PNL Graphic: jake eichten


March to Guantánamo: Witness Against Torture!
by Jessica Stewart


"Today after a long journey, 25 Catholic Workers arrived at the gate that the Bush administration thought no American could get to.

We crossed a line no one but a Cuban military officer has crossed since the revolution almost 50 years ago."

-Danny Burns, at the gate to Guantánamo

In December, 25 US Christians, calling themselves Witness Against Torture, fasted and prayed at the gates of Guantánamo Bay prison. They had marched 100 km across Cuba in an effort to visit the prisoners being held there. Among the 25 were Ithaca residents Dana Brown, Danny Burns, Clare Grady, Teresa Grady and Grace Ritter. Also on the walk were an 80 year old Catholic nun, Sr. Ann Montgomery, two priests and Frida Berrigan, niece of Syracuse activist Jerry Berrigan.

They went there because they were called by their faith tradition to visit the prisoners. Men and boys, as young as 14 years old, have been held by the US government at Camp Delta in Guantánamo since October 2001. They are being held without charge. 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, the marchers hoped to let the prisoners know they are not forgotten.

Witness Against Torture marchers, includeing Danny Burns (far right), on the road to Guantanamo Bay in Cuba. Photo: Scott Langley

They also hoped to shine a spotlight on our government's disregard for human rights and 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 Guantánamo 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 rather than follow international law and serve the common good and further justice, the law of force governs the world.

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-state…This 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.

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 and 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 marched to the gates of Guantánamo, and that is why I support him.

Jessica , her partner Danny Burns and their two children, are part of the Ithaca Catholic Worker Community. She can be reached at 607-280-0329 or