Activists Discuss Torture at Amnesty Conference

By Talia Whyte
Special to Global Wire

The treatment of US-held war detainees were on the minds of hundreds of human rights activists who gathered at Boston University last Saturday for the annual Amnesty International Northeast Regional Conference. The issues of torture was of main concern to most speakers, as Amnesty International has spoken out against the reported allegations of ill-treatment and death of those held in US custody in Iraq, Afghanistan, Guantanamo and elsewhere around the world for the last three years. Amnesty International is also concerned that most detainees are being held without a fair trial.

According to Boston lawyer and author Sabin Willet, the failure of Guantanamo is only fueling the violence in Iraq. Willet, who has been to Guantanamo six times, claims that of the 450 people currently incarcerated in the Cuban prison, only ten have been charged, three have been charged with a crime and none have been charged with anything related to the September 11 attacks.

“I have yet to meet anyone there who is a terrorist,” he said. “Citizens should contact their congress people about this issue.”

With the recent change of hands to the Democrats in Congress, activists hope that there will be a change of wind in how the Iraq War is handled in general in the near future. Boston University professor Andrew Bacevich believes the September 11 attacks were a unique event in US history; nonetheless, he doesn’t think the US government should take irrational measures such as torture in fighting the War on Terror.

“The strategy for the War on Terror has not worked,” he said. “There is more hostility towards America from the Middle East than before the war. There is an urgent need to rethink that an unprecedented event [September 11] warrants unprecedented results.”

In its annual report last year, Amnesty International called on the US government to “close Guantanamo or disclose the rest,” meaning either to release the prisoners or charge and prosecute them with due process. Amnesty International Secretary-General Irene Khan called Guantanamo “the gulag of our times.” Amnesty International has also criticized the US government for exporting prisoners to countries where brutality and torture take place with impunity, such as Syria.

“We need to turn our own country around,” said Larry Cox, the new executive director of Amnesty International USA. “We need to fight for human rights more than ever. In order to fight we need to be the Amnesty International we need to be as a movement.”


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