Musicians rise up against Guantánamo and demand to know if their music has been used to torture

October 22, 2009

Image of a spotlight in a dark room

R.E.M and Pearl Jam are leading a coalition of international musicians in an official Freedom of Information Act request for information about the use of music torture in Guantánamo Bay and around the world.

The coalition includes Trent Reznor, Jackson Browne, Rise Against, Rosanne Cash, Billy Bragg, the Roots and is backed by Reprieve.

Under the Bush/Cheney administration, music torture was commonplace in Guantánamo and at US secret prisons in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere. One notorious technique involved blasting prisoners with ear-splitting music for months on end; this ‘no-touch’ method is yet to be banned by the Army Field Manual.

The FOIA request aims to expose the widespread use of music torture by the US, and was orchestrated by the US campaign group No More Guantánamos and supported by Reprieve. It will be sent today to the CIA, FBI, Department of Defense, U.S. Army Special Operations Command, U.S. Central Command, U.S. Southern Command, U.S. Joint Forces Command, Defense Intelligence Agency, and the Department of Army.

“Having these acclaimed artists join the campaign to close Guantanamo will help ignite a prairie fire of grassroots support across the nation. We are thrilled and grateful to have them aboard,” said former Congressman Tom Andrews, director of the National Campaign to close Guantánamo.

Clare Algar, Director of Reprieve said: “The use of incessant, deafening music to break prisoners is obscene and contrary to American and British values alike. We at Reprieve are delighted that so many musicians are joining the call to close Guantánamo and end the use of music torture.”

“At Guantanamo, the U.S. government turned a jukebox into an instrument of torture,” said Thomas Blanton, executive director of the National Security Archive, a freedom of information organization that is assisting the musicians in seeking the documents. “The musicians and the public have the right to know how an expression of popular culture was transformed into an enhanced interrogation technique.”

Guitarist Tom Morello, whose music with the band Rage Against the Machine has been linked to torture tactics at the prison, said: “Guantánamo is known around the world as one of the places where human beings have been tortured – from water boarding, to stripping, hooding and forcing detainees into humiliating sexual acts – playing music for 72 hours in a row at volumes just below that to shatter the eardrums. Guantánamo may be Dick Cheney’s idea of America, but it’s not mine. The fact that music I helped create was used as a tactic against humanity sickens me – we need to end torture and close Guantánamo now.”

R.E.M said: “We signed onto the campaign in complete support of President Obama and the military leaders who have called for an end to torture and to close Guantánamo. As long as Guantánamo stays open, America’s legacy around the world will continue to be the torture that went on there. We have spent the past 30 years supporting causes related to peace and justice – to now learn that some of our friends’ music may have been used as part of the torture tactics without their consent or knowledge, is horrific. It’s anti-American, period.”

The United Nations has banned the use of music as torture under the UN Convention Against Torture, although the Convention has gone largely unenforced. Reprieve campaigns against music torture through the zero dB initiative www.zerodb.org. Partnered with the UK Musicians Union, zero dB has been uniting prominent musicians via an online silent protest and petition. The campaign has gained the support of thousands of fans and prominent musicians including Dizzee Rascal, Elbow, Peter Gabriel, Massive Attack and Doves. The campaign aims to raise awareness and to encourage widespread condemnation of music torture.

For more information please contact Katherine O’Shea at Reprieve’s Press Office katherine.oshea@reprieve.org.uk 020 7427 1099/ 07931592674 or go to http://www.reprieve.org.uk/zerodb.

In Washington, please contact Trevor FitzGibbon Ph: 202-406-0646 or Doug Gordon Ph: 202-822-5200 or go to http://closegitmonow.org/.

Notes for Editors:

QUOTES FROM MUSICIANS

R.E.M.: “We signed onto the campaign in complete support of President Obama and the military leaders who have called for an end to torture and to close Guantánamo. As long as Guantánamo stays open, America’s legacy around the world will continue to be the torture that went on there. We have spent the past 20 years supporting causes related to peace and justice – to now learn that some of our friends music may have been used as part of the torture tactics without their consent or knowledge, is horrific. Its anti-American, period.”

The Roots: “When we found out that music was being used as part of the torture going on at Guantánamo, shackling and beating people – we were angry. Just as we wouldn’t be caught dead allowing Dick Cheney to use our music for his campaigns, you can be damn sure, we wouldn’t allow him to use it to torture other human beings. Congress needs to shut Guantánamo down.”

Tom Morello: “Guantánamo is known around the world as one of the places where human beings have been tortured – from waterboarding, to stripping, hooding and forcing detainees into humiliating sexual acts – playing music for 72 hours in a row at volumes just below that to shatter the eardrums. Guantánamo may be Dick Cheney’s idea of America, but its not mine. The fact that music I helped create was used as a tactic against humanity sickens me – we need to end torture and close Guantánamo now”

Rise Against: “Guantánamo Bay has been synonymous with torture and inhumanity since its inception. Coupled with it’s complete ineffectiveness, the shameful legacy it will leave behind in American history is something Americans will have to deal with forever. Let us be the generation that erases this symbol of injustice and fear-mongering from the map so that we can begin to learn from our mistakes. ” -Tim McIlrath

REPRIEVE

Reprieve, a legal action charity, uses the law to enforce the human rights of prisoners, from death row to Guantánamo Bay. Reprieve investigates, litigates and educates, working on the frontline, to provide legal support to prisoners unable to pay for it themselves. Reprieve promotes the rule of law around the world, securing each person’s right to a fair trial and saving lives. Clive Stafford Smith is the founder of Reprieve and has spent 25 years working on behalf of people facing the death penalty in the USA.

Reprieve’s current casework involves representing 33 prisoners in the US prison at Guantánamo Bay, working on behalf of prisoners facing the death penalty, and conducting ongoing investigations into the rendition and the secret detention of ‘ghost prisoners’ in the so-called ‘war on terror.’

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Website: www.reprieve.org.uk

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