On 11 January, police arrested ten peacemakers dressed in orange jumpsuits and black hoods outside the Federal courts in Chicago, Illinois when the group tried to enter the building in a symbolic search for justice on behalf of the Guantánamo detainees and other victims of state-sponsored torture.
January 11 marked the beginning of Guantánamo’s 10th year of operation. The U.S. government continues to detain 173 men in the prison indefinitely without charge or due process despite President Obama’s executive order to close the facility two years ago. Thirteen of those men have already been cleared for release, but remain in custody.
Several dozen vigilers from Chicago-area peace groups called out the names of each remaining Guantánamo detainee, crying “[name] is looking for justice,” as those wearing orange jumpsuits walked in silent procession from door to door seeking access to the courts. Security officers blocked each doorway, so the “prisoners” knelt down to wait. Vigilers gathered around them singing, “Courage Muslim brothers, you do not walk alone; we will walk with you, and sing your spirits home.”
Meanwhile, two vigil participants without orange jumpsuits entered the building and delivered a packet containing a Writ of Habeas Corpus and a list of the 173 detainees to Chief Judge James F. Holderman’s chambers. Holderman later replied, “I understand and appreciate your position, however, I have no jurisdiction to address the matter.”
“What prevents the United States from granting access to trial to these men? Only our fear of Muslims,” said Fathiyeh Gainey, CPT training participant. “By allowing Islamophobia to drive U.S. policy and prevent access to justice for these detainees, the United States is in violation of the Geneva Convention. By condoning torture, this nation is behaving contrary to the teaching of every religion,” Gainey continued.
Participants also drew attention to the scheduled 20 January sentencing of former police commander Jon Burge convicted of perjury in relation to the use of torture in Chicago prisons in the 1970s and 1980s. “Burge’s case shows that torture not only touches international prisons, but is also present within the United States,” said training participant Stephanie Auxier.
Police detained the ten orange-clad “detainees,” including four CPTers, for just over an hour, citing them for failing to follow directions [to leave]. Those arrested must either pay a $175 fine or appear in court on April 11, 2011.
CPT training participants who helped organize the witness are Stephanie Auxier (Colorado, USA), Lukasz Firla (Czech Republic), Fathiyeh Gainey (Palestine), Camilia MacPherson (Ontario, Canada), Ross Weaver (Illinois, USA), Tim Nessim (Alberta, Canada), Maarten van der Werf (Zwolle, Netherlands), Stefan Warner (Oklahoma, USA), and Rosemary Williamson (Ontario, Canada).
Pictures of the witness are available here.