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January 26, 2011
12:43 PM

CONTACT: Witness Against Torture

Frida Berrigan, 347-683-4928      
Jeremy Varon, 732-979-3119

The State of Guantanamo

WASHINGTON - January 26 - As the Witness Against Torture Fast for Justice drew to a close on January 22, the end of two weeks of action and our collective returns home were bittersweet.

Bitter because we have not--despite our marching and witnessing and lobbying and processing and speaking out and being silent and haranguing and incommoding (both of those are chargeable offenses in the District of Columbia)-- succeeded in shutting down Guantanamo or shuttering Bagram or delivering justice to those indefinitely detained.

And sweet because we have built such a beautiful community of resistance here at St Stephens Church and in front of the Department of Justice and on the streets of Washington.

The bleak political climate, the ongoing and ever more aggressive war in Afghanistan, the hardening rhetoric of hate and fear-mongering throughout American culture, and the new plans of Obama administration to reopen military tribunals at Guantanamo almost ensure that we will have to mark a terrible and dark tenth anniversary of the island prison.

We leave Washington committed to that work and knowing that together--along with all of you--we can meet injustice and violence with creative community building, courageous and compassionate acts and nonviolent resistance.

In the State of the Union Address, President Obama did not mention Guantanamo. We offer here our own "State of Guantanamo...and other Obama / Bush continuity." We do not think that Presidents Obama and Bush are precisely the same. But as the gap between rhetoric and reality becomes a chasm, we must acknowledge some harsh facts, and plan how to continue and grow our resistance.


  • Guantanamo remains open.
  • There have been very few repatriations or resettlements, despite Obama's pledge to free those who will not be tried.
  • There is a blanket ban on releasing the largest group of remaining men (Yemenis) who face no charges but may never see freedom.
  • The Justice Department has appealed most (if not all) habeas victories, preventing due process and/or release.
  • Resettlements and even the transfer of men to stand trial in the US have been legally blocked by the Congress.
  • Bagram is a new "legal black hole" and largely off limits to even minimal oversight.
  • Anyone operating under the "enhanced interrogation" protocols is a priori excluded from prosecution.
  • The Justice Department overrode the conclusion of an accountability investigation initiated under Bush, effectively exonerating those who "authorized" torture.
  • There is no adequate criminal inquiry into torture.
  • The government has blocked every effort at legal redress for the Guantanamo detainees and other victims of torture.
  • Civilan trials have been essentially abandoned.
  • Military commissions at Guantanamo will be re-initiated to provide a lower threshold of evidence and permit easier prosecution of victims of torture and easier use of evidence derived from torture.
  • A formal system of indefinite detention without charge or trial is being devised.
The State of Our Community

We find hope in the community that gathered in Washington DC from Jan 11-22 (visit for re-caps of and reflections of their daily activities). We find hope in the men who remain in Guantanamo, whose protest within the prison walls on January 22 (the anniversary of Obama's broken promise) is both haunting and challenging.

Building on this hope, and faced with Guantanamo's tenth year as the shame of the nation, we begin planning... We now know for certain that the president has no plans to shutter Guantanamo before next January 11, so we have no plans to shut down our operations. Another Witness presence in Washington DC will come in June, and we plan to launch a mass education and recruitment drive, reaching parishes, congregations, and college campuses across the nation. When we return to Washington next January 11, we will number in the thousands - marching and witnessing and lobbying and processing and speaking out and being silent and haranguing and incommoding - until the people in power get the message: No Torture, No Bagram, No GTMO, No More

We remain committed to stand on behalf of those unjustly detained by US policy...but we are committed too, to changing the policy. With your help, we can.

- Witness Against Torture

P.S. Please make a donation to support our ongoing work.

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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