Close Guantanamo

Amnesty International Toronto Close Guantanamo Rally -- protestersLast Saturday, I participated in a rally to Close Guantanamo.  It was a rally I helped to organize with the USA Team of Amnesty International, but I never even blogged about it because I was so busy with other things.

Guantanamo is where the United States continues to hold hundreds of prisoners captured in Afghanistan.  By labeling these prisoners “enemy combatants”, the United States has claimed that they have no legal rights whatsoever.  The rally marked five years that the prison has been in operation.  Many of the prisoners that remain at Guantanamo have not had any contact with family in all these years.  Dozens of them are juveniles.  There have been suicides, hunger strikes, force-feedings and deaths.  Allegations of torture are numerous.  In fact, the United States does not deny engaging in sleep deprivation, playing loud and/or offensive music at all times of the night and day and using other techniques they do not deem torture when they are the torturers.  During the rally, we were asked for 5 minutes of silence to mark this grim anniversary.  As I thought about what these prisoners have endured, and what their families have endured, I started to cry, as I always do at Amnesty rallies.

AI Toronto Close Guantanamo Rally -- mock detention centreAlthough nothing justifies the treatment these prisoners have endured, the horror is amplified by US policies of paying for prisoners, virtually guaranteeing that many detainees who were brought in as combatants didn’t even have anything to do with resisting the US attack on Afghanistan.  The detainees should all be granted the rights every human being deserves: fair trials or freedom.

In addition to the horror endured by the several hundred prisoners at Guantanamo, there are broader implications of the US policy there.  It threatens any gains in human rights that have been made globally in many years.  If the US can, with impunity, arbitrarily strip people of any legal rights, how can we demand that other countries stop assaulting their minorities?  If the US is entitled to deprive human beings of sleep, beat them and humiliate them, and say this is not torture, how can we protect the Maher Arars of the world from torture in Syrian prisons?

In June of 2006, the Supreme Court of the United States ruled against the interpretation that the detainees were not entitled to protections under the Geneva Convention.  In response, President Bush and the US Congress enacted a law that effectively permits torture. Even the so-called terror states don’t openly allow torture in law.  We cannot permit these developments to go unchallenged.

So in order to make up for my negligence, I’d like to ask anyone reading this to visit the Amnesty International website and do just one of the many things they ask to help close Guantanamo.

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