Protesters demand: close Guantánamo

Published Jan 18, 2007 11:45 PM

On Jan. 11 prominent anti-war mom turned activist Cindy Sheehan and others marched in Cuba to demand that the U.S. torture center at Guantánamo Bay be permanently closed. The mothers of a prisoner held at Guantánamo and of a New York City firefighter killed on 9/11 were among the protestors.

At a conference on the eve of the protest Sheehan identified “George Bush and his administration” as “enemies of humanity.” She also referred to the crimes at Guantánamo as “horrific” and “unspeakable.”

The event was given front-page coverage in the Cuban Communist Party’s daily newspaper, Granma. The Guantánamo facility is unlawfully located on a part of Cuban territory occupied by a U.S. naval base. Cuban authorities have previously referred to the U.S. center as a “concentration camp.”

The protests coincided with similar events held in Washington and London. The new U.N. Secretary-General, Ban Ki Moon, has also called upon U.S. officials to shut down the infamous detention center.

The Center for Constitutional Rights and Amnesty International co-sponsored the demonstrations in Washington. The aptly named Witness Against Torture Protest began at Upper Senate Park and marched to the Supreme Court and then to the U.S. Federal Court. Approximately 100 dissidents were arrested inside the federal courthouse for protesting conditions at Guantánamo.

On the steps of the Supreme Court, organizers demanded that those held at Guantánamo not be sent to other detention facilities, secret “black sites” or to third-party countries for torture by proxy. CCR President Michael Ratner pointed out, “Five years ago, the Bush administration brought the first detainees to Guantánamo hooded and shackled in an attempt to create an offshore penal colony free from the rule of law and hidden from the eyes of the world.”

More than 750 men have been imprisoned at Guantánamo. All detainees have been denied access to a court of law and an AI report issued in summer 2005 detailed a pattern of systematic torture at the Guantánamo facilities.

Extra-judicial intimidation

Senior Pentagon official Charles D. Stimson said in a recent radio interview that he was unhappy with the fact that lawyers at several of the nation’s top firms were representing the Guantánamo prisoners, and called on the firms’ corporate clients to end their business ties with the firms.

New York University law professor Stephen Gillers has called Stimson’s comments “prejudicial to the administration of justice.” Reports in the New York Times identified an immediate backlash from lawyers, legal experts and bar association officials.

The U.S. government’s use of intimidation tactics to pervert the legal process for justice was echoed by Bush administration allies at the Wall Street Journal in an editorial by Robert L. Pollock. In a move eerily reminiscent of the McCarthy era anti-communist witch hunts, Pollock’s editorial provided a list of law firms, alongside a quote from an anonymous government official demanding that “corporate C.E.O.’s seeing this should ask firms to choose between lucrative retainers and representing terrorists.”

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