Always one step ahead, weeks before the Olympic Games kick off, the London Guantánamo Campaign (LGC) brought a display of international spirit to the heart of the capital with a multilingual “No to Torture” vigil in Trafalgar Square to mark International Day in Support of Victims of Torture and the twenty fifth anniversary of the United Nations Convention Against Torture becoming law on 26 June 1987. Around 50 people joined in, holding up banners in over 30 different languages with one simple message, “NO TO TORTURE”. We were joined by anti-war campaigners from the Stop The War Coalition, human rights activists from Amnesty International, the Free Mumia Campaign, Free Bradley Manning, Hands off Somalia and Baloch activists.
With its display of one simple message in over 30 languages, including Arabic, Persian, Indonesian, Swahili, Finnish, Greek, Russian, Hebrew and others, the action was a hit with tourists and passers-by who engaged with its simple message and stopped to check if their own language was included and to see how many they read and/or identify. Lots of people stopped to talk to the activists and expressed their support. That torture is always wrong and illegal is quite obvious to ordinary people; unfortunately, the same cannot be said of the politicians who sign the very instruments that ban it.
The purpose of this quiet and dignified vigil was to mark this date and this anniversary and show solidarity with victims of torture the world over, most of who suffer in silence and terribly, long after the immediate physical and psychological terror has ended.
London politicians Sarah Ludford MEP and Jeremy Corbyn MP gave their apologies for not being able to attend. Green MEP Jean Lambert made the following statement on the twenty-fifth anniversary about the work of the European parliament on torture investigation:
“The claims that British intelligence services have not been complicit in torture or rendition are continuing to crumble. Indeed, the recent scrapping of the Gibson Inquiry is further proof that successive UK governments are attempting to sweep the ugly matter under the carpet in the vain hope that it will magically disappear.
“In the European Parliament, we will often criticise third-country regimes for subjecting citizens to physical and mental acts of torture; where authorities that should protect individuals are complicit in crimes against them. Yet, those regimes use the behaviour of governments such as our own and the US to combat that criticism.
“The Parliament inquiry into alleged complicity in torture, led by Greens/EFA MEP Helene Flautre, is beginning to shine a light on the role played by Member States in exposing terrorism suspects to illegal treatment. Poland must also be given credit for breaking its silence over claims that a ‘secret’ CIA prison camp was operating within its borders. There is no doubt that this process of self-examination will be painful, but we must be clear – only be adopting a zero tolerance approach both at home and abroad can we put an end to torture for good.”
Joy Hurcombe, the chair of the Save Shaker Aamer, made the following statement on this anniversary:
“June 26th, is the UN International Day in Support of Victims of Torture to remind the world that torture is a crime against humanity in international law. For over ten years, British resident Shaker Aamer has been imprisoned without charge or trial in Guantanamo, where he is routinely tortured. A recent shocking report from his US lawyer has been forwarded to David Cameron. This states that Shaker Aamer remains in solitary confinement, suffering daily beatings and abuse. He is deprived of sleep, medication and basic necessities including toilet paper, cup and comb. The UK and US Government could also mark the day by ending the ordeal of our victim of torture. By doing nothing, both countries are guilty of state-sponsored torture.”
Please join us at our next action - a lunchtime demo (12-2pm) outside the US Embassy in Mayfair – on US Independence Day, Wednesday 4th July, where we revert to our more usual orange and black attire (not mandatory).
Media on this event:
Aisha Maniar from the London Guantánamo Campaign wrote the following article about the anniversary: