At an protest rally on the National Mall in DC marking the sixth anniversary of Guantanamo detention on January 11, 2008, torture survivor and antitorture activist Orlando Tizon spoke on his experiences as a subject of torture in the Philippines and the historical basis for American opposition to torture. You can listen to Tizon’s remarks yourself by clicking here, or read the transcript below:
“Good afternoon. I am Orlando, and I speak for survivors of torture in TASSC [Torture Abolition and Survivors Support Coalition], an organization of survivors of torture. For me, this Mall is a sacred place because it is a symbol of democracy and the independence the American people have fought for for centuries, more than two centuries. I face the Washington Monument. For me, that is a symbol of independence and democracy. It is a sad day that we are commemorating six years at Guantanamo prison, its opening, and that prison is a symbol of the destruction of the rule of law. It is a symbol of dictatorship.
“I was in prison for four years in the Philippines. I have lived under a dictatorship there. I was arrested, I was imprisoned, I was incommunicado for certain months during my imprisonment, I was subjected to beatings and forms of torture including mock execution.
“My brothers in Guantanamo are there, have been there for six years. Six years is too long. I know that because I was imprisoned for four years, and four years is too long. When I got out of prison after the dictatorship collapsed, through people power, I came to the U.S.. For many immigrants and refugees, the United States represents democracy and the rule of law, and we know that Americans are good people. They respect fair play and democratic rights. And that’s why I came here among many immigrants and refugees and many survivors of torture with whom I work would like to come here also. But after 9-11 and after Guantanamo prison, we are throwing all of these ideas into the mud.
“In Guantanamo, torture is being practiced, despite the many denials of leaders. I think of what Vice President Cheney said, that waterboarding is ‘a little dunking in the water.’ And many of our friends in the press talk about waterboarding, calling it “simulated drowning.” My friends, there is nothing simulated about waterboarding; it is drowning! It is torture. The only difference between drowning and waterboarding is that they don’t let you die, because they want you to live and suffer the pain. Many survivors of torture, under torture, have asked their torturers to just kill them. It is better than the pain. Even incommunicado detention, which many of our brothers in Guantanamo have suffered, is torture. Being place in a cell for months by yourself without any contact from any other human being is torture. Psychologists and psychiatrists and scientists who have conducted experiments have proven that it is enough to make a person crazy.
“And so, I don’t want to speak too long, because we have to march. For than more than two years now in TASSC International, we have conducted a campaign to repeal the Military Commissions Act, which was signed two years ago by the Congress. The Military Commissions Act is the legal foundation of the Guantanamo prison. It legalizes torture. It throws away Habeas Corpus. It allows certain forms of torture in interrogation. And it is a way through which the government and our leaders have tried to deny that the United States practices torture, that torture is going on around us. They want to keep it silent. They want to disappear survivors of torture. They don’t want people to know that this is going on. And so we have been going on with this campaign to repeal the Military Commissions Act.
“We are going to have elections this year, and we hope that there will be change in the coming months. And we hope that there will be no torture again, and we hope that Guantanamo prison will be closed. We say, ‘Close Guantanamo! No more torture! Repeal the Military Commissions Act!'”