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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 - October 2 - “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