Thursday, November 19, 2009

 

Justice Delayed, Justice Denied - from Witness Against Torture

Witness Against Torture Responds to Obama’s Statement that Guantanamo Will Not Close by January 2010.

Join us: Fast and Vigil to Shut Down Guantanamo, End Torture and Build Justice, http://www.witnesstorture.org/2010

Wednesday, November 18. President Barack Obama conceded today that the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba will not close within the one year mandated by the Executive Order he signed on January 22, 2009. This is a disappointment but not a surprise.

For months, the administration has been sending signals that it over-reached in its timetable. The given reasons for the delay are likewise familiar: that the Bush administration left a legal mess, requiring painstaking work to determine the ideal means for handling the remaining detainees; that it has been hard to find countries to admit detainees who cannot be resettled in their countries of origin due to fears of ill-treatment; and that unanticipated domestic resistance to Guantanamo’s closure, much of it fueled by fear-mongering and partisan politics, has slowed the process. These impediments, while real wrenches in the grinding wheels of policy, cannot excuse the moral and constitutional disaster that Guantanamo's continuing operation represents.
Since coming to office, the Obama administration has presented Guantanamo as an administrative problem, a cause of embarrassment, and a foreign policy liability. It has never faced Guantanamo for what it truly is: a grave injustice which the United States is duty bound, by the best of its traditions and basic standards of fairness and decency, to immediately set right.

"Justice Delayed is Justice Denied" — the great maxim of the Civil Rights Movement that made Barack Obama's political ascent possible — has been forgotten. Martin Luther King Jr.'s talk of "The Fierce Urgency of Now," repeatedly invoked by President Obama to push ahead with domestic reforms, has been replaced, for the Guantanamo detainees and anyone who cares about the rule of law, with "the fickle hope of eventually" and "the self-serving pledge of maybe."
All the while, the Obama administration proclaims its intent to put U.S. policies and practices in accordance with our laws and values.

Yet the United States continues to detain dozens of men at Guantanamo who have been cleared for release. In the case of the remaining Uighurs, the administration has advanced the Orwellian conclusion that they are no longer prisoners — they just have nowhere to go, and must therefore remain on the dusty gulag.

Echoing the policies of Bush, Obama proposes the indefinite detention, without charge or trial, of detainees against whom no case has been built or from whom "evidence" was obtained through torture. The Obama Justice Department repeatedly invokes the "state secrets" defense to beat back legal efforts of those kidnapped and tortured to receive acknowledgment of their injury and compensation for it. And it has steadfastly refused to investigate and, if warranted, prosecute those who designed and ordered torture policies, choosing instead a limited inquiry into the most egregious cases of "unauthorized" detainee abuse.

Finally, it has allowed obsessive attention with the truly dangerous men in U.S. detention — such as Khalid Sheik Mohammed and other Al Qaeda leaders — to obscure the fact the great majority of detainees held at Guantanamo have been falsely imprisoned.

How is it tolerable within the framework of American laws and values to hold for even one day longer men who, innocent of any crime, have been stolen from their families, tortured, and dehumanized?

How is it tolerable to knowingly imprison innocent men while failing to indict officials who — a preponderance of public evidence suggests — are guilty of heinous political crimes and violations of human rights? How can the rule of law be restored when U.S. laws are not even enforced?
And how can the wreckage of the past be cleared when the key monument of that wreckage, the detention facility at Guantanamo, remains intact.

The Obama administration will continue to face enormous hostility — much of it paranoid, opportunistic, and vicious — to even its inadequate efforts to undo the worst of the Bush era policies. Those efforts must be supported, for the real good they will bring and to beat back domestic forces ready to plunge the United States into a new nightmare of lawlessness and wanton cruelty in the name of "national security."

But the administration must also be held to its words and promises.

Its failures cannot be masked with rationalizations and false deference to the constraints of partisan bickering and legal complexities. The inability to fulfill the mandate of the Executive Order to close Guantanamo within a year is just such a failure, making still more urgent the demand for true justice.

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Witness Against Torture is a grassroots organization committed to closing Guantanamo, Bagram and ending torture. The group will hold a fast and vigil in Washington, DC from January 11, 2010—the date marking eight years since Guantanamo’s beginning as a "war on terror"
prison through January 22, 2010, the date by which the Obama administration committed to closing the facility. To learn more about the fast and vigil to Shut Down Guantanamo, End Torture and Build Justice visit http://www.witnesstorture.org/2010

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Frida Berrigan
frida.berrigan@gmail.com

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