Protestors call for closure of detention center, denounce torture, demand due process of detainees


Story Transcript

DAVID DOUGHERTY, TRNN: Wednesday, January 11 marked the ten-year anniversary of the opening of the Guantanamo Bay detention camp at the United States military base on the island of Cuba. Hundreds of demonstrators gathered at the White House to participate in a rally organized by several human rights organizations, denouncing the United States’ use of torture and the continuing operation of the Guantanamo detention facility. Nayeem Baig of the ICNA Council for Social Justice says that the United States’ policies of indefinite detention and torture associated with the Guantanamo prison contradict United States laws and values while dangerously tarnishing the country’s image abroad.

NAYEEM BAIG, ICNA COUNCIL FOR SOCIAL JUSTICE: It’s been ten years, and Guantanamo Bay is throughout the world seen as a symbol of torture and a violation of human rights. And that’s where we would like Guantanamo to be closed, so that the world should know that in America there is a rule of law and there is justice. And that’s what we are asking our government, to try these people in just—in courts, bring them to court, try them for their crimes, and those who are innocent, let them go home.

DOUGHERTY: Tom Parker of Amnesty International, one of the groups that helped organize the demonstration, says that things have not improved at Guantanamo under the Obama administration.

TOM PARKER, AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL: Things are much worse. I mean, if we were only to turn the clock back three years, there was unanimity on the election trail on right and left that Guantanamo needed to be closed. Today we’re further away from that than ever.

PRES. BARACK OBAMA: But make no mistake, we will close Guantanamo prison, which has damaged our national security interests and become a tremendous recruiting tool for al-Qaeda.

DOUGHERTY: President Obama had pledged to close the base while campaigning for presidency, and in 2009 he signed an executive order calling for the closure of the base within a year. Three years later, the base remains open. Retired FBI agent Coleen Rowley says that with Obama’s recent approval of the National Defense Authorization Act for 2012, it is likely that the base will remain open and that the prisoners, in many cases even those cleared of wrongdoing, could face indefinite detention.

COLEEN ROWLEY, WHISTLEBLOWER, FBI AGENT (RET’D): Very few Americans, number one, even know that Guantanamo is still open. And now it’s open indefinitely. The National Defense Authorization Act is likely to keep it open indefinitely. There are 89—somewhere like 59 to 89 people who have been cleared on Guantanamo and cannot be sent back to their home countries, even though they’re innocent.

DOUGHERTY: Coleen and several other demonstrators traveled to Washington from Minnesota, where on Monday they staged a separate action targeting Robert Delahunty, one of the co-authors of several memoranda advising the Bush administration in what became known as the Torture Memos.

ROWLEY: Well, ten years ago today, Guantanamo opened. But ten years and two days ago today, a memo was written, co-authored by John Yoo and Robert Delahunty of the Office of Legal Counsel, which were the Bush administration lawyers, that laid the groundwork for not only all of the laws being violated, including that we can detain people indefinitely; this memo told Bush that he no longer had to abide by the Geneva Conventions. And they used the loophole that nonstate actors—Taliban, al-Qaeda, anyone that they could accuse of being a nonstate actor—was not entitled to the protection of the Geneva Conventions. In Minnesota, Robert Delahunty went on to become a law professor at the University of St. Thomas. So ten years ago and two days ago, we did a march in Minnesota, then we got into a van and came to Washington, D.C.

DOUGHERTY: The White House released a statement insisting that President Obama was still determined to close the Guantanamo detention center, now a decade old. But with Obama’s recent approval of the NDAA and its provisions for indefinite detentions, few demonstrators were convinced that the White House is finally willing to act on its word to shut down the Guantanamo detention camp and ensure fair legal process and treatment for detainees. This is David Dougherty with The Real News Network.

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