Good News on Guantánamo!

December 20, 2013

(Photo Credit: Zeke Johnson).
(Photo Credit: Zeke Johnson).

I’m at Guantánamo this week to observe – via an audio/video feed on 40-second delay to hide classified information, including evidence of torture – proceedings in the 9/11 case.

While it’s depressing to see what our tax dollars are buying here – including the Orwellian “Camp Justice” sign in front of the tents where we stay – there has been significant progress in the past few days toward closing the detention facility and ensuring justice and security in accordance with human rights standards:

  • Four detainees were transferred out of Guantánamo this week, two to Saudi Arabia and two to Sudan (all voluntary), lowering the detainee population to 158, with 79 of those cleared for transfer. Closing the Guantánamo detention facility means ending indefinite detention and military commissions and ensuring that each detainee is either fairly tried in U.S. federal court, or released to a country that will respect his human rights. Each case resolved along these lines moves us closer to closure and helps protect the right to a fair trial – a right that protects each and everyone of us from abuses.
  • Last night, the Congress passed the final 2014 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) with a new provision easing restrictions on the transfer of Guantanamo detainees to other countries. Amnesty activists across the U.S. – perhaps including you – pressed their elected officials to support this provision. They held lobby visits, placed editorials in local papers, gathered petitions, and organized call-ins to Senate and House offices – and it paid off. For the first time, Congress passed a law that will make it easier to close the detention facility. It’s a big win.

What’s Next?

  • January 11, 2014, will mark the 12 year anniversary of the Guantánamo detention facility. Join a coalition of human rights groups on that day, urging President Obama to close the detention facility. We will be in front of the White House at Noon for a march in orange jumpsuits, or you can take action in your town by gathering petition signatures to and calling the White House comment line (202.456.1111) and saying: I support closing Guantánamo.
  • February 14, 2014, will mark 12 years since Shaker Aamer was sent to Guantánamo. He has been cleared to leave for years and the British government wants him to be released and returned to the UK, but he remains in limbo. His case is emblematic of the human rights violations at Guantánamo. Gather signatures to our online petition, urging President Obama to resolve his case:
  • In the Spring, we will start lobbying Congress to drop its annual restriction in the NDAA on the transfer of detainees to the mainland U.S., so that trials can happen in U.S. federal court, instead of in the unfair Guantánamo military commissions. Our effort this year on the foreign transfer provision showed we can win next year on transfers to the U.S.! Sign up to lobby by emailing us at [email protected].

After I post this blog, I’ll walk by the Camp Justice sign yet again. The irony, intentional or not, is jarring. Guantánamo has given us torture, indefinite detention and unfair trials. And, in the process, Guantánamo has eroded everyone’s right to a fair trial and right to be free from torture.

Don’t get me wrong: we all want justice for 9/11 and security from attacks by armed groups. But the way to achieve both is through fair trials, upholding the rule of law, and using the criminal justice system in compliance with human rights standards. Guantánamo is not only immoral and unlawful, it is unnecessary.