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Local Code Pink Joins Organizations World Wide To Demand Closure of US Guantanamo Prison

by Leon Kunstenaar
Action at UC Berkeley law school also demands prosecution for John Yoo, provider of legal "rational" for torture
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Photos: Leon Kunstenaar / Pro Bono Photo

On Wednesday January 11, Cynthia Papermaster of CodePink SF Bay Area and Diana Bohn, Berkeley Peace and Justice Commission gathered at UC Berkeley Law School to hold a press conference and call for the closure of Guantanamo Bay Detention Camp on its 21st anniversary. They also called for the prosecution of UC Berkeley Law Professor John Yoo for complicity in torture.

The press conference was hosted by CodePink for Peace, Berkeley No More Guantanamos, Progressive Democrats of Oakland, Triple Justice, Extinction Rebellion Peace and others.

The US has carried out torture at Guantanamo. Professor Yoo is complicit because when he worked at the Office of Legal Council in the Department of Justice he provided the legal opinions that Cheney and Bush relied on to order torture of prisoners at Abu Ghraib, Bagram, Guantanamo and elsewhere. Prosecution for complicity in torture is not discretionary: in other words, our Department of Justice is required to prosecute Yoo. Instead this disgraced lawyer walks free in Berkeley and teaches at our public university, at a salary of nearly $500,000/year.

Cynthia Papermaster noted "As a graduate of UC Berkeley I am horrified and ashamed that my alma mater allows him to corrupt the minds of UC Berkeley Law students with his criminal theories. Yoo embodies the "banality of evil." He must be prosecuted."

Papermaster continued "Yoo’s legal opinions were called "rubbish, shoddy research" by the Department of Justice and they were immediately rescinded by the DOJ when Yoo left the OLC. There were calls for his disbarment and firing from students and faculty at UC Berkeley, the American Bar Association and the National Lawyers Guild. The City of Berkeley passed resolutions condemning Yoo. UC Berkeley Faculty objected to Yoo receiving an endowed chair, but then—law school Dean Christopher Edley insisted on giving him the honor. In 2014, Erwin Chemerinsky, the current Dean of UC Berkeley Law School, and then Dean of UC Irvine Law School, said in a Nation magazine interview that Yoo should be criminally prosecuted."

"I think he [John Yoo] should be,” Chemerinsk said. “All who planned, all who implemented, all who carried out the torture should be criminally prosecuted. How else do we as a society express our outrage? How else do we deter it in the future, except by criminal prosecutions?”

Dean Chemerinsky, the Co-directors of the International Human Rights Law Clinic at the law school, Berkeley Peace and Justice Commission members and law school students have been invited to speak at the press conference. Professor Yoo was be asked to contribute to the newly established Guantanamo Survivors Fund. They did not appear but letters were left for them at the school's office of the dean. A "pie" consisting of shaving cream was prepared by parties unknown but not delivered.

Action summary by Cynthia Papermaster:
CodePink San Francisco Bay Area hosted a press conference at U.C. Berkeley Law School January 11, the 21st Anniversary of Guantanamo Prison. Our special focus was asking the Biden Administration to close Guantanamo, release the 20 men cleared for release and still at Guantanamo, and prosecute U.C. Law Professor John Yoo for complicity in torture. Rita Maran and Diana Bohn, members of the Berkeley Peace and Justice Commission attended, with Rita giving us a brief primer on the UN torture prohibitions, stressing Yoo's violation of treaties that the U.S. is a party to, reminding us that torture is never legal under ANY circumstances, and that any inhuman or degrading treatment is completely prohibited by U.S. and international law.

John Henneberry read the Department of Justice Office of Professional Responsibility's statement which characterized Yoo's work as "intentional professional misconduct." Cynthia Papermaster added that the DOJ is REQUIRED to prosecute anyone suspected of torture or complicity in torture, and that the Northern District Federal Court ruled against Yoo when Jose Padilla and his mother sued Yoo for $1 in damages. Adrianne Aron and Denise Hingle read Guantnamo poems, we all sang "Tell John Yoo That Torture is a Crime", written by Vic Sadot and recorded with the CodePink chorus

Letter to John Yoo:
January 11, 2023 To: Professor John C. Yoo, U.C. Berkeley School of Law
Dear Professor Yoo, We are writing to introduce you to a new initiative to help released Guantanamo prisoners who are struggling financially, mentally, and emotionally due to having been tortured and/or treated inhumanely at Guantanamo Bay Prison. This initiative is called the Guantanamo Survivors Fund, and it is administered by No More Guantanamos, located in Massachusetts. I am the Director of Berkeley No More Guantanamos. Here’s the link to the fund: https://www.nogitmos.org/ Professor Yoo, we are asking you to contribute to the Guantanamo Survivors Fund.

I’m a retired law librarian. I was the Head Librarian and Director of Information Resources at Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe for 18 years. I was the Librarian and Director of lnforrnation Resources at Gibson Dunn & Crutcher’s San Francisco and Palo Alto offices for 13 years. While not as wealthy as you, I’ve donated nearly $1000 to the fund, which is about all I can afford. The injustice that these men suffered is a stain on the virtue of the United States, and I view my contribution as a small way to make amends.

The men who are benefiting from the fund were never charged or convicted of crimes, any evidence garnered was tainted by their torture, children under 16 years old were imprisoned and tortured. AIl remained imprisoned at Guantanamo for many years after being cleared.

Today we are holding a press conference at the law school to mark the 21 years that Guantanamo Prison has been open. We are gathering to call for the closure of Guantanamo, the release of the 20 remaining prisoners who have been cleared for release, and for the Department of Justice to prosecute you for complicity in torture.

Here is an excerpt from our media release that went out for today's press conference:

Press conference organizer, SF Bay Area Code Pink Coordinator Cynthia Papermastcr says "The US. carried out torture at Guantanamo. That is well established. Professor Yoo is complicit because when he worked at the Office of Legal Council in the Department of Justice he provided the legal opinions that Cheney and Bush relied on to order torture of prisoners at Abu Ghraib, Bagram, Guantanamo and elsewhere.

Prosecution for complicity in torture is not discretionary; in other words, our Department of Justice is required to prosecute Yoo. Instead this disgraced lawyer walks free in Berkeley and teaches at our public university, at a salary of nearly $500,000/year.

As a graduate of UC Berkeley I am horrifed and ashamed that my alma mater allows him to corrupt the minds of UC Berkeley Law students with his criminal theories. Yoo embodies the "banality of evil." He must be prosecuted. Papermaster continued, "Yoo's legal opinions were called "rubbish, shoddy research" by the Department of Justice and they were immediately rescinded by the DOJ when Yoo left the OLC. There were calls for his disbarment and ?ring from students and faculty at UC Berkeley, the American Bar Association and the National Lawyers Guild. The City of Berkeley passed resolutions condemning Yoo. UC Berkeley Faculty objected to Yoo receiving an endowed chair, but then-law school Dean Christopher Edley insisted on giving him the honor. In 2014, Erwin Chemerinsky, the current Dean of UC Berkeley Law School, and then Dean of UC Irvine Law School, said in a Nation magazine interview that Yoo should be criminally prosecuted."

"I think he [John Yoo] should be," Chemerinsky said. “All who planned, all who implemented, all who carried out the torture should be criminally prosecuted. How else do we as a society express our outrage? How else do we deter it in the torture, except by criminal prosecutions?” We’ve invited Dean Chemerinsky to speak at the press conference as well as the Co-directors of the International Human Rights Law Clinic at the law school, members of the Berkeley Peace and Justice Commission, law school students, and community members, many of whom are alumni of UC Berkeley, who are working for you to be held accountable for your crimes. We are asking Attorney General Merrick Garland to open a prosecution.

We hope sincerely that you will donate to help the struggling Guantanamo survivors.

Best wishes for a good new semester at UC Berkeley Law.

Cynthia Papermaster, Director, Berkeley No More Guantanamos and Coordinator, San Francisco Bay Area Code Pink Women for Peace.

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