Guantánamo – Not in Our Name!
On Friday, January 11, 2008 our group, U.S. Citizens for Peace & Justice – Rome, joined Amnesty International for a protest at the U.S. Embassy calling for the immediate closure of Guantánamo and an end to illegal detention. The protest was part of an international day of action in occasion of the sixth anniversary of the arrival of the first prisoners at the notorious U.S. detention center. (See original appeal)
Thousands participated in protests throughout the world, many at U.S. embassies, with the largest demonstrations in Sydney, London and Washington DC, where 80 activists were arrested at the Supreme Court. Most of those arrested were still being held late Saturday as they refused to give their real names to the judge and instead gave names of detainees so that the names would finally be heard in a courtroom.
In Rome, Amnesty activists joined by Luisa Morgantini, Vice President of European Parliament, wore orange jumpsuits and held a banner “Chiudere Guantánamo Ora” in front of the U.S. Embassy and an impressive police presence. Our group held orange signs reading “Shut Down Guantánamo Now” and “End Illegal Detention.” We also wore orange ribbons to remember the nearly 300 detainees who are still being held, without charge.
The Italian and international press asked how we felt about this being done in our name. We replied that detaining people for years without charge, subjecting them torture and abuse and denying them a fair trial could only be described as a national disgrace. And telling us it is in the interest of “national security” is downright offensive.
We were also asked what chances there are of change with the upcoming presidential elections. While all Democratic candidates as well as two Republicans (John McCain and Ron Paul) have said they want to close Guantánamo – a positive sign that public opinion has forced the issue into the campaign – it will be our responsibility to keep the pressure on and make sure this doesn't become an empty promise. (Send a message to the candidates)
Later that night, we walked through the tourist areas of Rome, including the Pantheon, Piazza Navona as well as the bars of Campo de' Fiori, wearing Shut Down Guantánamo signs and handing out 300 bi-lingual flyers with the appalling facts and figures on the prison. The Friday night after dinner crowd was especially lively in Trastevere where we engaged a number of Italians, tourists and U.S. citizens living in Rome who were curious to know more about the issues and our group.
All in all, we did our best to get the message across: enough is enough! Unfortunately, there is still much work to be done. As the world protested illegal detention Friday, a U.S. appeals court dismissed a case by four former detainees against then-Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and 10 military commanders for damages caused by torture, abuse and violations of their religious rights. The court ruled that the defendants “enjoyed qualified immunity for acts taken within the scope of their government jobs.” And it was the court's opinion that “torture is a foreseeable consequence of the military's detention of suspected enemy combatants.”
These injustices, perpetrated by our own 'justice' systems, are what we will continue fighting against. And against all the odds, we are sincerely hoping that this will be the last anniversary we'll find ourselves marking.
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Copyright © 2008 Stephanie Westbrook Anna Farkas All rights reserved.
U.S. Citizens for Peace & Justice - Rome, Italy