Friday, March 29, 2013

Good Friday observance

The Christian observance of Good Friday reminds us (or should remind us) of the human propensity to torture and kill that which we find frightening or too just terribly different from ourselves. We do that all too easily. And we do it over and over.

In the U.S. gulag at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba, prisoners have been on hunger strike for the last month. Lt. Colonel Barry Wingard, one of the military lawyers representing these men, explains their motivation for refusing food.

"… these men who live in animal cages in America's offshore prison ask for justice. They've been there 11 and one half years; 90 percent of them have no charges. Having looked at my clients' cases, they will never get a trial based on the evidence that is against them. ... Forty eight men will be condemned to die [in Guantanamo] without ever having been given a trial or an opportunity to defend themselves. They are essentially condemned -- dead -- men who just happen to breathe. … The vast majority of people in Guantanamo Bay are cleared for release. … the United States acknowledges they have committed no crime …These men have figured out that probably the only way for them to go home, cleared or not, is in a wooden box …

Of course the United States has many other prisons. In domestic prisons, at least there has been some pretense of a process before humans are confined forever. Every once in a while, far too often, the system admits it has imprisoned the wrong person and releases an innocent. The National Registry of Exonerations lists 1085 cases since 1989 as I write. And even the properly convicted usually are returned to the "free world" at some point.

We can't be sure how many other -- secret -- Guantanamos the United States has somewhere on the globe. The President says "no more secret prisons" but his word provides little assurance.

We do know about this Guantanamo and these cases. Witness Against Torture is leading a solidarity fast while the inmates remain on hunger strike. This seems appropriate to the day.

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