Friday, Dec 9, 2005, 11:50 am
Christian Witnesses Against Torture
WITNESS AGAINST TORTURE http://www.witnesstorture.org
Contact: Mike McGuire, 347.683.4928
Solidarity Vigils Planned Across Country for International Human Rights Day (Sat.)
"This is the most powerful protest of US torture policy to happen since 9/11 and the 'War on Terror'"
-Gitanjali Gutierrez, attorney for Guantánamo detainees
Santiago de Cuba - While US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice tours Europe defending secret US detention centers, torture and indefinite detentions, a group of 25 US Christians are challenging these policies by marching 50 miles from Santiago de Cuba to the US Naval Base at Guantánamo. The group arrived in Santiago de Cuba on Monday evening and began marching yesterday. They expect to reach Guantánamo on Monday, December 12.
Solidarity vigils are being planned across the United States on and around International Human Rights Day, this Saturday, December 10.
The marchers are attempting to accept President Bush's June 20, 2005 invitation that those concerned about conditions at Guantánamo are "Welcome to go down there ... and take a look at the conditions." Witness Against Torture spokesperson Mike McGuire says "We are appalled by the conditions, torture and abuse that people are suffering in the custody of the US Government and are trying to perform the basic Christian work of mercy of visiting the prisoners."
The group includes two members of Christian Peacemaker Teams, Sr. Anne Montgomery and Danny Burns, and marches with the somber knowledge that four Christian Peacemakers are facing the threat of execution in Iraq. Also marching are Fr. Steve Kelly, S.J., and Frida Berrigan, daughter of renowned US peace activist Phil Berrigan.
Rice’s tour in Europe this week has focused world attention on the story of US torture and abuse. The story deepened this morning with reports (San Francisco Chronicle) of a revealed US Defense Department memo that proves an explicit policy of rendition for torture. Anti- torture attorney Jennifer Harbury, author of Truth, Torture, and the American Way, offered context at yesterday’s Witness Against Torture press conference: "They tell us again and again that rogue operators are responsible for torture, but that is impossible because exactly the same techniques are used over and over again all around the world, historically where the CIA has been involved."
At the same press conference Gitanjali Gutierrez, an attorney for Guantánamo detainees, said that, "By the Department of Defense’s own admission and by the admission of intelligence officials the vast majority of these men are not fighters, but innocent civilians who were swept in the fog of war and have been detained under torturous conditions on Guantánamo."
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Frida Berrigan is a senior program associate with the New America Foundation's Arms and Security Initiative and a member of the Campaign for a Nuclear Weapons Free World.