Leading members of the National Council of Churches joined with legal and human rights organizations to prompt the United States to “either charge or release” the prisoners held at Guantanamo Bay. Led by the NCC General Secretary Bob Edgar, the group marched in front of the U.S. Supreme Court for a brief media conference, then held a special interfaith prayer and reflection service on the theme of due process, March 8, 2004.
Later that week on March 11, five Guantanamo Bay detainees were released without charge, prompting the NCC to “step up its call on the U.S. government to uphold the right of due process for all the detainees.” Currently, all of the prisoners held at Guantanamo Bay have not been given a chance to plead their case.
“All along we have demanded due process be granted to the detainees,” said Dr. Antonios Kireopoulos, the NCC’s Associate General Secretary for International Affairs and Peace. “We have not made judgments on their guilt or innocence, only on the fact that our government should uphold this basic legal norm. We find it interesting that, as reported in the British press, the British Government is also pressing for the same thing.”
The NCC General Secretary also shared his thoughts.
“Especially having spent time with these family members, we can appreciate the relief and joy of the families of the five detainees who have just returned home,” said Edgar. “Ours prayers are with them for peace and wholeness.”
“The release of the British detainees, after so brief a review of the evidence by British authorities, certainly supports the call for due process,” Dr. Edgar said. “Can the U.S. Government legitimately claim that the continuing imprisonment of the detainees at Guantanamo without charge, without access to legal counsel, without access to family visits, and without access to international due process, is just?”
Edgar at Supreme Court -- A.M. news conference -- Bob Edgar flanked by family members of Guantanamo detainees, Corin and Vanessa Redgrave and other advocates for due process rights for the Guantanamo detainees.
Corin Redgrave and Vanessa Redgrave, Co-Founders of the Guantanamo Human Rights Commission; Azmat Begg, father of U.K. detainee Moazzam Begg; Terry Waite, former advisor to Archbishop of Canterbury and former Beirut hostage. Here they are walking from the NCC's offices to the March 8 morning news conference in front of the U.S. Supreme Court.
Azmat Begg and Colleen Kelly, a leader of Peaceful Tomorrows, lighting a candle during the evening interfaith service.
Peter Yarrow, singing at the March 8 Guantanamo Due Process Interfaith Prayer/Reflection Service.
Terry Waite; Rabiye Kurnaz, mother of German detainee Murat Kurnaz, and Bob Edgar on the procession to Lafayette Park across from the White House. The group paused in the park for a prayer. Earlier, they'd faxed letters on behalf of the Guantanamo detainees asking the First Family for due process.
Photos all by Rick Reinhard, copyright 2004, Washington, D.C., for the NCC