This Wednesday marks the 10th year since the start of illegal detention in Guantánamo Bay. Despite evidence of widespread torture and deprivation of due process for many detainees, the United States has continued to keep the doors open. Two recent accounts of innocence depict gruesome torture and denied due process and illustrate the need for action. Lakhdar Boumediene was snatched from Bosnia at the United States’ request for allegedly plotting to bomb an embassy in Sarajevo. In spite of an investigation by Bosnian courts dismissing these allegations as false, the US seized Boumediene and five others and shipped them off to Guantánamo. Held captive for seven years, Boumediene was finally set free after the Supreme Court stepped in and ruled that prisoners have a right to trial. Murat Kurnaz was apprehended in Pakistan, and, similarly, there was no proof connecting him to terrorist activities or groups. Kurnaz describes the treatment he received while detained:
During their interrogations, they dunked my head under water and punched me in the stomach; they don’t call this waterboarding but it amounts to the same thing. I was sure I would drown. At one point, I was chained to the ceiling of a building and hung by my hands for days. A doctor sometimes checked if I was O.K.; then I would be strung up again. The pain was unbearable. After about two months in Kandahar, I was transferred to Guantánamo. There were more beatings, endless solitary confinement, freezing temperatures and extreme heat, days of forced sleeplessness.
American and German intelligence documents revealed that, early on, both countries suspected he was innocent, but Kurnaz had to endure five years of torturous detainment before returning to his native land of Germany. Upon his arrival, Kurnaz observes,
When we landed, the American officers unshackled me before they handed me over to a delegation of German officials. The American officer offered to re-shackle my wrists with a fresh, plastic pair. But the commanding German officer strongly refused: “He has committed no crime; here, he is a free man.” I was not a strong secondary school student in Bremen, but I remember learning that after World War II, the Americans insisted on a trial for war criminals at Nuremberg, and that event helped turn Germany into a democratic country. Strange, I thought, as I stood on the tarmac watching the Germans teach the Americans a basic lesson about the rule of law.
That the US continues such policies with no end in sight should evoke serious outrage among us all. The Bill of Rights Defense Committee stands with Amnesty International and many other organizations in protesting unlawful detainment at Guantánamo Bay and Bagram this Wednesday in Washington, DC. Buses are coming in from all around the country to form a human chain from the White House to the Capitol. See if you can catch a bus leaving from your city or if there is an event planned in your area. With the passage of the National Defense Authorization Act, it has become increasingly clear that we cannot wait on our government to wake up on its own. Please join us in standing up for the Constitution.
[Update: In addition to Washington, DC, grassroots actions on Wednesday 1/11/12 are also planned in cities including Chicago, Dallas, Los Angeles, and Miami. Click the links for time and place details in each city. A call to grassroots action has also been issued for nationwide actions on Friday, 2/3/12 opposing indefinite detention.]