Saturday, January 9, 2016

Witness Against Torture by Janice Sevre Duszynska, ARCWP

Janice Sevre Duszynska, ARCWP

This January 2016 begins the 14th year of illegal imprisonment and torture by the U.S. government of the men held at the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo. Recently, President Obama announced the release of 17 men. 104 of the original 779 remain. We of Witness Against Torture await the release of the remaining men and the permanent closure of Guantanamo.

In January 2015 I took part in the Witness Against Torture gathering in Washington, D.C.
Eleven of us -- ordinary citizens and members of Witness Against Torture – exercised our First Amendment Rights on January 12, 2015 just a little over a month after the release of the U.S. Senate Torture Report on the CIA’s Detention and Interrogation Program at Guantanamo.

In the Senate Chamber Gallery, we called out: “U.S. Torture! It’s Official! Prosecute Now! Waterboarding…Rectal Feeding….  For reminding our Senators of their preeminent responsibility to uphold the Constitution by prosecuting the torturers of the men at Guantanamo, we were charged with disorderly conduct. Perhaps the CIA, Department of Defense, former President Bush and the officials of his administration wanted to avoid the publicity.

On Monday morning June 22, 2015, the day of our trial,  the U.S. prosecuting attorney announced that the government wasn’t ready for the trial and our case was basically dismissed. Now, I’d like to share the notes in preparation for my testimony…

I followed my conscience when I spoke out in the Senate gallery.  As a woman priest, I celebrate the Eucharist around the country: A Eucharist is re-membering the face of Christ in each person, including our Muslim brothers at Guantanamo.

On Thursday, June 18, 2015, our Republican-led Senate took a historic bipartisan vote to end CIA torture by voting 78-21 for the McCain-Feinstein Amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA).  As a person of faith this vote expresses the moral principle that torture is always wrong.

I came to the Senate Chamber to remind legislators that they reflect the conscience and soul of the nation when they make its laws. By violating basic human rights, our nation has lost its integrity and its right to challenge human rights violations in other countries.  This must be remedied, because it has an impact even on our children, so they do not resort to violence.
We must uphold the Senate Torture Report, prosecute those responsible and return the men at Guantanamo to their families.  Our own children, and the world, are watching.
I am a Roman Catholic Woman Priest, ordained on Aug. 9, 2008, Feast day of Franz Jagerstatter, an Austrian father of four who was inducted into the NAZI army, but refused to fight because he obeyed his conscience: that place inside our soul where we hear truth, the voice of God.
The Catholic Church teaches us to be faithful to the primacy of conscience. The NAZIS beheaded Jaggerstatter for following his, but during the Nuremberg trials, which gave rise to the Nuremberg principles that are now international law, it became clear that a moral choice is as important as a legal choice. 
The International Bill of Human Rights, which includes the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and which our country signed after World War II, is international law, and we are bound as members of the United Nations, to uphold international law.  This principle is embedded in our constitution and our foundational documents. 

My mother’s parents migrated here from Poland at the turn of the last century when it was still divided among three foreign nations.  In 1959, at age 9, I got my first look at this nation which gave birth to the Solidarity movement. I watched the documentary of the death camps during the NAZI occupation.

Today we have death camps in Guantanamo and the new documentary is the Senate Torture Report.  Today, the US is terrorizing the Muslim people of the Mideast.

Poles are outraged that the U.S. operated a black site in Poland and tortured two Muslim men: Abu Zu bay dah and Abd al-Ra him al-Na shir ri.

In July 2014, the European Court of Human Rights formally ruled that so-called "enhanced interrogation" is torture, and ordered Poland to pay $250,000 restitution to these men tortured at a CIA black site there. 

I was raised to respect people of other ethnicities and faiths. I learned what anti-Semitism did in Poland.  In Guantanamo we are seeing the same principles in action: homophobia, hate crimes against Muslims, the abuse of the Koran and not allowing the men to wear their turbans which is part of their religious tradition (just as I’m wearing a sacramental stole and others wear their collars).

For 15 years, I taught English as a second language as a public school teacher to children from 65 countries, all the world’s “hot spots”. I heard the stories from my children from Rwanda whose fathers were tortured in front of them and whose mothers were raped and disappeared…like the men at Guantanamo who have been sexually abused. I’ve seen my Palestinian students jump five feet in the air when a door slams like the men at Guantanamo when their interrogators storm into their cells.

As a peace activist, I’ve learned about torture at the annual Vigil at Ft. Benning in Columbus, GA at the School of the Americas, where torture techniques are taught. Here torture victims from Latin America (human rights organizers, labor activists, mothers and fathers) share their stories.  At Guantanamo it’s the Navy and US soldiers, not foreign ones, who torture, with sadistic techniques exported to Abu Ghraib under General Miller.

In 2006, I journeyed into the wilderness in solidarity with my indigenous children from Mexico and Central America.  With the Christian Peacemaker Team I walked for six days and five nights covering 75 miles into the Sonora Desert as part of the Migrant Trail Walk. Here, I learned how people die in extreme temperatures from our border policies in the same way as people die in Guantanamo naked in freezing cold rooms or holding onto their humanity by not eating like Tariq Ba Odah.

In front of the White House during a Witness Against Torture action I read poetry by the men held in Guantanamo subjected to torture. I experienced their breadth and depth of soul…. I ask, what has happened to the soul of this country? I testify in ways that show the humanity of the men at Guantanamo.

It’s been 13 years now. For the mothers who have sons in Guantanamo, Jan. 12th is the13th anniversary of their separation from their sons. As a mother who’s lost a son, my heart aches for these women. They have no date to look forward to when they can hug their children again. I also cry for us… and the heartless men and women described in the Senate Torture Report. (rest)

With the SOA Watch delegation I traveled to El Salvador and heard a campesino speak about the Dirty Wars and the death squads. In the Romero Chapel at the University of Central America I gasped in horror at the charcoal paintings on the wall of the torture victims just as I do when I see photos of our tortured Muslim brothers at Guantanamo.

Last summer I stood by the bay in Montevideo, Uruguay where the bodies of tortured Argentinian activists would wash ashore. In the Museum of Memory of human rights atrocities, I stood under a canopy of photos of the tortured and disappeared. President Pepe Mujica of Uruguay –who was tortured and incarcerated in solitary confinement for 12 years –invited six of the men from Guantanamo to live in his country…

In Buenos Aires, we walked through the secret torture rooms at EMSA, the Naval Station, and I saw the room for the pregnant women whose babies were torn away from them. I learned that the SOA taught torture here. Patricia, our guide in Buenos Aires and a good friend of Christina the President, was tortured for 27 months, beginning at the age of 15, at a nearby police station. She and others eventually took their seven torturers to trial and they are serving long sentences. Two died in prison. When will we prosecute the torturers of our Muslim brothers at Guantanamo?

I’ve been a delegate to the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women three times for St. Joan’s International Alliance, a 104- year -old Catholic feminist organization that has worked through the League of Nations and the UN to stop the sexual torture of girls, female genital mutilation which reminded me of rectal feeding – rape of the men at Guantanamo. I learned that U.S. torture of detainees at Guantanamo violated International Law, Human Rights Law and our own Constitutional Law.

Every human being, including so-called “aliens,” is entitled to habeas corpus, equality and equal protection under the law. Like Pilate, we torture and murder people who have never been tried or condemned. But instead of purple cloaks, we’ve dressed them in orange jumpsuits and black hoods.

In Guantanamo, these men are contained and the global community is appalled and supposed to look the other way because they’re suspect of terrorism…and they’re being held and tortured without due process…outside the law.

From an international perspective, Guantanamo is everybody’s concern. From the UN point of view, the US Senate Report must be legally binding. We want people prosecuted: the CIA, the Department of Defense, President Bush and officials of his administration need to be held accountable.
If people are not held accountable, this makes people’s lives unlivable.

Modern day prophet Sr. Megan Rice who entered the tortuous and insane Y-12 Nuclear Weapons Complex at Oak Ridge, Tennessee said. “All citizens are required to expose and oppose known crimes.”

We didn’t disrupt the Senate Chamber Gallery. We interrupted legally.  And by finally voting against torture in overwhelming numbers, the Senate has affirmed our action.

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