January 14, 2009
Dear Member of Congress,
We are writing you as a community of more than 100 people joined in a Fast for Justice that began yesterday afternoon as we marked the seventh year of torture, abuse, and indefinite detention at the Guantanamo prison.
The fast will be broken at sunrise on January 20, when the fasters — in a spirit of hope and renewal — will join the inauguration-day crowds with their message that Guantanamo must close and torture must end.
Fasting is an important part of many religious and spiritual traditions. It has been used, notably by Mahatma Gandhi, as an expression of political principle, with the power to move hearts and minds and change policies. And it has a particular connection to Guantanamo, where over 70 men are currently engaged in another hunger strike to protest their abuse. Honoring all these traditions and meanings, the Fast for Justice is:
• an act of moral witness — against the crime and sin of torture, indefinite detention, rendition, and the denial of legal and human rights
• a political demand — that Guantanamo close, tortured be definitively banned, and that all U.S. detainees receive true justice and equality before the law
• an act of solidarity — with the suffering of the men, boys, and women, whether in Guantanamo or other U.S. detention facilities around the world
• an act of atonement — for our nations’ violation of domestic and international law, human rights, and its own principals,
• an expression of hope — that President-Elect Obama will honor his words by closing Guantanamo and banning torture in his first days of office
• an act of renewal — that calls America back to its senses and to its core values; that seeks to make those values stronger, inviolable; and which helps to reconnect America to the peoples of the world
On January 11th, seven years ago, the first planeload of men arrived at Guantanamo--- hooded and shackled. Since then, more than 1,000 men have passed through this 21st century penal colony—tortured, abused, told they would be there forever. For five men-- those who have died at Guantanamo (four apparently by suicide, and another man of cancer)—it has been forever. We are working to ensure that this is the last time we come to Washington to mark this date—January 11, 2009 must be the last anniversary of Guantanamo.
We are not the only ones who marked this anniversary with outrage, activism and hope that things will change. The Pentagon admitted two days ago that in the days leading up to January 11th, many more men at Guantanamo joined a long-standing hunger strike, and that most of them were being subjected to force-feeding, a practice condemned by the ACLU as “cruel, inhuman, degrading and unlawful treatment.”
Half of the Fasters for Justice are in Washington, DC and will hold a public witness in DuPont Circle Park from 11am-1pm each day through Tuesday, January 20. The rest of the fasters are participating from around the country. The fast will be broken in a sunrise ceremony on Inauguration Day in McPherson Square, DC. (For details and updates, visit http://www.100dayscampaign.org/fast).
We invite you to join us. We are gaining ground. The demand to close Guantanamo and end torture seemed farfetched just a few years ago, but it now feels like an attainable goal. Three times, the Supreme Court has rebuked the Bush administration’s abuse of power; judges in federal district court have ordered the release of Guantanamo detainees into the United States. And then on November 6, the people of the U.S. elected Barack Obama, who was quoted in the Washington Post recently as saying: “Under my administration, the United States does not torture. We will abide by the Geneva Conventions… We will uphold our highest values and ideals.”
We have been heartened and inspired by those words. Some have even questioned why we need to continue working for the closure of Guantanamo when the next President makes such clear and unequivocal statements. We received our answer yesterday, when-- even as we were focused on Barack Obama’s pledges to close Guantanamo-- the President-elect appeared on ABC’s “This Week” and said that following through on that pledge within the first 100 of days of his administration would be “more difficult than I think a lot of people realize.”
Guantanamo must be closed with all deliberate speed. It must be closed now!
With the inauguration of President Barack Obama, Witness Against Torture will launch its 100 Days Campaign to Close Guantanamo and End Torture and for the first fifteen weeks of the new administration maintain a daily presence in Lafayette Park across the street from the White House, reminding the President of his commitments and encouraging him to restore U.S. respect for the rule of law by honoring them.
on behalf of Witness Against Torture & the Fast for Justice
Sr. Diana Ortiz