• Press Release

Broad Coalition Calls on President Obama to Keep His Promise and Shutter Guantanamo Prison Now

January 11, 2013

Groups mark 11th anniversary of first detainees imprisoned at Guantanamo Bay with rally, march and vigil starting at Supreme Court


AIUSA: Sharon Singh, [email protected], 202-675-8579, @spksingh

(Washington, D.C.) – A broad coalition of human rights groups and other like-minded organizations marked the 11th anniversary of the first detained men being jailed at the U.S.-controlled detention facility in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, today with a rally, march and vigil in Washington, D.C. The participants began with a rally in front of the U.S. Supreme Court, then marched on Pennsylvania Avenue to the southeast corner of the Ellipse, for a vigil with the White House in the background. There were solidarity events occurring in Chicago, Dallas, Detroit, Los Angeles, Miami and London, England.

Speakers at the rally and/or the vigil included:

  • Terry Rockefeller, member of September 11th Families for Peaceful Tomorrows
  • Colonel Morris Davis, former Chief Military Commission Prosecutor at Guantanamo
  • RamziKassem, attorney for men detained at Guantanamo, Professor at City University of New York
  • Jim Winkler, General Secretary, the United Methodist General Board of Church and Society
  • Andy Worthington, historian and investigative journalist
  • Michelle Ringuette, Amnesty International USA’s Chief of Campaigns and Programs
  • Jeremy Varon, organizer, Witness Against Torture
  • PardissKebriaei, senior staff attorney, representing men at Guantánamo, Center for Constitutional Rights
  • Debra Sweet, director, World Can’t Wait

The organizations are urging President Barack Obama to keep his promise and shut down the detention facility. The coalition demanded that the U.S. government either release the men still detained at Guantánamo or charge them and give them a fair trial. The activists called on the Obama administration and Congress to uphold the rule of law. During the event, activists wore orange jumpsuits and held a myriad of signs and other visuals expressing their desire to close down the detention center.

Participating organizations: Amnesty International USA, Bill of Rights Defense Committee, Catholic Worker, Center for Constitutional Rights, CloseGuantanamo.Org, Code Pink, Council on American Islamic Relations, International Justice Network, Liberty Coalition, National Campaign for Nonviolent Resistance, National Religious Campaign Against Torture, No More Guantánamos, North Carolina Stop Torture Now, Pax Christi USA, Physicians for Human Rights, Rabbis for Human Rights North America, September 11th Families for Peaceful Tomorrows, Social Action Committee of the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Raleigh, North Carolina, Tackling Torture at the Top, Tenth Amendment Center, Torture Abolition and Survivors Support Coalition, United Nations Association-USA East Bay Chapter, Veterans for Peace, Voices for Creative Non Violence, War Resisters League, Washington Region Religious Campaign Against Torture, Witness Against Torture, Women Against Military Madness, World Can't Wait.

Please see below for a list of comments from some of the January 11 coalition members.

"President Obama promised to close Guantanamo and end the United States' unlawful detention practices. Instead, he pivoted 180 degrees and embraced the policies initiated by his predecessor. By codifying indefinite detention, continuing military commission trials, failing to ensure accountability for abuses and otherwise ignoring the United States' international legal obligations, the President has further entrenched the deeds he once criticized as immoral and illegal. In his final term, President Obama should keep the promise he made on his second day in office and close Guantanamo for good." – Frank Jannuzi, head of Amnesty International's Washington office

"January 11 offers a sad reminder of our country's flagrant disregard for justice — not only for Guantanamo detainees, but also for 300 million Americans subjected to separate systems of law here within the US. Our country loudly claims to be the land of the free, yet conducts pervasive domestic surveillance and imprisons more people than any other country on the planet. Meanwhile, torturers have escaped even mere investigation, and even draw lifetime paychecks on the federal bench! Justice, national security (which suffered due to torture), and the law all require prosecuting US human rights abuses to make sure they never happen again. With the NDAA offering our military the power to detain anyone without proof of crime, every American has a personal stake in this struggle." – ShahidButtar, executive director, The Bill of Rights Defense Committee

"When President Obama caved in yet again on his threat to veto the National Defense Authorization Act, he left 166 men languishing indefinitely without hope even though his own interagency task force has cleared 86 of them for release more than three years ago. In his second term, Obama must use his authority to try or release these men and put an end to one of the most shameful chapters in our nation's history. 2012 saw the tragic death of Adnan Latif after the Supreme Court refused to hear his case, the ninth such death at Guantánamo. What will 2013 hold?" – Vincent Warren, executive director, Center for Constitutional Rights

"The continued use of the prison at Guantánamo Bay challenges our nation's commitment to the rule of law and worsens our international reputation.. For the past four years Congress has repeatedly maneuvered to prevent the president from closing this illegal prison, prosecuting its detainees, or transferring them. The Council on American-Islamic Relations urges the president to close the Guantánamo prison once and for all as he promised to do in his first year in office." – Corey Saylor, national legislative director, Council on American-Islamic Relations

The eleventh anniversary of the U.S. prison facilities at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, serves as a grave reminder of the existence of U.S. prison facilities at Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan, and elsewhere, that are still beyond the reach of the law. No prison beyond the law is worth the cost to innocent lives, to taxpayers, to our national security, or to our standing in the world." – Tina M. Foster, executive director, International Justice Network

"As a people of faith, we believe that torture is a moral abomination that runs contrary to the teachings of all religions. Not only is torture illegal, it is degrading to all involved—the victim, perpetrator, and policy-makers—and dishonors God and the traditions of all our faiths. We are disheartened that President Obama has not been able to follow through on his promise – made four years ago – to close Guantanamo, an egregious symbol of U.S. torture. The more than 300 religious organizations that belong to the National Religious Campaign Against Torture affirm the need to close Guantanamo and put an end to this sad and immoral chapter of U.S. history.” Rev. RichardKillmer, National Religious Campaign Against Torture

In Jewish tradition, the creation of the human being in the divine image is held up as one of our highest values. Torture desecrates that divine image. The fact that Guantanamo remains open both serves as a symbol of America's use of torture and as a reminder that accountability for torture has not yet been achieved. It is time for President Obama to fulfill the promise of his 2008 Executive Order and close Guantanamo." –Rabbi Rachel Kahn-Troster, director of North American programs, Rabbis for Human Rights-North America

"It is time to close Guantanamo, which has become a place to hold human beings indefinitely, without charge or trial and with no end in sight. As PHR has reported, medical evidence demonstrates that indefinite detention can cause lasting harmful physical and psychological damage that may rise to torture and cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment. Close Guantanamo and stop this illegal and immoral practice." – Kristine A. Huskey, director, Anti-Torture Program, Physicians for Human Rights

"No one knows better than survivors of torture that torture must end. We are deeply saddened that some voices in the United States continue to justify torture. Torture can never be justified under any circumstances. It is immoral and degrades the victims and perpetrators alike. We join our voices as survivors with others to call on President Obama and the Congress to end the practice of indefinite detention, to either release or offer a fair trial to detainees, and to close Guantanamo prison once and for all." – GizachewEmiru, executive director, Torture Abolition and Survivor Support Coalition International

"The continued operation of the prison camp at Guantanamo, eleven years after its opening, is a profound stain on the American conscience, the Obama administration, and president Obama's legacy. For the sake of human rights, the American soul, and most importantly, the individuals, families, and communities that have suffered America's barbaric detention system, Guantanamo must close, the men there must be tried or released, and America must be held to account for its practice of torture." – Jeremy Varon, organizer, Witness Against Torture, professor of History – The New School

For more information, visit www.amnestyusa.org/security.

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.