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The Harvard Anti-Torture Coalition

Archive for April, 2007

Lawyers to File Criminal Charges against Rumsfeld, Gonzales in Spain

Posted by stoptorture on 30th April 2007

A few days after a German federal prosecutor dismissed charges against Donald Rumsfeld, Alberto Gonzales, and Co., lawyers for the victims of torture in Abu Ghraib and Guantánamo announced that they would continue the fight for justice in Spain. Reuters has the story. Der Spiegel reports that CCR‘s president, Michael Ratner, said: “There is no safe haven for Rumsfeld. … If the Germans aren’t bold enough then we’ll try in Spain.”

In a display of impeccable timing, German federal prosecutor Monika Harms dismissed the case on April 27, 2007, the eve of the third anniversary of the Abu Ghraib scandal. Even more remarkable is the fact that the press completely failed to make the connection. In her dismissal, Harms claimed there was no indication that the case against the Attorney General and former Secretary of Defense would not be investigated and tried in U.S. courts.

Three years later, impunity reigns supreme.

Posted in Human Rights, International Law, Torture | 12 Comments »

600 Letters to Congress on the Way

Posted by stoptorture on 29th April 2007

We just handed off our letters to Ellen Lubell, attorney for an Algerian detainee in Guantanamo, who has kindly agreed to take them to Washington, where they will be distributed among the rest of the habeas counsel and delivered to the appropriate Congressional offices. We collected almost 600 letters from almost 200 people to Senators and Congressmen from the following 22 states:

Arizona, Arkansas, California, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Texas, Utah, Virginia, and Washington.

Hopefully these letters will make some members of Congress take heed. As was to be expected, almost exactly half of our letters wil be going to Massachusetts folks. Receiving over 80 letters from his constituents may not have too much of an impact on Representative Capuano of Cambridge and Somerville — who must already be one of the most liberal members of Congress! — but it doesn’t hurt to remind Senators Kennedy and Kerry that this is an issue that their constituents care deeply about. The Democratic leadership has been a big part of the problem, and they, too, need to be pushed.

More than anything, though, this week’s action did wonders for re-energizing and re-mobilizing us (we had about 30 students actively volunteering), for sparking discussion on campus with students, children, and visitors — and giving us the tools and random coincidences that we needed to pull off the impromptu Gonzales protest … which has ended up getting a huge amount of coverage. Here’s to hoping that every little bit helps.

Thank you CCR for the call for action, and for launching this network of students. I hope we can continue to use it for bigger and better actions in the future.

It’s been a pleasure,
The Harvard Crew

Posted in Activism, Human Rights | 95 Comments »


Posted by stoptorture on 28th April 2007

Gonzales protest 3

*** Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, second row from top, center, poses with members of the Harvard Law School class of 1982 as law student protester Thomas Becker looks on.***

Cambridge, MA – Attorney General Surprise Visit at 25th Reunion Met by Student Protests Cambridge, Mass. – Alberto Gonzales was confronted by student protesters and forced to leave through a back door on Saturday during a visit to Harvard Law School for his 25th reunion. After two weeks clinging to save his job and defending allegations that he fired eight U.S. Attorneys for political reasons, what might have been a relaxed day of reminiscing with old classmates became instead yet another reminder that both his job and his reputation are in serious jeopardy. The Attorney General was on campus unannounced to students. But word quickly spread that a suspicious motorcade had been spotted by the campus center, and by the time Gonzales and his fellow classmates assembled on the law library steps for their class photo, a group of current students were there to greet him, having donned black hoods and orange jumpsuits. As the photographer told the class of 1982 to smile and say “cheese,” the students yelled out that saying “torture,” “resign” or “I don’t recall” might be more appropriate. The Attorney General’s visit to his alma mater coincided with the third anniversary of the release of photos depicting the torture of detainees at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq, and came the day after a German federal prosecutor dismissed a case alleging that Gonzales was responsible for approving the policies that resulted in those abuses. These facts were not lost on Deborah Popowski, a second-year law student who had just finished organizing a nationwide student sit-in urging Congress to pass pending legislation that would restore detainees’ rights to habeas corpus. “When I heard he was on campus, I was stuffing envelopes with letters to Congress in an office two floors above. I dropped everything. Gonzales needs to know that after approving poorly-reasoned memos that distort the rule of law and justify torture, he is simply not welcome here.” At a time when many in the nation are calling for Gonzales to resign, one third-year student managed to communicate the mood of his own alma mater directly to Gonzales. While the Attorney General’s security detail kept protestors at bay and the photographer prepared the class photo, she slipped though the law library’s front doors and approached Gonzales from behind. “On behalf of many other Harvard Law students,” she said, “I’d like to tell you that we are ashamed to have you as an alumnus of this school. And we’re glad you’re here to be able to tell you that.” Gonzales thanked the student and offered to shake her hand, but was refused. After the class photo was taken, several of the Attorney General’s classmates clapped and approached the protesting students to thank them for their efforts. Following the group photo, Gonzales ducked into the library to take a stroll around the main reading room, which, on the weekend before final exams, was full of students going over their notes. When the protestors caught up with Gonzales, the cavernous reading room, ordinarily a place of hushed whispers, echoed with chants of “shame” and “resign.” Gonzales was quickly whisked down a back staircase, out a basement emergency exit and into a waiting SUV. As the motorcade pulled off from in front of historic Austin Hall, Thomas Becker, a second-year law student, stood in an orange jumpsuit and black hood, waving goodbye. When the cars were out of sight, Becker pulled off his hood, smiled, and said “good riddance.”

Gonzales protest 1

*** Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, holding number 588, poses with classmates from the Harvard Law School class of 1982 as law student protester Thomas Becker looks on.***




Gonzales protest 1

*** Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, Harvard Law class of 1982 and holding number 588, poses for a reunion photo as Thomas Becker, a second-year law student, looks on.***

Posted in Activism, Human Rights | 304 Comments »

Day 3 of the Student “Definite Detention” Sit-Out

Posted by stoptorture on 28th April 2007

Today was the culmination of our effort, starting with a handful of dedicated volunteers sitting in Guantánamo jumpsuits in the cold rain in front of the John Harvard statue in the wee hours. At noon, a group of us, joined by habeas counsel Jerry Cohen of Burns & Levinson, LLP, operated an advocacy table in the student center of the law school on what was notably Alumni Day. This is especially significant given the shameful role some Harvard Law School alumni have played in creating and perpetuating the US torture policy, among them Alberto Gonzales and John Bellinger.

Overall, in about 15 hours of advocacy in the past three days, we collected some 300 individual letters to Congresspersons, which, copied to each Senator, amounts to around 900 letters that will be hand-delivered by habeas counsel in DC next week in their push to restore habeas corpus. Let’s hope someone listens.
Below are some of today’s photos of students and Jerry.

I Want My Day in Court


Table with habeas counsel and students


Lost my appetite

Posted in Activism, Human Rights | 82 Comments »

Day 2 of the Student “Definite Detention” Sit-Out

Posted by stoptorture on 26th April 2007

The sun helped us out aplenty today by giving us more passers-by. We collected about 100 letters to Congress! Got ourselves a bit of campus coverage too.
Also today, a hint of hope…U.S. senators vow to restore rights to detainees.

Quote of the day goes to a 3rd grader on a field trip. After being explained what Guantánamo is, and how they treat people there, he shook his head saying, “Someone should build a time machine and go back in time and bring Harriet Tubman back to us. We need her now.”

Photo of the day

habeasnow full building

Posted in Activism, Human Rights | 134 Comments »

Student “Definite Detention” Sit-Out

Posted by stoptorture on 25th April 2007

Today, we began our “Definite Detention” sit-out in Harvard Yard, in an effort to build momentum for the Congressional effort to repeal the habeas-stripping provision of the Military Commissions Act of 2006. Apart from using striking symbols to attract attention and spark conversation, we talked to passers-by and got supporters to write individual letters to their representatives and senators.

We were joined by folks at Dartmouth, CUNY, NYU & the National Lawyers Guild. More schools are joining in the rest of the lobbying effort coordinated by the Center for Constitutional Rights. If you want to get involved, the main action center containing contacts, information, and suggestions is

The official press release (PHOTOS BELOW):


Action Coordinated by the Center for Constitutional Rights on Behalf of Guantánamo Detainees

25, 2007, New York
– Today, university students on campuses around the country began two days of action calling for the restoration of habeas corpus and fair hearings for the almost 400 detainees who still remain at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba. The actions, which all began at noon Eastern Standard Time, were organized by law students and coordinated by the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR), which represents many of the detainees at Guantánamo and coordinates the work of nearly 500 pro bono attorneys.

Habeas corpus, or the Great Writ, is the legal procedure that keeps the government from holding prisoners indefinitely without showing cause and has been a pillar of Western legal systems since the signing of the Magna Carta in 1215. The passage of the Military Commissions Act of 2006 effectively stripped the Guantánamo detainees of their right to challenge their detention, despite two Supreme Court rulings that stated detainees do have the right to habeas corpus.

Said CCR attorney Emi MacLean, “It is a moral disgrace that we would deny the fundamental right to habeas corpus to anyone. We need to bring habeas corpus back – for the future of our country and for the people who have been detained without fair hearings and due process for over five years in Guantánamo.”

Participating students include representatives from the following schools: American University Dartmouth College, DePaul University, Harvard University, a coalition of students from New York City law schools including the City University of New York and New York University, the University of California-Berkeley, the University of Virginia, and other schools around the country. The planned actions range from 48-hour sit-ins to call-in and letter writing campaigns to Congressional representatives. They come as Congress plans on considering several bills that would restore the fundamental right of habeas corpus to the Guantánamo detainees.

At Harvard Law School, students have organized a sit-out demonstration to be complemented by a call-in and letter writing campaign.

“We voice our rejection to an American law that allows for indefinite detention and torture,” said student organizer Deborah Popowski of Harvard Law School. “We cannot stay silent. History will judge those responsible for enacting and perpetuating the Military Commissions Act, and if we refuse to act now, we, too, are complicit.”

For more information, please visit and



Definite Detention photo of statue side



Definite Detention statue sideways





NYU, CUNY, National Lawyers Guild

NY Definite Detention at  Federal Court

NY Definite Detention at Federal Court - police looking


Dartmouth demonstration

Dartmouth protest 2


Posted in Activism, Human Rights | 119 Comments »

Student “Definite Detention” Sit-Out – April 25th noon (EST)

Posted by stoptorture on 19th April 2007

Student “Definite Detention” Sit-Out – April 25th noon (EST)

Posted in Activism, Events, Human Rights | 292 Comments »