Witness Against Torture: A Different Orange Revolution

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Witness Against Torture, along with a number of other groups and individuals, launched a months of public demonstrations calling for the swift closing of the U.S. Guantanamo prison camp. Above, friend and Catholic Worker, Art Laffin stands in front of the White House. The orange jump suits are similar to what is worn by prisoners held at Guantanamo.

guantanamoOne of the speakers at yesterday’s opening event was Mohammed Sulaymon Barre. Barre was released from Guantanamo on December 20, 2009, and returned to his family in Somaliland. Mr. Barre had fled Somalia during the civil war in the early 1990s. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees granted Mr. Barre refugee status in Pakistan where he lived and worked freely for many years prior to his detention. In November 2001, soon after the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan, Pakistani authorities came to Mr. Barre’s house in the middle of the night and arrested him. He is believed to have been sold to the United States for bounty at a time when the United States was offering sizable sums for the handover of purported enemies. Once in the custody of U.S. forces, Mr. Barre was sent to the U.S. military base at Bagram, where U.S. guards abused him and coercively interrogated him before transferring him to Guantánamo. He was never charged with any crime.

Mohammed Sulaymon Barre made this statement this morning:

“I say to the torturers of Guantanamo, their leaders, and the politicians and people of power who back them in Washington: is it not time that you should awaken from your slumber? Is it not time that you should realize what you are doing and acknowledge the mistakes you have made? Time has passed, and time passes quickly. Hurry up and close this prison that has become a blot of shame upon all of America. Do it fast. Do it quickly.

“Closing this place should not mean just the transfer of these men to other prisons. That would only make things worse. Closing it should mean the release of these men and transferring them to where they can be safe.

“And that is not enough. There should be an appropriate and reasonable apology. “To those who say that they fear that those men, when released, would join enemy groups and therefore we should keep them in prison indefinitely, I say: don’t you know that keeping these detainees in prison is the very thing that feeds the animus against the United States? I say to those who believe in these notions: the thing you fear is the very thing you cause by your wrongful actions. This is what constitutes the real threat to the national security of the United States, not the closing of the prison and the release of detainees.  Peace be upon you.–Mohammed Sulaymon

Follow and support the Witness Against Torture events here.

Ex-Gitmo Guard: ‘Detainees Were Abused’

Brandon Neely by Pat Sullivan/Associated Press
Brandon Neely by Pat Sullivan/Associated Press

Thanks to Jim Douglass at the Orthodox Peace Fellowship for pointing out Mike Melia’s article in the Marine Corps Times on abuses at Guantanamo. Melia tells the story of Brandon Neely, who now is a member of Iraq Veterans Against the War.

Now that President Obama has ordered the detention camp shut down, we must begin the work of unpacking what led to the construction of such a camp, what we must do to bring justice to those who were treated illegally, and examine the long-term legacy of Guantanamo. Here’s an excerpt from Melia’s article:

San Juan, Puerto Rico — Army Pvt. Brandon Neely was scared when he took Guantanamo’s first shackled detainees off a bus. Told to expect vicious terrorists, he grabbed a trembling, elderly detainee and ground his face into the cement — the first of a range of humiliations he says he participated in and witnessed as the prison was opening for business.

Neely has now come forward in this final year of the detention
center’s existence, saying he wants to publicly air his feelings of guilt and shame about how some soldiers behaved as the military scrambled to handle the first alleged al-Qaida and Taliban members arriving at the isolated U.S. Navy base.

His account, one of the first by a former guard describing abuses at Guantanamo, describes a chaotic time when soldiers lacked clear rules for dealing with detainees who were denied many basic comforts. He says the circumstances changed quickly once monitors from the International Committee of the Red Cross arrived.

Read Mike Melia’s whole article here.