Anti-Torture Activists to Rally, Engage in Civil Disobedience at the Obama White House

For Immediate Release

Witness Against Torture
Contact: 

Matthew Daloisio, 201-264-4424, daloisio@earthlink.net
Frida Berrigan, 347-683-4928, frida.berrigan@gmail.com

Anti-Torture Activists to Rally, Engage in Civil Disobedience at the Obama White House

Protest Against the Continuation of Bush Detention Policies and Refusal to Prosecute Torture

WASHINGTON - Witness Against Torture’s “100 Days Campaign to Close Guantanamo and
End Torture” will conclude on Thursday, April 30th with an 11:15 am
rally at Lafayette Park and a noon protest at the White House, in
which 55 activists, representing the 55 men cleared for release but
still in Guantanamo, will risk arrest-- the first such arrest action
at the Obama White House. The demonstrations reflect mounting
frustration at President Obama’s failure to live up to his campaign
promise to break with the Bush administration’s detention policies and
bring accountability to government. “Despite early, encouraging
signs,” says Matthew Daloisio of Witness Against Torture (WAT), “the
first months of the Obama administration have been a grave
disappointment with respect to detainee issues and torture. Many of
the immoral and illegal policies of the Bush administration remain in
place, and President Obama has been reluctant to investigate possible
past crimes. We are demonstrating at the White House to push Obama to
fully reverse the Bush policies and commit to a criminal inquiry.”

Witness Against Torture demands, with a growing chorus of voices, that
the Obama administration investigate and possibly prosecute alleged
acts of torture by CIA officers operating under the pseudo-legal cover
of Bush administration internal memos. A Justice Department inquiry
must also extend to the architects of the torture policies, as well as
to the widespread use of “enhanced interrogations” beyond the CIA’s
notorious program. International and domestic law in fact requires
that the United States investigate evidence of the violation of bans
on torture. “President Obama cannot restore the rule of law,” says
Matt Vogel of WAT, “while failing to enforce the law. We need
accountability, not immunity.” In line with the Bush administration
before it, the Obama administration has twice invoked the “state
secrets” defense in efforts to dismiss lawsuits seeking redress for
those rendered and tortured and damages against private companies
participating in rendition (Arar v. Ashcroft et al; Mohamed et al v.
Jeppesen Dataplan, Inc).

The demonstration also draws attention to the ongoing ordeal of the
detainees still at Guantanamo, which Obama’s pledge to shut down the
detention facility has done nothing to relieve. Many of the current
detainees are innocent of allegations of terrorism and have been
cleared for release. This is true of the 17 Uighur Muslims, who were
ordered by Judge Ricardo Urbina in October 2008 to be released
immediately into the United States. Yet the Obama Justice Department
pursued a challenge to the ruling by the Bush administration, and the
Uighurs remain at Guantanamo. “Obama must know the Civil Rights-era
slogan ‘Justice delayed is justice denied,’” says historian and WAT
activist Jeremy Varon. “It is time for him to honor those words and
not repeat the last administration’s callous disregard for the lives
of these men.” Witness Against Torture has called for the release of
the Uighurs in its daily vigils at the White House since President
Obama’s inauguration.

The April 30th demonstration will highlight a final theme of the 100
Days Campaign: the continued denial of the rule of law and abuse of
detainees under the Obama administration at Bagram Air Base in
Afghanistan. The DOJ recently indicated it will challenge the April
3rd ruling by the conservative U.S. District Judge John Bates that
habeas rights, affirmed for Guantanamo inmates by the Supreme Court
(Boumediene v. Bush), extend to Bagram inmates not captured on the
Afghan battlefield. “Bagram is fast becoming Obama’s Guantanamo,”
says Witness Against Torture’s Tanya Theriault, “where the same
violations of American laws and values take place. Closing Guantanamo
but doing nothing about Bagram mocks the message of real change.”

Background

Witness Against Torture was formed in 2005 when 25 activists went to
Guantanamo Bay to hold a protest outside the detention facility. In
2008, 80 members were arrested at the Supreme Court demanding that
habeas rights be granted the detainees, and took the names of
detainees at their arrests. In the resulting trial in Washington,
D.C. in May 2008, the defendants put Guantanamo itself and Bush’s
torture policies on trial. This last January 11th, Witness Against
Torture led more than 100 people in a nationwide, nine-day fast in
protest of Guantanamo and in recognition of the detainees’ hunger
strikes there.

The 100 Days Campaign began on Obama’s inauguration. During it, WAT
activists-- many of whom came from distant cities to Washington D.C.
for a week or more-- have held a daily vigil at the White House,
brought protest signs to confirmation and other congressional
hearings, lobbied lawmakers to change detention policies, and hosted
numerous lectures and other public events in the Washington, D.C.
area. The group will continue its activities until torture is
decisively ended, its victims are fully acknowledged, Guantanamo and
similar facilities are closed, and those who ordered and committed
torture are held to account.

The April 30th events will begin with a rally at the Capital
Reflecting pool at 10:15 am, followed by a detainee procession to
Lafayette Park. There, Witness Against Torture and other human rights
groups will speak out about Guantanamo, torture and accountability.
The action at the White House gates will begin at noon.

Event: Rally at Lafayette Park and Protest at the White House

Date: Thursday, April 30

Time: 11:15 am-- Rally at Lafayette Park; Noon-- White House Protest

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