Twenty-five U.S. citizens, calling themselves Witness Against Torture, are demonstrating, fasting and praying at the gates of the U.S. prison at Guantánamo 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-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.
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.
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.