Stone-Walled by Obama Justice Department Anti-Torture Activists are Denied a Promised Meeting, Picket Office

For Immediate Release

Contact: 

Jeremy Varon, jvaron@aol.com, 732-979-3119
Helen Schietinger, h.schietinger@verizon.net, 202-344-5762

Stone-Walled by Obama Justice Department Anti-Torture Activists are Denied a Promised Meeting, Picket Office

Commit to Future Actions, Including Twelve Day Vigil and Fast in January 2011

WASHINGTON - “Shut
Down Guantanamo, Meet with Us! We Demand Justice, Meet with Us!” A group of
fifteen anti-torture activists picketed the Obama Justice Department this
afternoon.

After meeting with
the Justice Department’s Office of Intergovernmental and Public Liaison on
June, 15 2010 to discuss the Obama administration’s controversial record on
detention issues, a coalition of human rights advocates were promised further
dialogue with the Department.  However
they have been denied any further meeting, despite repeated requests. No one at
the Justice Department responded to the multiple follow up letters and phone
calls.  

“This is the kind of
treatment that compels us to the streets, to direct action, to witness and
organize for justice instead of lobbying for it. This is why we are laying the
ground work for a twelve day fast and daily vigil in January 2011,”
says Matt Daloisio, an organizer with Witness Against Torture. “January 11 is the date in 2002 that the first
‘enemy combatants’ were brought to Guantanamo. We will demonstrate and fast
each day through January 22—the day of broken promises, when President Obama
signed the executive order closing Guantanamo and ending torture in 2009.”

On Friday, October 1st,
the picketers wore orange jumpsuits and black hoods representing the 160 plus
men who remain in legal limbo and indefinite detention at Guantanamo. They
carried signs that said: “Obama Justice = Bush Justice = No Justice” and made
repeated phone calls to the office of Public Liaison Director Portia Roberson
to remind her of the promised meeting.

“This stonewalling
by the Justice Department is alarming and frustrating,” said Helen Schietinger, a DC-based
Witness Against Torture activist. “When Obama came into office, he asked citizens
to pressure, push and organize. But, when we do that, and on the issue of
Guantanamo and torture, which the President pledged to address with dispatch
and seriousness-- we are met with bureaucratic inertia and callous disregard.”

Witness Against Torture
initially met with the Justice Department to demand that the Obama
administration answer to public outrage at its continuation of Bush-era
policies, such as indefinite detention and the use of the state-secrets defense
to dismiss lawsuits of men kidnapped by the United States and tortured.

The group formed in December 2005 when twenty-five
activists walked to Guantanamo to protest the detention camp.  Since then,
it has engaged in public education, lobbying, community outreach, and
non-violent civil disobedience. The group is planning a fast and vigil
from January 11, 2011 through January 22, 2011 for a third consecutive year to
continue demanding justice and an end to torture for the men at Guantanamo,
Bagram and other U.S. detention facilities. For more on the group, visit www.witnesstorture.org

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Witness Against Torture is a grassroots movement that came into being in December 2005 when 24 activists walked to Guantanamo to visit the prisoners and condemn torture policies. Since then, it has engaged in public education, community outreach, and non-violent direct action. For the first 100 days of the Obama administration, the group held a daily vigil at the White House, encouraging the new President to uphold his commitments to shut down Guantanamo.

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