Wednesday, November 09, 2016

Unfinished Business: 8 November, Demonstration to Mark US Presidential Election 2016 (Report)

In 2008 and 2012, on the day of the US presidential election, the London Guantánamo Campaign (LGC) held demonstrations outside the US Embassy in London to call for the closure of Guantánamo Bay and to raise awareness of issues of joint human rights concern for the UK and US such as the Extradition Act 2003. The protests held were not against the US election or any of the candidates at any point. The LGC has, over its 10-year history, held frequent demonstrations right outside the entrance of the US Embassy. Nonetheless this year, even before Donald Trump was elected, the US Embassy decided to contain peaceful human rights activists on the far corner of the US Embassy (opposite to where we usually and have previously gathered) away from where the public, and particularly those entering the embassy, could see them. The message was clear: in the new US political era, human rights will remain marginal, allocated to an unseen corner, if at all.
Maya Evans, VCNV UK
Around 30 people joined the protest. In spite of the small and peaceful nature of the protest, the embassy was cleared intimidated enough by its message to attempt to contain and marginalise it. The message itself was one of solidarity with political prisoners and the 60 men who remain at Guantánamo Bay after almost 15 years. 
Asif Uddin, Justice 4 Anis
Activists and campaigns who joined the demonstration included Maya Evans from Voice for Creative Non-Violence UK who spoke about the proliferation of US military bases around the world and particularly in Japan and a forgotten but central issue of this presidential campaign: the war in Afghanistan. Asif Uddin from the Justice 4 Anis campaign, for Anis Sardar, a British national serving a life sentence for the murder of a US soldier in Iraq in a highly unusual case, spoke about his plight; last week, Anis Sardar lost an appeal in his case. The Guantánamo Justice Campaign also spoke about the British government and Guantánamo.
David Allen from WISE Up for Chelsea Manning
Solidarity was also shown by Men’s Payday and WISE Up for Chelsea Manning with Wikileaks whistleblower Chelsea Manning. Manning is currently serving a 35-year sentence for revealing some of the war crimes of the Bush administration; on the other hand, no Bush era officials have ever been prosecuted, let alone convicted and tortured as she has. Placed in solitary confinement in October for attempting suicide in jail, it has recently been revealed that she has attempted to commit suicide again while in solitary and is likely to be punished again for this. Calls have been made for Barack Obama to grant Manning clemency before he leaves office in January 2017.
Men are not the only victims of the war on terror: an exclusive statement was read out on behalf of Dr Fowzia Siddiqui, the sister of Dr Aafia Siddiqui who “disappeared” for 5 years in 2003 with her 3 young children. It is believed she was held at Bagram during that time. Her youngest child, aged 6 months when he “disappeared” has never been found. Dr Aafia Siddiqui is currently serving 86 years for assaulting US military staff and having a weapon in her possession:
It is an honor for me to address such a distinguished audience.
You are great people, people who give life and courage to people like us.
You are the courageous few who have the will to speak up against a wrong and help humanity regardless of who the perpetrator is.
It is the efforts of people like you that today Moazzam Baig, Binyam Mohamed, Agha Musavi, Aafia's babies Ahmed and Maryam and hundreds of other illegal detainees are safely with their families. But still there remains much to be done each release carrying its bitter sweet moments. Beautiful lives wasted in torture cells without any justification ever, not even remorse.
On behalf of Aafia's family I want to thank you for being here, thank you for showing you care, thank you for renewing our faith in humanity. One more year of grief, struggle and hope is passing by. A total of 13years of an ordeal so outrageous and overwhelming, that when asked to comment on how we as a family are coping, my first reaction was its 13 years too long, that says it all.
I don't have words to thank the organisers for the efforts that have been put in this initiative to raise their voice for those innocent souls who are left to die in the world’s most horrific torture chambers designed by a super power that claims to champion human rights.  I do not have the words to thank all of you who have gathered here to show that you care. Indeed you are the few that make history by helping an innocent soul and raising your voice. May Allah put his Barakat in this mobilisation and grant Aafia and all innocent detainees the freedom they deserve. Ameen.
Though my words fail me I know my Allah will not and I pray he showers his blessings on you all and reward you immensely. May Allah keep you safe happy and successful. Ameen.”
Noel Hamel from the LGC
The outcome of the US presidential election is irrelevant to the prisoners at Guantánamo Bay. It is unlikely that Barack Obama will succeed in closing Guantánamo by the time he leaves office in January 2017 or that Donald Trump has plans to close Guantánamo. Human rights have been a non-issue in this presidential campaign. Nonetheless the London Guantánamo Campaign will continue to campaign for the release of the remaining 60 prisoners at Guantánamo Bay.  
Thank you to everyone who joined us

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