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September 2023 Newsletter

Answers Through Plea Deals, Not A Trial

September: A Somber Month

Who can forget that day in September 22 years ago when our lives were changed forever? And who can forget the revelation that we were not alone in opposing military reprisals to the attacks? The fact that we are still here after 21-plus years and actively working together to uphold the rule of law and human rights is a testament to the relevance of our message. We have played a role in upholding the international principles of human rights and rule of law, especially as they refer to Guantánamo and Afghanistan. We do not want accountability and justice at the expense of others' rights. This month we are returning to our "regular" lives while dealing with the sorrow and loss of that tragic day. At the same time we are giving and receiving solace to and from each other.

Phyllis Rodriguez, Membership Committee

Rule of Law Committee:

The Rule of Law Committee has continued our advocacy supporting plea agreements in the case against the 9/11 accused at Guantánamo. Our experience tells us that the best, perhaps the only way, we will get to the truth is in stipulations of facts as part of plea agreements with the defendants. In August potential plea agreement generated controversy in the larger community of survivors and victim family members. Members of the Rule of Law committee were able to reach a wider audience by publishing their opinions in diverse media outlets:

In Teen Vogue Elizabeth Miller shared:

"...In my desperation to learn more, I have traveled to Guantánamo three times. I looked into the eyes of 9/11 “mastermind” Khalid Sheikh Mohammed. It was shocking. Despite how he's been labeled, he looked like a fragile, weathered old man. As everyone in the observer gallery stared at him, he stared back. I sat with my loss and pain while listening to oral arguments, and couldn’t help thinking that I did not, could not, stand for the cruelty and torture these men had experienced..."

Just Security published Terry Kay Rockefeller's thoughts on how plea deals could bring some sort of closure to 9/11 families:

"...All of my experience tells me one thing: the reason there has been no justice and accountability in either the 9/11 or the U.S.S. Cole cases, indeed no ability to even begin a trial in either case, is torture. All the defendants were tortured at CIA black sites overseas and at Guantánamo. Pre-trial litigation in both cases has largely concerned what evidence of the defendants’ torture would be admitted in a trial and what later confessions will be suppressed because they are tainted by that torture..."

Since no plea agreements have been finalized, in September the 9/11 military commission at Guantánamo will resume pre-trial hearings. Peaceful Tomorrows members will be attending.

Please contact Rule of Law Committee Chair, Terry Kay Rockefeller, with any further questions.

Afghanistan Committee:

The Afghanistan Committee has just received news of our young Afghan friends who have found welcoming countries and are engaged in building their new lives. Two of them have completed their 18 months stay in Mertola, Spain and are now beginning studies in the Catholic University in Lisbon. Another couple has reunited with family members in Germany. A third couple with their child have found independent housing and jobs. The group in Leiria continues studying Portuguese and working as volunteers. Another young woman who recently finished her studies at a University in Kazakhstan, has arrived in Spain where her resettlement is being coordinated by an NGO called YARAN. She has been living in fear of being deported back to Afghanistan, and is now elated to be the first of the APV to settle in the city of Sobrado, Galicia.

Twenty-one young people now in Islamabad, Pakistan await student visas while conditions there are quite difficult. The young people are not allowed to work and face many forms of exploitation, such as evictions, shake-downs, and threats of deportation. The stress leads to health problems and increased living expenses. Organizations in Galicia are arranging to welcome this group by providing Spanish language immersion programs, health care and vocational training which will be mutually beneficial for the students as well as the townspeople. These young refugees are longing to reach a safe heaven.

Contributions to support this work are sorely needed and would be most welcome. The fiscal sponsor, A.J.Muste Memorial Institute, directs donations to YARAN. YARAN is trying hard to obtain visas for the 21 young people now in Pakistan. A.J. Muste accepts your donations on this page.

Please contact Andrea LeBlanc, Afghanistan Committee Co-Chair, with any additional questions.

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