January 11 was the sixteenth anniversary of the opening of the infamous US military prison at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba by George W Bush. The excuse for the existence of the hell-hole was the 9/11 atrocity. The prisoners were mostly bounty hunted, their live bodies paid for by American dollars, they were then handed over to the Bush administration. Dumped in Guantanamo they were for long deemed outside the protection of the Geneva Convention.
Prisoners' ages ranged from 13 to 89. For years they were held without trial and many were tortured. In all 799 human beings were interned there; with just 41 still remaining. Of these 41 only one is serving a sentence after having been judged guilty by a military commission. Two others have made "pleas" and are awaiting sentences. The cost in terms of human suffering, injustice, human rights and plain decency in the treatment of humans is incalculable. The cost of running the camp is estimated at $1.234billion, excluding bounty costs, transportation costs and the costs of extraordinary rendition.
There were protests from around the globe. In the USA and elsewhere, these were often led by Witness against Torture, Catholic Workers, and Voices for Creative Nonviolence. People of faith and of no faith attended and organised. A multitude of pictures have been captured here. If you scroll down several pages you will see the accompanying picture of Colm Roddy and myself outside the US Embassy, Dublin, on 11 January 2012, on one of our protests. Sadly for me this year I was in hospital from 5 January till 12 January and unable to give witness, however feeble.
All the more reason to rejoice on receiving news of a heart-warming action in Washington DC by a coalition of 15 human rights organizations. There were speeches, songs, poetry and symbolism. Then five arrests for those who crossed a symbolic line. The five were Ken Jones, Manijeh Saba, Helen Schietinger, Beth Adams and Brian Terrell. The detention of Brian Terrell, for a longer time than his comrades, makes for very interesting reading here.
Significantly, in Donald Trump's America, prisoners are still being held in roach infested cells and even non-violent prisoners are shunted in chains from cell to cell and between the jail and the court. The President wants more money for more internees. Who can trust this volatile man to act in this situation with even a modicum of fairness?