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News :: Human Rights : International
Boston Joins Protesters Worldwide: Shut Down Guantanamo, Now!
12 Jan 2007
Boston, Mass.-- “I’m a litigator here in Boston and I have been working on representing six men detained in Guantanamo Bay Cuba since January 20, 2002. I had the opportunity to go down to the base. I met with these guys. I looked into their eyes. I have spoken with them and have spoken extensively with their families,” said Jeff Gleason, defense attorney with WilmerHale and the Center for Constitutional Rights. “This is of course the 5th anniversary of the opening of the Guantanamo detention facility. Guantanamo has become a powerful image, both at home and abroad, and has come to represent the very worst in the Bush administration’s approach to the war on terror.”
Boston Protesters Cry Out, Shut Down Guantanamo, Now!
More than 35 countries held protests and vigils around the world yesterday to demand the immediate shut down of Guantanamo, according to the Witness for Against Torture campaign. In Boston, at least 150 people gathered to protest against the war in Iraq and to hold the Bush administration accountable for its abuse of executive power. They marched from Park Street after an anti-war protest there, interrumpting traffic during rush hour in defiance of Bush's policies in the Middle East.

In Washington, 300 hooded people in orange suits marched through the streets and into the Supreme Court. At least 90 people were arrested at the Federal Court and submitted the names of Guantanamo detainees to the police instead of their own, as a symbolic and strategic move to pressure the government to re-adopt habeas corpus for Guantanamo detainees and all prisoners in the U.S. “war on terror.” In Cuba, a 15-person delegation including former prisoners and family members of Guantanamo detainees, got as close as they were able to the detention camp and demanded it be immediately shut down, asking for fair trials, the overturn the Military Commissions Act, and for government officials to restore habeas corpus.

When President Bush declared “mission accomplished” on May 1, 2003, he congratulated men and women in service for bringing down a tyrant and liberating Iraqis from an oppressive state. “You are defending your country, and protecting the innocent from harm,” he told them, “And wherever you go, you carry a message of hope—a message that is ancient, and ever new. In the words of the prophet Isaiah: ‘To the captives, 'Come out!' and to those in darkness, 'Be free!'” At the time, plans to create a legal black hole in Guantanamo were already in the works.

Already back in January 9, 2002, the Bush administration and its legal team predicted how the detention facility would work to their advantage by avoiding U.S. and international law. The Washington Post quoted military legal specialists saying that holding trials at Guantanamo Bay, which has been leased from the Cuban government since 1903 and is not on U.S. soil, would work in the government's favor because the prisoners would not be allowed to challenge their detention in U.S. federal court.

"I don't think anything like this has ever happened before," said Steve Lucas, a spokesman for the U.S. Southern Command in Miami, about the transfer and relocation of hundreds prisoners to Guantanamo. "For the movement of these kinds of prisoners, people who are murderously suicidal, I don't think there's precedent."

One of those “murderous suicidal” people is Jeff Gleason’s clients, Mohammed Neschla, an Algerian-born human rights worker who was apprehended in Bosnia while he was working with the Red Crescent, an organization affiliated with the Red Cross. Happily married and the father of two children, he was deemed as an enemy combatant—a fictitious legal category—and has been held for five agonizing years in Guantanamo, away from his family, tortured and relentlessly questioned, accused of nefarious crimes such as having a nickname, and denied a fair trial.

“An enemy combatant has no precedent in law, it has no precedent in history and therefore, it entitles these men with no rights, no protection. At least under the Bush administration reading of it,” said Mr. Gleason. “These men are completely at the mercy of your president. And under the Bush administration’s treatment have no access to the public, they will be denied access to their attorneys, and they will be denied access to the courts of law.”

In 2001, the Bosnian Supreme Court, the highest court in that country, alongside with the recommendation of a federal prosecutor, had decided that there was absolutely no evidence to detain Mohammed Neschla and five other Algerians and ordered their immediate release. Instead, the U.S. secretly removed them from Bosnia and shipped them to Guantanamo.

Since that time Mohammed has lived in an 8x6 cage and sees no end to his imprisonment under the United States government. One of his Algerian countrymen has been held for the past six months in solitary confinement at Guantanamo, according to his lawyer Mr. Gleason.

The world has seen other oppressive governments, including that of Saddam Hussein. It has seen other islands of terror, such as Island Dawson in Chile under Pinochet’s reign, which held as many as 300 political prisoners. Island Dawson, a forced labor camp and torture facility—deemed a concentration camp by many Chileans—lasted two years before its closure. Ironically, it did so under U.S. pressure.

Sergio Reyes, a Boston resident held and tortured at Island Dawson, remembered his confinement days after Pinochet’s death, comparing it to Guantanamo. “I know exactly what they’re going through. Even those photos that show some of the ways they’re transported from one place to the other; you see them blindfolded, held by the arm, tied up. I know exactly how that is. The U.S. model of control through torture is not a new one, you see, it’s old. That’s exactly what Chileans used, so I know what’s going on there,” Mr. Reyes said.

Josh Rubenstein, Northeast Regional Director for Amnesty International present at yesterday’s protest, understands well how states of terror are built and seemingly pretend to act above the law. “Torture is illegal, it’s illegal under U.S. law, it’s illegal under international law. And whoever uses torture, whoever supervises the use of torture, whoever orders the use of torture is breaking the law. And we are a country of laws and no one is above the law. And when the Bush administration decided that the prohibition against torture should be diluted, in Afghanistan, in Abu Ghraib, in Guantanamo, they were breaking the law,” he said.

“Guantanamo represents the use of torture in dealing with detainees. It represents the unchecked usurpation of power by the executive. It represents great injustice and it needs to close,” said Mr. Gleason.

“Guantanamo needs to be closed and the individuals there need to be charged or released. That’s what we expect for every other individual in this country and we should expect no less for prisoners our government is holding today in Guantanamo,” said Mr. Rubenstein.

Millions in the U.S. and around the world opposed to the Bush administration’s disregard for the law but hopeful for peace and the survival of true democracy, understand this. It’s their turn to say, “To the captives, 'Come out!' and to those in darkness, 'Be free!'”

[AUDIO: Listen to Jeff Gleason's full speech at]
Boston Protesters Cry Out, Shut Down Guantanamo, Now!
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