Human Rights Groups Organize Vigil at White House to Mark 100th Day of Hunger Strike at Guantanamo

Press Release
May 20, 2013

Human Rights Groups Organize Vigil at White House to Mark 100th Day of Hunger Strike at Guantanamo

Activists in D.C. deliver more than 370,000 petition signatures, pressure Obama to keep his promise to close the detention facility

Contact: Gabe Cahn, Rabinowitz/Dorf Communications, gabe@rabinowitz-dorf.com, (o) 202-265-3000, (c) 425-269-5541

(WASHINGTON, D.C.) – Today, on the 100th day of the hunger strike at Guantanamo Bay, and amid growing pressure on the Obama Administration to close the facility once and for all, activists held a vigil outside the White House to bring awareness to the injustice of more than 11 years of unlawful and indefinite detention. Coalition events also were held in London, Sydney, New York City, Boston, San Francisco, Chicago, Detroit, Los Angeles, Honolulu, Anchorage, Eureka, Calif., Amherst, Mass., Toledo, Ohio, and Charlottesville, Va.

In addition to protesters in orange jumpsuits, speakers, and a social media storm, more than 370,000 petition signatures were delivered to President Obama, urging him to take the necessary actions to close Guantanamo. The cover letter and more information about the petitions can be found below.

The participants in the Day 100 Vigil called on President Obama to fulfill his promise to close Guantanamo and to:

  • Move forward with transferring cleared detainees out of the detention facility under the certification process and waiver provision put in place by Congress
  • Appoint a high level official in the White House to lead the effort to close the detention facility
  • Make the case to Congress and the American people for removing the remaining transfer restrictions and closing the detention facility
  • Ensure that all detained men are either charged and fairly tried in federal court, or released to countries that will respect their human rights

A non-partisan coalition of independent human rights and civil liberties organizations united during today's gathering, including Amnesty International, the National Religious Campaign Against Torture, Center for Constitutional Rights and Witness Against Torture.

"Amnesty International USA activists protested outside the White House on Day 100 of the hunger strike to send the message that President Obama needs to close Guantanamo now," said Jiva Manske, field organizer for Amnesty International USA, Mid-Atlantic, from Amnesty’s Washington, D.C. office. "The detainees' situation must urgently be resolved, in a manner that respects their dignity and human rights. Death shouldn’t be the only way out of Guantanamo."

As part of the national Day 100 Vigil for Guantanamo, the coalition called for all detainees either to be charged and fairly tried in federal court, or to be transferred to countries that will respect their human rights. The groups argued that both President Obama and Congress have an important role to play in meeting the U.S. government's human rights obligations.

"Years of detention without charge or trial have created a sense of desperation and hopelessness among the men at Guantanamo that has led over 100 of them to join a hunger strike," said Rev. Richard Killmer, executive director of the National Religious Campaign Against Torture. "The human crisis in Guantanamo is a moral one that needs to end immediately. The faith community calls on the President to close Guantanamo. It is the right thing to do."

Omar Farah, staff attorney at the Center for Constitutional Rights, said, "As the hunger strike at Guantanamo passes its 100th day, my clients' bodies are breaking down, but their resolve and spirit have never been stronger. When I met with Tariq Ba Odah on April 30, he told me: 'We have nothing left to lose, but I have never seen such high morale in the prisoners. We will endure anything to be free.' That same day, President Obama vowed again to close Guantanamo. Words are not enough. After 11 years of indefinite detention without charge or trial, Tariq and the others trapped at the prison cannot wait any longer. The president must use every tool at his disposal to release the prisoners he will not try in a fair court and finally shutter Guantanamo, once and for all. Every day he delays tempts an awful fate."

Medea Benjamin, co-founder of CodePink and author of Drone Warfare: Killing by Remote Control, added, "The hunger strikers in Guantanamo have unleashed an avalanche of sympathy around the world, and disgust for the Obama administration's policy. It's time for Obama—the commander-in-chief and the most powerful man in the world—to stop blaming Congress and muster the moral courage to close the prison and end this shameful chapter in U.S. history."

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Petition Cover Letter
Amnesty International USA
5 Penn Plaza – 16th Floor
New York, NY 10001

May 17, 2013

President Obama,

On April 30, you recommitted to closing the Guantanamo detention facility.

Since then, over 370,000 people have signed the enclosed petitions calling on you to get the job done, including by:

  • Immediately transferring those cleared to leave
  • Appointing a high level White House official to lead the effort to close the detention facility
  • Ensuring that all held at Guantanamo are released unless fairly tried in federal court

We, the undersigned, look forward to your response.

Sincerely,

Col. Morris Davis (Ret.), former chief prosecutor for the military commissions at Guantanamo Bay
Amnesty International USA
Coalition for an Ethical Psychology
Center for Constitutional Rights
CloseGuantanamo.org
CodePink
Colonel Morris Davis (Retired U.S. Air Force colonel and former chief prosecutor at Guantanamo Bay)
Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR)
Defending Dissent Foundation
Interfaith Action for Human Rights
International Justice Network (IJN)
Massachusetts Campaign Against Torture (MACAT)
National Religious Campaign Against Torture (NRCAT)
No More Guantanamos
Peace Action
Psychologists for Social Responsibility
September Eleventh Families for Peaceful Tomorrows
Torture Abolition & Survivor Support Coalition
T'ruah: The Rabbinic Call for Human Rights
Veterans for Peace - Minneapolis/St. Paul, MN
Win Without War
Witness Against Torture
Women Against Military Madness (WAMM)

Amnesty International is a Nobel Peace Prize-winning grassroots activist organization with more than 3 million supporters, activists and volunteers in more than 150 countries campaigning for human rights worldwide. The organization investigates and exposes abuses, educates and mobilizes the public, and works to protect people wherever justice, freedom, truth and dignity are denied.