Human rights activists will lead rallies across
the United States today to build pressure on the Bush administration and Congress
to end the detention of foreign prisoners at the Guantanamo Bay military camp.
From Washington, DC to Boise, Idaho, civil libertarians plan to hold more than
20 demonstrations and sit-ins across the country and have encouraged their supporters
to wear orange as an expression of opposition to indefinite detention and torture.
Orange is the color of the jumpsuits worn by the first Guantanamo detainees.
Their photographs were first released by the Department of Defense in 2002.
We believe people will turn out in force to express their opposition
to the symbol and reality of Guantanamo, said Jameel Jaffer of the American
Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), one of the nations largest and most influential
rights advocacy groups, which is sponsoring the day of action.
In a statement, Jaffer, who is director of the ACLUs national security
project, described the Bush administrations policy of indefinite detention
of Guantanamo Bay prisoners as a violation of the U.S. Constitution and international
human rights system that has been going on since 2002.
The ACLUs Close Guantanamo Bay day marks the six anniversary
of the arrival of prisoners at the U.S. military base in Cuba, where hundreds
of foreigners continue to languish behind bars without any trial in the U.S.
courts. In all about 800 people have been held at the Guantanamo prison
some of them for years on end since it opened in January 2002.
The Bush administration justifies their detention by stating that the naval
base in Guantanamo is outside U.S. territory so constitutional protections do
not apply, an argument that has been consistently challenged by United Nations
experts and human rights groups at home and abroad.
In May 2006, a UN panel that monitors compliance with the worlds anti-torture
treaty urged the United States to close its prison at Guantanamo and avoid using
secret detention facilities in what George W. Bush and his allies call the war
on terror. The Bush administration dismissed those arguments, saying the
UN experts lacked accurate information.
Last month, a UN investigator said he strongly suspected the Central Intelligence
Agency of using torture on prisoners at Guantanamo, adding that many prisoners
were likely not being prosecuted to keep the abuse from emerging at trial.
On a visit to Guantanamo, Martin Scheinin, UN special rapporteur on protecting
human rights while countering terrorism, attended a pre-trial hearing of Salim
Ahmed Hamdan, Osama bin Ladens former driver.
Scheinin said U.S. authorities told him that out of about 300 detainees currently
held at Guantanamo, 80 were expected to face military trials for suspected crimes.
Another 80 inmates had been cleared for release.
President George W. Bush says the United States does not engage in torture.
However, he remains unwilling to disclose what interrogation methods are being
used at Guantanamo and elsewhere.
The Close Guantanamo campaign initiated by the ACLU and other rights
advocacy groups will include events across the United States throughout the
month of January, but it will reach its climax today with rallies and demonstrations
in major towns and cities including Boston; New York; Philadelphia; Pittsburgh;
San Francisco; St. Louis; Tampa; and Washington, DC.
Organizers said some of the nations most popular performing artists have
expressed their willingness to participate in the rallies. Among others, musician
Henry Rollins, actress Gloria Reuben, and singer-songwriter Meshell Ndegeocello
said they will wear orange to express their outrage against illegal detentions.
I am wearing orange to help bring back the dignity our country has lost
as a result of Guantanamo, said Ndegeocello in a statement. We must
join together in solidarity to demand the immediate closure of this shameful
prison. It has tarnished Americas image in the world and continues to
be a symbol of torture and injustice.
According to the ACLU, in the past few weeks, hundreds of Internet users have
subscribed to its Close Guantanamo pages on Facebook and MySpace.com, including
campaigners from both parties presidential campaigns.
© 2008 One World
(Inter Press Service)