Report from “Close Guantanamo” in Washington DC

Joan Walsh, an anti-torture activist from North Carolina, with North Carolina Stop Torture Now, calls on Donald Trump to close Guantánamo at the annual rally outside the White House on January 11, 2018, the 16th anniversary of the opening of the prison. She was supporting the new Close Guantánamo initiative, counting how many days Guantánamo has been open — a shocking total of 5,845 days on the anniversary.  (From Close Guantanamo)   

Joan’s report follows:

NCSTN members Peggy Misch and Joan Walsh went to DC for the 16th-anniversary Close Guantánamo event this year.  The rally took place at 11:30 a.m. near the south end of Lafayette Square.  In prior years, this demonstration was held in the street, but since April 2017, the block of Pennsylvania Avenue in front of the White House has been closed off.

Coalition members for the event included Amnesty International, the Center for Constitutional Rights, Close Guantánamo, CodePink, the Council on American-Islamic Relations, Defending Rights and Dissent, the Justice for Muslims Collective, the National Religious Campaign Against Torture, No More Guantánamos, Reprieve, September 11th Families for a Peaceful Tomorrows, the Torture Abolition and Survivors Support Coalition, Veterans For Peace, Voices for Creative Nonviolence, Witness Against Torture, and World Can’t Wait.

Approximately 250 to 300 people attended, more than in recent years.  Around 25, including Peggy, wore orange jump suits and hoods.  Many of the latter held placards reading “41,” the number of men still held at Guantánamo prison, five of whom have long been cleared for release.  Short speeches were followed by a “tea ceremony” in which jump-suited participants drank from cups, each labeled with a detainee’s name, then placed them in a row near the curb while that person’s name was read.  After that, five jump-suited participants, three women and two men, crossed the yellow tape along the curb and were arrested in the middle of Pennsylvania Avenue.  Police began searching and processing them while the rest of us sang, and this continued for some time.  The arrestees were sitting in obvious discomfort on the far curb, and it appeared the police did not want to remove them until we dispersed.  The demonstration was disbanded at about 1:30.

Here is a link to Andy Worthington’s report of the event, including a short video of remarks from Mark Fallon, Pardiss Kebriaei of CCR, and Andy.

Peggy and Joan then attended a panel presentation held at New America, 740 15th St.  Speakers were Karen Greenberg, Director of the Center on National Security at Fordham Law School, Andy, and Tom Wilner, a lawyer who co-founded Close Guantánamo with Andy and currently represents a detainee at Guantánamo.  You can also view this 90-minute presentation at the above link; the video does not include the lively question/answer period that followed.  At least 100 people attended, and Andy noted the audience was much bigger than it had been in recent years.  All in all, it was a very worthwhile day.

Last but not least, that same day a new habeas petition was filed by CCR on behalf of 11 prisoners, two  of them among the five cleared.

Letters to NC officials needed to support first state-level inquiry into U.S. torture program

On Nov. 30 and Dec. 1, 2017, the North Carolina Commission of Inquiry on Torture held ground-breaking public hearings on our state’s role in the post-9/11 U.S. torture program.

To view the testimony, go to

Although they were invited, neither Governor Cooper nor Attorney General Stein testified or sent a representative to the hearings.

Write to Gov. Cooper and AG Stein, encouraging them to support the inquiry of the NCCIT. Only by knowing the full truth about our state’s involvement in torture can we take steps to right the wrong. Our public officials should get on the right side of history!

Here is a call for letters to the Governor and the Attorney General, and a sample letter with talking points.

Call for letters to Cooper & Stein_Jan. 2018


NCCIT on NPR The State of Things


Tune in to The State of Things on NPR, June 6th, from 12pm-1pm to hear the heartbreaking story of one survivor, Mohamedou Slahi and the work that is being done to uncover NC’s role in the torture program.

NCCIT Commissioner, Frank Goldsmith joins Slahi to talk about the past and the future. Learn more about Slahi’s story here.

for those who miss the noon show,The State of Things is rebroadcast evenings at 8 pm on WUNC in the Triangle NC market. The show will also be available as a podcast or download, usually the same day as the broadcast.

To learn more about the Commissioners or support the work of the NCCIT, visit

Update: The State of Things says the interview with Frank and Mohamedou ran long, and they will air at a future date to do it justice.

NCCIT begins work, gains news coverage

The The North Carolina Commission of Inquiry on Torture (NCCIT) had its formal launch with a conference call for media on March 15, 2017.  So far, here’s the coverage:

  • WUNC, The State of Things: New Commission to probe alleged NC connection in extraordinary rendition flights (listen)
  • AP national story (as seen in the New York Times, as well as the Houston Chronicle, the Charlotte Observer, and many other media): Citizens’ group aims to investigate CIA rendition program
  • Baptist Global news: Minister joins effort to address North Carolina’s role in torture
  • Independent (London): A major new inquiry has just been opened and it could reveal just how complicit the UK was in CIA torture
  • Raleigh News & Observer: New Commission to look into North Carolina’s role in torture program
  • Fayetteville Observer: Panel aims to shine light on state’s role in supporting torture

In addition, the News & Observer published this op-ed by NCCIT co-chair Frank Goldsmith.

Update: Added several new stories that have been published since this post originally appeared.

Keep Pressure on Burr

NC Stop Torture Now got a mention in the front-page of the October 1, 2016 edition of the Raleigh News & Observer article on Burr’s Intelligence Committee record:
  1. “NC Stop Torture Now, a group of faith and human rights activists in North Carolina, has even called Burr ‘one of the chief defenders of CIA abuses.’”
  2. “The sharpest rebuke of Burr came this year in a column, published in the Observer [and the N&O], by Larry Wilkerson, a retired U.S. Army colonel who was chief of staff to Secretary of State Colin Powell.  By refusing to ‘come to grips’ with the torture program, Wilkerson wrote, Burr ‘ensures our real power in the world is diminished by the unpunished criminals in our midst.’”
Now’s the time to write letters to the editor bouncing off that article…Betsy Crites has an excellent example in the October 1, 2016 News & Observer!

UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights inquiry reports

NCSTN is giving a big shout-out to Prof. Deborah Weissman, Reef C. Ivey II Distinguished Professor of Law at the University of Chapel Hill, and her former law students, who in October 2014 filed a petition on behalf of CIA rendition survivor Abou ElKassim Britel (also known as Kassim Britel) with the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture, Juan Mendez.

We just learned that the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights has released its communications with five governments on the case of Kassim Britel. This UN inquiry is the direct result of the work by Deborah and her students, which was covered by McClatchy DC in the article, UNC legal team, rights advocates take up cause of tortured ex-prisoner.

The case is important, both for Kassim and his family, and also because Kassim is one of many survivors of CIA-directed torture whose cases did not appear in the Senate Torture Report because they were never held at a CIA-run black site.

Special Rapporteur Juan Mendez used Prof. Weissman and students’ brief to write allegation letters regarding Kassim’s case to the governments of the United States, Pakistan, Morocco, Italy, and Portugal. He found the governments’ responses (or in the case of Morocco, non-response) completely inadequate.

Prof. Mendez said, “The Special Rapporteur urges the Government of the United States to conduct a fair and impartial investigation into the incidents, to prosecute and punish those responsible and to provide Mr. Elkassim Britel with adequate redress.” He had similar messages for Pakistan, Morocco, Italy and Portugal.

These communications and findings will be presented next week at the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva.

Prof. Mendez’s report is at UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights – Kassim Britel – 2015, with Italy at paragraph 280, Morocco at 354, Pakistan at 398, Portugal at 451 and the U.S. at 653. Here is the response from the United States.