Sunday 24th of January 2021

80 Arrests At Washington Guantanamo Protest

The event staged in Adelaide was a quiet one.  Very quiet. 20-odd protesters, a dozen-odd journos, and I doubt many of them would've been there if not for the presence of Terry Hicks.  There was a heckler, a large bikie with an axe to grind about his previous "wrongful arrest" who started shouting and interjecting as soon as Terry took the mike.  Terry handled him well, coming down from the Parliament House steps to talk with him, for a good twenty minutes, the cameras clicking away while the other orators addressed empty air.  This, of course, was the only thing the local paper got around to reporting.

Still, it was enough to put the message onto the nightly newses, so worth the while.  For me doubly so, as it was my first opportunity to meet Terry.  The man who stood in a cage on the streets of New York (emulated this week by protesters in London and Manilla) comes across as warm, sincere, a gentleman, and I was proud to shake his hand.  When I asked how David was faring he responded that "He's doing well, as well as can be expected.  He's decided to go out and face them, get on with things."  I discussed the possibility of helping find other accommodation, which Terry politely declined, explaining that David had to get police permission to stay anywhere than at his designated abode, even to spend a night at his father's house.  "That's the democracy that we're living in," he told me.  I came away from the encounter with a sense of the wearying saga that Terry had endured on his son's behalf, and a much greater shame of what we've allowed to happen.

At least in the US, Hicks has become the martyr of a corrupt penal system.  Here's how the head of the American Civil Liberties Union expressed the situation on Salon this week:  

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I travelled to Guantánamo Bay to witness the very first military commission proceedings in August of 2004. More than three years later, this system has produced a single conviction: a guilty plea by Australian David Hicks that resulted in a nine-month incarceration in Australia, where Hicks is now a free man. Meanwhile, several terrorism suspects who were prosecuted in U.S. courts have received lengthy prison sentences. It is small wonder that the chief prosecutor for the commissions recently resigned in disgust, disparaging the system as "deeply politicized."

There is no reason why the prison at Guantánamo Bay should remain open even one day longer. The men who are held there should either be prosecuted in fair proceedings that accord with our own values and legal traditions, or sent to their home countries or countries that will accept them as refugees where they will be safe from torture and abuse. Although long overdue, the first step in restoring the rule of law is clear -- close Guantánamo now.

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 In Washington around  two hundred people marched from the Capitol to the US Supreme Court building, where the case for Guantanomo prisoners to receive US justice is being heard.  The trouble with this action is that no demonstration is allowed to take place on the court grounds.  Some of the protesters knelt on the steps, others entered the building.  Around eighty of them were arrested.    In Chicago ten protesters were also arrested when they refused a request to leave a courthouse.

I'll be keen to see how the story crops up in the Australian Sunday papers...

no news .....

Hi Richard.

No report in the SMH re the Washington demonstration.

The SMH did report the Adelaide & Sydney actions however .....

At a rally in Sydney, about 300 protesters gathered, clad in orange jumpsuits and white face masks in a symbol of silent protest against the US military prison. 

Amnesty spokeswoman Katie Wood said in Sydney that 80 per cent of those detained at Guantanamo Bay were held permanently in isolation cells, in breach of the UN convention on torture. 

"And let's not forget the ones who are held in secret detention - victims of the practice of rendition, people who are illegally abducted and transferred to secret detention facilities," she said. 

Close Guantanamo Bay, says David Hicks

Interestingly, the SMH did report the dismissal of the lawsuit by former Guantanamo prisoners against Rumsfeld & others in the US Courts ....

A US appeals court has ruled that four former Guantanamo prisoners, all British citizens, had no right to sue top Pentagon officials for torture and violations of their religious rights. 

The decision by a three-judge panel to dismiss the lawsuit was issued on the sixth anniversary of the arrival of the first detainees at the US military prison at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba. 

Court Dismisses Guantanamo Torture Suit

Of course, what the SMH didn't report was the comments of the dissenting Judge .....

Judge Janice Rogers Brown dissented with parts of the opinion, saying that "it leaves us with the unfortunate and quite dubious distinction of being the only court to declare those held at Guantanamo are not `person(s).' 

“This is a most regrettable holding in a case where plaintiffs have alleged high-level US government officials treated them as less than human," Brown wrote. 

After being held for more than two years, the four men were repatriated to Britain in 2004, where they were freed within 24 hours without facing criminal charges, said Washington lawyer Eric Lewis, who represented them along with the New York-based Center for Constitutional Rights. 

"It is an awful day for the rule of law and common decency," said Lewis, the detainees' attorney, "when a court finds that torture is all in a day's work for the secretary of defense and senior generals. . . . I think the executive is trying to create a black hole so there is no accountability for torture and religious abuse." 

Lewis said his clients intended to ask the Supreme Court to overturn the ruling. 

In Voiding Suit, Appellate Court Says Torture Is To Be Expected

The Tide's Turning

John, the lack of reporting here of the international protests is smelly. I expected to hear more from the ABC, Perhaps Howard's appointees (I'm not too keen on Peter Hurley's tactics) are beginning to make themselves felt. I guess we're stuck with them till The Rudds clear them out.

The fact that the chair of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff has staged a media event to voice his desire to see Guantanamo closed belies how much political heat the Republicans are feeling, and how much those within the chain of command feel the need to protect themselves from the political aftershocks once Bush and Cheney have exited- Stage Right, of course.

appearance triumphs over substance .....

The chief of the US military said he favours closing the prison here as soon as possible because he believes negative publicity worldwide about treatment of terrorist suspects has been "pretty damaging" to the image of the United States. 

"I'd like to see it shut down," Adm. Mike Mullen said Sunday in an interview with three reporters who toured the detention center with him on his first visit since becoming chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff last October. 

His visit came two days after the sixth anniversary of the prison's opening in January 2002. He stressed that a closure decision was not his to make and that he understands there are numerous complex legal questions the administration believes would have to be settled first, such as where to move prisoners. 

Joint Chiefs Chairman: Close Guantanamo