By Catherine McCracken
Amnesty International define themselves as a movement of ordinary people from across the world standing up for humanity and human rights; their purpose is to protect individuals, wherever justice, fairness, freedom and truth are denied.
One of the main campaigns that Amnesty International have taken on board worldwide is for the closure of Guantanamo Bay, and the release of prisoners who have been detained without charge. On Thursday 20th of November, the QUB branch of Amnesty International, along with the help of a few others, held a demonstration which began at the Students’ Union and ended at City Hall. For the occasion, a number of members dressed up in orange jumpsuits to represent detainees.
When they reached their destination they then proceeded to collect signatures for the release of a particular prisoner named Binyam Mohamed who is an Ethiopian national and UK resident. He was arrested in 2002, allegedly seriously tortured in Morocco and has now been detained for nearly four years without trial at Guantanamo Bay. The signatures are hoped to increase the likelihood of having him moved out of the maximum security prison ‘Camp 5’ in Guantanamo. It would be preferable if he were to be moved into ‘Camp Echo’ in an effort to minimise the serious risk that currently exists to his mental and physical health. Binyam has already written to Gordon Brown and requested his assistance in the hope that he can return to the UK. Requests have been made by the British Government to have him returned but the US Government have refused. This is what Amnesty International is trying to change.
Binyam’s case is extremely important, but one must realise that there are many more like him who have been detained for no reason, and for indefinite periods of time facing unimaginable forms of torture. During the demonstration, particular individuals reenacted various stress positions which prisoners are forced to do. This was an attempt by the demonstrators to give people a greater insight into how horrific the life of a detainee is.
As it is less than five weeks until Christmas, Belfast city centre was buzzing with late night shoppers and those who were visiting the continental market; so there was probably no greater time to hold such an important event. Those taking part in the demonstration received a considerable amount of attention from shoppers and media alike, and a substantial number of people were more than willing to sign the petition.