Friday, January 11, 2008


Demonstrations took place around the world against the illegal detentions at Guantanamo Bay today. Protests took place from Sydney, Australia to outside the U.S. Consulate in Edinburgh, Scotland (pictured here). In Washington at least 81 demonstrators have been arrested so far outside the Supreme Court. In New York's Times Square, activists marked the sixth Guantanamo anniversary by staging a demonstration of waterboarding in the middle of a rainstorm.

Meanwhile, U.S. appeals court ruled today that four former Guantanamo prisoners, all British citizens, have no right to sue top Pentagon officials and military officers for torture, abuse and violations of their religious rights.

Here is one for the books. The panel found that, even if torture and religious abuse were illegal, defendants were immune under the Constitution because they could not have reasonably known that detainees at Guantánamo had any constitutional rights.

And here is another one for you to ponder. Judge Janice Rogers Brown, an evangelical, while concurring in the court's opinion, wrote a separate opinion, criticizing the majority for using a definition of person “at odds with its plain meaning.” She wrote, “There is little mystery that a ‘person’ is an individual human being…as distinguished from an animal or thing.” Brown said the opinion “leaves us with the unfortunate and quite dubious distinction of being the only court to declare those held at Guantánamo are not ‘person[s].’ This is a most regrettable holding in a case where plaintiffs have alleged high-level U.S. government officials treated them as less than human."

The decision by a three-judge panel to dismiss the lawsuit came exactly six years after the first detainees arrived at the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba.

Eric Lewis, the attorney who argued the case for the detainees, vowed to appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court Reuters is reporting.

"It is an awful day for the rule of law and common decency when a court finds that torture is all in a days' work for the secretary of defense and senior generals," Lewis said.

The following is from AFP.

Protests mark Guantanamo prison's sixth anniversary

Protesters in prisoner-style orange boiler suits staged demonstrations around the world Friday to mark six years since the US prison camp opened at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

From London to Sydney, activists mobilized by human rights organization Amnesty International and others called for the camp to be shut, six years to the day since it received its first prisoners seized in the "war on terror."

Around 200 people turned out in the drizzle in Washington for a march from the US Congress to the nearby Supreme Court, called by numerous rights groups.

"Shut down Guantanamo, counter terror with justice," they chanted.

The Supreme Court is to rule in the coming months on whether prisoners at Guantanamo Bay can challenge their detention in civilian courts. Currently they face special military tribunals at the base, outside US soil.

In London, about 100 people assembled near the US embassy, wearing the orange suits similar to those worn by detainees. Protestors took turns overnight in steel cages before the heavily-fortified embassy.

"Guards" in military uniform, some with dogs, barked orders at the "detainees."

"This is really to show our rage against the fact that this black hole facility continues to exist, that there are still 275 people outside any rule of law, and to demand its immediate closure," Amnesty's international campaigns director, Sarah Burton, told AFP.

Hundreds have been released from Guantanamo to various countries after being seized abroad in operations sparked by the attacks on the United States on September 11, 2001.

Some 275 remain, according to the US Department of Defense.

In Sydney, hundreds of people in orange jumpsuits and white face masks carried placards through the central business hub of Martin Place on Friday.

Another protest in the Australian city of Adelaide included Terry Hicks, whose son David -- the recently-released so-called "Aussie Taliban" -- is one of only three Guantanamo detainees to have faced formal charges.

At a US military commission hearing last March he admitted providing material support for terrorism and completed his sentence in Australia last month.

"His views are the same as mine," his father said. "The best thing is to shut the place. The bottom line is: the place needs shutting, put people through proper processes of law."

Demonstrations were more low-key elsewhere.

About 30 to 40 people gathered in Rome waving placards saying "Close Guantanamo Now" and "End Illegal Detentions."

In Athens, about a dozen people -- blindfolded and chained -- protested outside the Greek parliament, with a banner saying: "Guantanamo: 50-star hotel."

A similar small protest took place in freezing central Stockholm.

In Madrid, Amnesty's Spanish branch presented the US embassy with a petition containing the signatures of 170 Spanish lawmakers demanding that the camp be closed.

In Africa, several human rights groups staged an hour-long sit-in outside the Mauritian justice ministry in Nouakchott to demand the government do more for the release of two nationals still held in Guantanamo Bay.

Nine rights groups were due to protest in the Moroccan capital Rabat Friday evening, calling for guarantees of the fair treatment and trial of two nationals sent back from Guantanamo.

In Washington a petition, signed by 1,100 parliamentarians from across the world, and 100,000 other signatures from US citizens, was to be handed in to the White House.

A US court also on Friday turned down a claim by four British former detainees claiming they were tortured at the prison, saying accused officials acted as part of their jobs.

"The alleged tortious (wrongful) conduct was incidental to the defendants' legitimate employment duties," Judge Karen Lecraft Henderson wrote in the ruling.

The four -- Ruhal Ahmed, Shafiq Rasul, Asif Iqbal and Jamal Al-Harith -- were released in 2004 without charge.

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