50 occupy D.C. Supreme Court human rights defenders on hunger strike

Written by Deborah Dupre Thursday, 05 January 2012
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Human rights defenders on hunger strike against indefinite detention Occupy DC Supreme Court wil form human chain


In anticipation of the tenth anniversary of the first detainees’ arrival at the U.S.-controlled Guantanamo Bay detention facility on Jan. 11, fifty human rights anti-torture workers have begun occupying Washington D.C. at the Supreme Court today during their 10-day hunger strike for justice, declaring President Obama's signing of National Defence Authorization Act unacceptable. Thirty of the rights defenders wearing anti-torture shirts in the Supreme Court Room during the Shakir Ami trial that began today and some twenty protesters in orange jumpsuits and black hoods worked outside the court with more arriving to form a human chain from the White House to the Capitol on January 12 to raise awareness one of the organizers told the Examiner Tuesday evening.


Today's trial began for five human rights defenders in the D.C. Superior Court before Judge Fisher preciding over the case, “Shakir Ami (aka Bryan Hynes) et al Co-Defendants,” in reference to Shaker Aamer, the innocent British resident still held in Guantanamo, one of the longest-held men there Frieda Berrigan told Deborah Dupré on the telephone Tuesday evening.


Berrigan is a co-founder of Witness Against Torture (WAT) and an organizer of the 10-day hunger strike and other activities revolving around the court cases and tenth anniversary of the first arrivals at Guantanamo Bay in the then Bush administration's "war on terror."


When arrested at demonstrations, WAT members use names of detainees to symbolically give to them their day in court, as entitled according to the Declaration of Human Rights. The Bush and Obama administrations have denied this right and thus violated the Declaration.


Charged with unlawful conduct in the citizen’s gallery at the House of  Representatives on June 23, 2011, five WAT members face jail time if convicted. 


(Watch embedded Global Report Youtube video on this page, left, of WAT protest in Washington D.C. Jan. 2010 where they carried signs about President Obama reading, "Broken Promises, Broken Laws, Broken Lives".)


The strategy at court was to put Guantanamo on trial and demand that Congress and the President close Guantanamo and restore the U.S. Constitution, Josie Setzler, a human rights advocate and grandmother from Ohio explained Wednesday at a press conference. 


The judge ruled otherwise today.


Nevertheless, Berrigan told Dupré, "We had a great showing today in and out of the court."


Americans woefully ill-informed, elected officials won't listen to the people, human rights workers are 'disruptive'


Approximately fifty human rights defenders occupied the Supreme Court in Washington D.C. during the trial that began with Carmen Trotta of New York City, N.Y. who handed his written statement to the judge. The judge did not return the statement.


"The judge read it, and then kept it, saying it was inadmissible," Berrigan told Dupré. "Trotta had to present his case without being able to read his statement, but he did beautifully." 


"We wanted to explain why we did what we did, but now, the big issue of this case is 'disruption.'


"We want it known that we were not violent or disruptive in the gallery of the House of Representatives. 


"We spoke calmly and passionately there during an informal time when officials were not speaking," she said. "We felt like that was a last resort since our elected officials were not listening to us calling for justice for those left in indefinite detention at Guantanamo."


The defendants scheduled to appear in the Supreme Court of Washington D.C. include Brian Hynes of the Bronx, NY, Judith Kelly of Washington, DC, Mike Levinson of New Rochelle, Josie Setzler of Freemont, Ohio and Carmen Trotta of New York City, N.Y.. They are among fourteen originally arrested and charged. 


Today, all members of WAT maintained a solemn presence, the thirty in court and twenty “detainees” in orange jumpsuits and black hoods outside the courthouse throughout the trial.


"The members outside court handed flyers all day to everyone going in and coming out of court so passersby would know what this is about, a real hunger for justice," Berrigan said. "A lot of people go in and out of that building."


"Americans are woefully ill-informed about this issue, so we feel like many more people know after today."


To raise awareness about the U.S. travesty involving indefinite detention and torture, Witness Against Torture (WAT) have begun ten days hunger striking and other activities in Washington, D.C., demanding an end to both torture and indefinite detention at Guantanamo, Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan, and elsewhere. 


WAT sponsors, Hungering for Justice, have included the 10-day hunger strike, highlighting the ongoing crimes at Guantanamo and Bagram. Dozens of human rights defenders are participating in the fast in D.C. and other cities..


On the Jan. 11 Guantanamo anniversary, WAT is slated to create a "dramatic Human Chain from the White House to the Capitol Building" to mark the 10th anniversary of detention at Guantanamo.


WAT is joined in this initiative by a broad coalition of rights groups in the 10-day vigil and other activities, beginning with a noontime rally in Lafayette Park where participants wearing the orange jumpsuits and holding signs and other visuals will demand that Guantanamo detention center be closed and torture end as President Obama promised during his election campaign.


The National Religious Campaign Against Torture (NRCAT), a membership organization of religious organizations committed to ending torture sponsored or enabled by the U.S., is among groups rallying against America's foreign and now domestic policy based on fear, indefinite detention and torture.


Professor of history at the New School and an organizer of WAT, Jeremy Varon stated, “Despite his campaign pledge to shut down Guantanamo, President Obama has continued the Bush administration’s practice of indefinite military detention there and at Bagram.”


Now, Obama's National Defense Authorization Act extends this abusive regime by allowing the president to order U.S. citizens to be held indefinitely without due process on American soil.


Presidential candidate and veteran human rights defender Rocky Anderson is not the only leader stating that President Obama's signing of the NDAA is unacceptable or "intolerable."


"Not one more year – not one more day – of such policies is acceptable," WAT states.


"Witness Against Torture is here in Washington to add our message to the ‘Occupy’ movement’s call for a return to a just political and economic system by demanding an end to the national disgrace that is Guantanamo.”



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