo, and draw links between Guantánamo, institutionalized Islamophobia, all forms of racism, and abuses in the US criminal justice and prison systems.

The Witness Against Torture campaign will include:

– an international and interfaith “rolling fast” throughout the campaign’s 41 days. Fasters are encouraged to incorporate concern for the abuse of men in Guantánamo during their day. If you are observing Ramadan, you may leave an empty seat at the dinner table in remembrance of the men who are in Guantánamo rather than at home with their families, during Iftar. Sign up for the Rolling Fast here. More details to come.

– phone calls, emails, and letters to relevant governmental and military offices.

– creative direct action and vigils in Washington, D.C. and other places.

– scheduled blogposts on such topics as Islamophobia, the current situation at Guantánamo, religious objections to torture, and the use of Communication Management Units in “war on terror” detentions.

– daily profiles on social media of each of the 41 detained men.

– participation on June 23 in the all-day vigil at the White House organized by the Torture Abolition and Survivors Support Coalition.

– the creation and distribution of art addressing Guantánamo, torture, and the US prisons.

Please join us in remembering the men locked away, now forever, at Guantánamo and working to close the prison!

Please also check out the video below, How to Close Guantánamo Under Trump, by Justin Norman, who does all Witness Against Torture’s photos and videos, and also designed the We Stand With Shaker website and the Gitmo Clock for Close Guantánamo.

Witness Against Torture formed in 2005 when 25 Americans went to Guantánamo Bay and attempted to visit the detention facility. They began to organize more broadly to shut down Guantánamo, end indefinite detention and torture and call out Islamophobia. During our demonstrations, we lift up the words of the detainees themselves, bringing them to public spaces they are not permitted to access. Witness Against Torture will carry on in its activities until torture is decisively ended, its victims are fully acknowledged,Guantánamo and similar facilities are closed, and those who ordered and committed torture are held to account.

Andy Worthington is a freelance investigative journalist, activist, author, photographer, film-maker and singer-songwriter (the lead singer and main songwriter for the London-based band The Four Fathers, whose debut album ‘Love and War’ and EP ‘Fighting Injustice’ are available here to download or on CD via Bandcamp). He is the co-founder of the Close Guantánamo campaign (and the Countdown to Close Guantánamo initiative, launched in January 2016), the co-director of We Stand With Shaker, which called for the release from Guantánamo of Shaker Aamer, the last British resident in the prison (finally freed on October 30, 2015), and the author of The Guantánamo Files: The Stories of the 774 Detainees in America’s Illegal Prison (published by Pluto Press, distributed by the University of Chicago Press in the US, and available from Amazon, including a Kindle edition — click on the following for the US and the UK) and of two other books: Stonehenge: Celebration and Subversion and The Battle of the Beanfield. He is also the co-director (with Polly Nash) of the documentary film, “Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo” (available on DVD here — or here for the US).

To receive new articles in your inbox, please subscribe to Andy’s RSS feed — and he can also be found on Facebook (and here), Twitter, Flickr and YouTube. Also see the six-part definitive Guantánamo prisoner list, and The Complete Guantánamo Files, an ongoing, 70-part, million-word series drawing on files released by WikiLeaks in April 2011. Also see the definitive Guantánamo habeas list, the full military commissions list, and the chronological list of all Andy’s articles.

Please also consider joining the Close Guantánamo campaign, and, if you appreciate Andy’s work, feel free to make a donation.

3 Responses

  1. Andy Worthington says...

    When I posted this on Facebook, I wrote:

    Here’s my latest article, promoting a brand-new initiative by my dear friends at Witness Against Torture – #foreverhumanbeings, a 41-day campaign for the 41 men still held at Guantanamo, with all manner of activities planned against Donald Trump, beginning this Friday, May 26. First up, you can, if you want, join them in a rolling fast, but there’ll also be letters, emails, phone calls, vigils, blog posts and much more. Please do join in if you can!

  2. Kirilova says...

    Guantanamo is the worst failure of the modern western system. Innocent people are being detained for years, without charges, without due trial. It’s an Orwell style world!

  3. Andy Worthington says...

    Thanks, Kirilova. Good to hear from you.

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Andy Worthington

Investigative journalist, author, campaigner, commentator and public speaker. Recognized as an authority on Guantánamo and the “war on terror.” Co-founder, Close Guantánamo, co-director, We Stand With Shaker. Also, singer and songwriter (The Four Fathers) and photographer.
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