Twenty-five U.S. citizens, calling themselves Witness Against Torture, are demonstrating, fasting and praying at the gates of the U.S. prison at Guantanamo Bay. They marched across Cuba to get to the prison. One of them is my husband, Danny Burns.
Danny and I have two children. Finian is three years old and Francis is seven months. Danny is at Guantanamo in part because of our family. What our government is doing at Guantanamo creates an unsafe world for our children. Our government is promoting a global escalation of violence which makes increasing terrorism inevitable.
I know Danny is risking retaliation by the U.S. government for demonstrating against the illegal actions of our government at Guantanamo. Danny and three others in our community, Clare Grady, Teresa Grady and Peter Demott, are awaiting sentencing in federal court in January for an action taken on St. Patrick,s Day in 2002 aimed at preventing the war on Iraq. Despite that, Danny and Clare and Teresa, have chosen to stand at the gates of Guantanamo.
The federal government wants to send a message that dissent will be punished. We send a message back to the government. We will stand for justice again and again until our country respects international law, the law of justice and universal human rights.
Danny and I think our government,s actions at Guantanamo have been marked by a disregard for international law. Our government has disregarded the UN Charter, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the Geneva Conventions, the Nuremburg Principles and the Convention against Torture. This disregard is not just at Guantanamo but also in the “war on terror, the war against Iraq and in many parts of our global and domestic policy. When the world,s most powerful government chooses to violate international law, rather than follow international law and serve the common good and further justice, the law of force governs the world.
Danny and I know that we cannot sit back and just complain. International law tells us that we have responsibilities for what our country is doing. Tokyo War Crimes Tribunal Judge Roling wrote: “The most important principle of Nuremburg was that individuals have duties which transcend national obligations of obedience imposed by the nation-stateThis means that in some cases individuals are required to substitute their own interpretation [of international obligations] for the interpretation given by the state. The Judge went on to say, “The world has to rely on individuals to oppose the criminal commands of the government. That is what we are trying to do.
In our religious tradition, we are called to visit those in prison. Men and boys have been held at Camp Delta in Guantánamo since October 2001. They are being held with no charges. They have been denied legal counsel. Reports of torture and abuse are widespread. The prisoners do not know if or when they will ever be tried or released. By visiting the prison camp, Danny and the others can let the prisoners know they are not forgotten.
I find myself thinking of the mothers of those detained. What if my sons were among boys being held at the camp? If young people in Iraq, Palestine, Afghanistan see that American people choose to ignore the suffering of their people under occupation and illegal detention they will be more likely to feel desperate and see suicide bombings and other acts of violence as their only recourse.
Danny and I long for a world of peace built on justice for our children. Abundance, compassion and love should be the rule, not the exception. We want our world to improve, not deteriorate, as our children are growing.
A hundred years from now we want our grandchildren to be able to look back at our actions and know that we tried to act with integrity and for the good of humanity. That is why my husband Danny Burns is at the gates of Guantanamo and that is why I support him.
JESSICA STEWART and her husband, Danny Burns, live in Ithaca New York in a Catholic Worker community. They are the parents of two small children. To read more about the march, please see witnesstorture.org. JESSICA STEWART can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.