• Press Release

Activists Gather to Demand Closure of Guantánamo

January 11, 2018

On the 16th anniversary of the Guantánamo Bay detention camp, Amnesty International USA will be joining the Center for Constitutional Rights, Witness Against Torture, the National Religious Campaign Against Torture, and others for a rally to demand the closure of the detention camp, end indefinite detention of the detainees, and reject the use of torture by the U.S. government.

Coalition members include the Center for Constitutional Rights, Close Guantanamo, Codepink, Council on American Islamic Relations, Defending Rights and Dissent, Justice for Muslims Collective, National Religious Campaign Against Torture, No More Guantanamos, Reprieve, September 11th Families for Peaceful Tomorrows, Torture Abolition and Survivors Support Coalition, Veterans For Peace, Voices for Creative Nonviolence, Witness Against Torture, and World Can’t Wait.

Amnesty International USA also issued a call for the transfer of Toffiq al-Bihani, who, along with four other detainees, has been cleared for transfer for several years and yet remains at the prison. Bihani is the lead plaintiff in a lawsuit filed today by the Center for Constitutional Rights.

Quotes from participating groups below:

“It is shocking that 16 years after the Guantanamo prison was opened, the United States still maintains a center to detain prisoners indefinitely without charge or trial. Some of the 41 remaining detainees have been cleared for transfer for years,” said Daphne Eviatar, director of security with human rights at Amnesty International USA. “The laws of war never envisioned the sort of endless conflict the U.S. government is waging. The Guantanamo detainees must either be charged and transferred to the United States for fair trials, or sent home or to another country where they’ll be safe. To continue to imprison these men, many of whom the US also tortured, is unconscionable.”

“As the prison enters its 17th year of operation, we risk Guantanamo and all that it symbolizes becoming even more entrenched in the American landscape. Donald Trump not only boasts a desire to expand the prison, but has demonstrated his hostility towards Muslims and impetuous policy-making in the name of national security,” said Aliya Hussain, advocacy program manager at the Center for Constitutional Rights. “Whether Guantanamo closes or expands depends upon those who oppose this president. We must look to the courts and the people to serve as checks on the political branches, to challenge indefinite detention and the anti-Muslim bigotry that fuels it, and to keep Guantanamo in the public consciousness until it is closed once and for all.”

“On January 11, we gather to bear witness to a tragic and ongoing history.  After 16 years, the U.S. detention camp at Guantanamo remains a living symbol of U.S. torture and human rights abuses and a place of misery for the 41 Muslim men it still houses.  We refuse to turn our eyes away. To our government we say: try the men under the rule of law or release them. Close Guantanamo, shut down indefinite detention, and put an end to Islamophobia,” said Josie Setzler at Witness Against Torture.

“We have just heard reports from Nils Melzer, the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture, that torture is continuing at Guantanamo Bay. As an organization that serves survivors of torture from all over the world, TASSC hears horrible stories every day about individuals subjected to physical and mental torture by oppressive governments. We believe that torture is illegal and immoral under any circumstance whatsoever, regardless of the offenses anyone is accused of, and that its ongoing use in Guantanamo must be stopped immediately,” said Leonce Byimana, executive director of Torture Abolition and Survivors Support Coalition (TASSC).

“People of faith believe that this nation has a moral responsibility to respect the dignity of all people. Imprisoning people, many of whom were tortured, without trial at Guantanamo is a violation of human dignity and common decency. In 2018, 16 years after the first prisoner was sent to Guantanamo, we can do the right thing by trying or releasing the forty-one people still imprisoned there and closing the prison for good,” said Reverende Ron Stief at National Religious Campaign Against Torture.

“The existence of Guantanamo Bay prison epitomizes what institutional and structural Islamophobia looks like in practice.  For sixteen years, the prison has been allowed to operate on false legal pretenses and no accountability whatsoever. This has not only damaged the lives of prisoners who have been released, but also means that those who remain behind the prison’s walls, have little to no hope of justice,” said Dr. Maha Hilal, co-director at Justice for Muslims Collective. “As one of the most glaring spectacles of how the War on Terror has targeted Muslims, Guantanamo Bay prison must be closed and tortured ended to restore some semblance of justice – not selective or differential justice, but justice in its totality.”

“End the military commissions and transfer trials to federal court. End torture in all its varied forms and pseudonyms. End indefinite detention and restore rule of law. End Guantanamo,” said Colleen Kelly at September 11th Families for Peaceful Tomorrows.

“For much of the world, America is not a place but an ideal—an ideal of democracy and personal freedom protected by the rule of law. Guantanamo, a prison set up sixteen years ago today to detain people outside the law and without charge or trial, violates that ideal. It undermines our nation’s credibility and hurts us every day it remains open. We should work together to protect the American ideal and close that lawless prison!” said Tom Wilner, counsel of record to the Guantanamo detainees in their Supreme Court cases in 2004 and 2008, at CloseGuantanamo.org.

“Guantanamo Bay prison is a living symbol of America’s refusal to live up to the promise of our Constitution. Although President Trump has made clear his disinterest in human rights, due process, and the rule of law, we call on him to choose justice over inhumanity and close the prison immediately,” said Sue Udry, executive director at Defending Rights & Dissent.

“Americans who believe in the rule of law and the U.S. Constitution cannot stand idly by while our government indefinitely detains 41 men—many of whom have families and children—at Guantanamo without charge or trial. The major test of any nation’s commitment to the rule of law and due process is how well it protects the human rights and dignity of not only its citizens, but also of foreign prisoners in its custody,” said Nihad Awad, national executive director at Council on American-Islamic Relations. “President Obama failed in his signature promise to close this prison. President Trump threatens to keep Guantanamo open and fill it up again. Now is the time for advocates of justice to seek the closure of this prison.”

“Donald Trump threatens to ‘fill up’ the U.S. torture camp at Guantanamo, saying ‘we have to get much less politically correct.’  We, along with much of the world, look at the U.S. government’s 16 years of unjust imprisonment of more than 700 men, the unspeakable abuse and death inflicted as well as the harm to humanity in general and strongly and loudly say NO.  Close Guantanamo now!” said Debra Sweet at World Can’t Wait.

“Every American needs to know that the Geneva Conventions and U.S. laws forbid torture and indefinite detention not only because they damage the victims, but also because they endanger Americans and others around the world.  No More Guantanamos is proud to join with other organizations working to end inhuman treatment and detention for the good of the detainees, our country, and the world,” said Nancy Talanian at No More Guantanamos.

“As is true of any U.S. prison or foreign military base, Guantanamo is a monument to our society’s deep roots of racism. Trapped in the uniforms issued by war makers, prisoners in Guantanamo are horribly dehumanized. We must build solidarity with people similarly confined and raise our voices on behalf of ending torture, abolishing war and establishing restorative justice,” said Kathy Kelly at Voices for Creative Nonviolence.

“It is shameful that sixteen years after the opening of Guantánamo, we are still holding people without charge or trial—in many cases, on the basis of faulty ‘intelligence’ extracted through torture. Guantánamo has been a national security disaster, and a violation of America’s most valuable principles concerning human treatment and the rule of law. If our current President really wants to make America great again, he should make 2018 the year that we close this legal black hole,” said Shelby Sullivan Bennis at Reprieve.

“Guantanamo is framed as exceptional, an extreme category of detention but 16 years in, can we really say that this is still true?,” said Amber Ginsburg & Aaron Hughes atTea Project. “Our own police, jails and prisons and the military are directly linked through training and hierarchies of command. In early 2002 Richard Zuley of the Chicago Police, who is now known for using excessive force that yielded false confessions, began working in Guantanamo to train guards in enhanced interrogation techniques—extended shacking, temperature extremes, isolation and fabricated stories of family members—all tactics used in both Chicago and Guantanamo.  It is time to follow trails of accountability and remember those people deeply impacted by these failed polices and the individuals still living through the hell of extra legal detention and torture.”