Human Rights Groups and Individuals Tell Obama: Close Guantánamo With Justice Now

10.1.11

With the start of the tenth year of operations at Guantánamo on Tuesday January 11, and no end in sight for the bleak prison opened at the height of the hubris of the Bush administration’s “War on Terror,” I’m delighted — while here in the US campaigning for the closure of Guantánamo — to be a signatory to a cry for justice for the remaining 173 prisoners, initiated by the Center for Constitutional Rights and other groups in the US, and signed by prominent human rights organizations, activists, scholars, artists, writers, and torture survivors from around the world.

This campaigning document, “Close Guantánamo with Justice Now,” urges President Obama to overcome the cowardice that has overtaken him in the last 20 months, since his inspiring words on the campaign trail and in his first few days in office in January 2009, when he promised to close Guantánamo within a year, asking him to make a new commitment to close the prison, to try or release the men held there, to abandon his plans to hold 48 men indefinitely without charge or trial, to lift his ban on releasing cleared prisoners to Yemen, to allow cleared prisoners to settle in the US, to investigate three deeply suspicious deaths at Guantánamo in June 2006, to ensure accountability for crimes committed by senior officials and lawyers in the Bush administration, to ensure the welfare of men released from Guantánamo, and to prevent the forcible repatriation of men to countries where they face the risk of torture.

Close Guantánamo with Justice Now

At the start of his administration, President Obama signed an executive order mandating the closure of the detention camp at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba within a year. Yet the prison remains open, and on January 11, 2011 it enters its tenth year of operation. Failing to fulfill the executive order, the Obama administration has also extended some of the worst aspects of the Guantánamo system by continuing indefinite detentions without charge or trial, employing illegitimate military commissions to try some suspects, and blocking accountability for torture both by refusing to conduct independent and thorough investigations and by attempting to prevent the courts from reviewing lawsuits brought by formerly detained men.

As human rights organizations and people of conscience, we are calling for the closure of Guantánamo and both transparency at all U.S.-run detention sites and accountability for the abuses that happen within them. We oppose secret detention sites, including so-called “filtration” or “screening” sites like the covert “black prison” at Bagram, where even the International Committee of the Red Cross has been denied access and where abusive interrogations are allegedly taking place. We also express our opposition to excessively punitive conditions of confinement in prisons and detention centers inside the United States, and note that prolonged solitary confinement is a form of torture prohibited under international standards for human rights. We reject the continuation of illegal and abusive Bush-era detention and interrogation policies by the Obama administration.

The story of Guantánamo remains the shameful case of the U.S. government rounding up nearly 800 men and boys, indiscriminately labeling them “the worst of the worst,” and throwing them into an island prison designed to exist beyond the reaches of the law, where they would have no right to challenge their detention or abuse. The vast majority of the prisoners at Guantánamo should never have been detained in the first place. Many were simply in the wrong place at the wrong time and were fleeing the chaos of war when U.S. forces entered Afghanistan. Only one in twenty was captured by the U.S. military. Most were captured by local civilians and authorities in Afghanistan and Pakistan and sold to the United States in exchange for substantial bounty. According to Colonel Lawrence Wilkerson, a senior State Department official who served in the Bush administration between 2002-2005, the Bush administration knew early on that the majority of the men at Guantánamo were innocent but did not release them due to political concerns that doing so could harm support for the government’s push for war in Iraq and the broader “Global War on Terror.”

It is now clear that the Obama administration has no plans to close Guantánamo anytime soon, while opposition from Congress makes that goal even more remote. The prison at Guantánamo continues to exist in violation of both ethical and legal standards, and at risk to our collective safety. President Obama must act decisively or risk making Guantánamo and the Bush detention regime permanent features of the U.S. landscape. We call on President Obama and relevant departments within his administration to:

Recommit to rapidly closing Guantánamo, and make clear that many of the men there were detained in error. It is by now well established, including by former administration officials, that the majority of the prisoners at Guantánamo should never have been detained. If President Obama were to exercise leadership and acknowledge this, it would help create the political atmosphere necessary to close the prison.

Charge or release the men detained at Guantánamo. In 2004 and 2008, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the prisoners at Guantánamo may challenge their detention in U.S. federal court by means of habeas petitions. Since then, federal judges have ruled in the great majority of cases that the government lacked evidence sufficient to justify the continued detention of the petitioners. Other men at Guantánamo have been cleared for release by the U.S. government’s own Guantánamo Review Task Force, which consists of representatives from every government agency with a stake in the matter, including the Department of Justice, the Department of Defense, and the CIA. All men ultimately cleared for release by the courts or the government should be immediately repatriated or resettled, and all others should be formally charged and tried in a fair and open proceeding.

Abandon any plan for indefinite detention. The Obama administration has declared it will hold approximately 50 of the men at Guantánamo indefinitely without charge or trial, and plans to formalize indefinite detention through an executive order. The official justification is that these men are “too dangerous” to release but “not feasible” to prosecute, purportedly because there is not sufficient evidence against them that meets the minimum standards of any court; because their trials could compromise intelligence-gathering; or because detainees could challenge evidence obtained through coercion. But federal courts are fully capable of dealing with sensitive evidence, and if the government only has tainted evidence against a detainee, then the only evidence it has is both illegal and unreliable, and does not justify continued detention. The administration’s plan for indefinite detention constitutes a system of pre-emptive incarceration based on the alleged probability of future crime, and not on verifiable past conduct. This plan is flatly inconsistent with the rule of law and should be rejected.

Lift the blanket ban on all repatriations to Yemen. The Obama administration must end its indefinite suspension of all repatriations of Yemeni men at Guantánamo and allow those who have won their habeas cases or been cleared for release by the U.S. government’s own extensive Guantánamo Review Task Force to go home. The Yemeni men, like all detainees, must be individually evaluated on the basis of what they have done, not punished based on their nationality or the alleged actions of others.

Cease forcible repatriations of men whose safety is threatened by transfer. There are men at Guantánamo who have expressed a strong fear of returning to their countries of origin and who should not be repatriated where there is reason to believe they may be at risk on their return. No detainee should be transferred to a state where credible risks exist to his safety.

Lift the ban on resettling men into the United States. More than 15 countries, including France, Spain, Portugal, Ireland, Hungary, Belgium, Switzerland, Albania, Latvia and Palau, have accepted detainees for resettlement without incident. The U.S. government should also offer a home to men who have won their habeas cases or been cleared for transfer and have no other safe country to go to. (A federal judge did order the release of clearly innocent Uighur Muslim detainees into the United States, but both the Bush and Obama administrations appealed the case and then Congress acted to bar any resettlement of wrongly detained men to the United States.) Offering to resettle such men would also encourage other countries to make similar offers and help shut Guantánamo.

Fully investigate the deaths of men who died in detention, including the three who died in 2006. Three detained men who were never charged with any crime died at Guantánamo in June 2006. Initially reported as suicides, new evidence from four soldiers stationed at the base has raised serious questions about the circumstances surrounding their deaths. Until now, the Obama administration has not only failed to conduct an independent and thorough investigation of the deaths but has opposed inquiry and review by the courts.

Ensure accountability for crimes. Despite its promise of a new era of accountability and respect for the rule of law, the Obama administration has repeatedly acted to ensure impunity for those under the Bush administration who planned, authorized, and committed torture. The Obama administration must honor its promise by conducting a comprehensive inquiry into well-documented and grave human rights abuses at Guantánamo and elsewhere, including torture. Specifically, the Attorney General should appoint an independent prosecutor with a full mandate to investigate and prosecute those responsible for torture and other war crimes, as far up the chain of command as the facts may lead. Moreover, President Obama should condemn newly revealed pressure by his own administration to secretly obstruct efforts within the Spanish judiciary to investigate egregious violations of international law, including the torture of former Guantánamo detainees and other individuals who have been subjected to the U.S. torture program, and fully cooperate with the proceedings in Spain.

Take responsibility for the well being of the men after they are released. The U.S. government must not hold men without charge in inhumane conditions for years, subject them to abuse including torture, and then repatriate and resettle them in far corners of the world, leaving their rehabilitation and reintegration to other governments, organizations, and individuals. The government has a responsibility to ensure that the men have adequate support and resources after release.

We also urge the international community to offer safety to men at Guantánamo who cannot leave until third countries come forward to offer them resettlement, and to ensure their rights and well-being once resettled. Many of the men resettled have not been granted permission to work, to travel, or to reunite with their families after years of separation and anguish, and the legal status of many remains in limbo.

We invite people of conscience all over the world to work with us to make sure Guantánamo is closed with justice, and recommit to advocating towards this end.

Organizational Signatures:

The Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR)
Amnesty International U.S.A. (AI-USA)
Witness Against Torture (WAT)
International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH)
Center for Justice and International Law (CEJIL)
Cageprisoners
Physicians for Human Rights
Torture Abolition and Survivors Support Coalition International (TASCC)
The Program for Torture Victims
Metro NY Religious Campaign Against Torture
Progressive Democrats of America
Project SALAM
Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR)
Center for Justice and Accountability
South Asia Solidarity Initiative (SASI)
Action for a Progressive Pakistan
Pakistan Solidarity Network
Appeal for Justice
Bill of Rights Defense Committee (BORDC)
Defending Dissent Foundation
No More Guantánamos
War Resisters League
Guantanamo Justice Center
Friends of Human Rights
Global Exchange
Alliance for Justice
Human Rights Defense Center
CODEPINK for Peace
WESPAC Foundation
International Justice Network
United for Peace and Justice (UFPJ)
National Coalition to Protect Civil Freedoms (NCPCF)
World Can’t Wait
Disbar Torture Lawyers
Warisacrime.org
Casa Esperanza
New Security Action
NC Immigrant Rights Project
Peace and Justice Task Force at All Souls Unitarian Church Society of Jesus – New York Province
Peace and Justice Center of Sonoma Country (CA)
WBAI Local Station Board
Voices for Creative Nonviolence
Progressive Peace Coalition of Columbus, Ohio
Peace Action of Montgomery County, MD
Connie Hogarth Center for Social Action
The Make Agency
Justice Through Music
Historians Against the War
La Ligue Algerienne pour la Defense des Droits de l’Homme (LADDH)
The Egyptian Organization for Human Rights
BADIL Resource Center for Palestinian Residency and Refugee Rights
Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR)
Palestinian Human Rights Organization (PHRO)
Human Rights Foundation of Turkey (HRFT-Turkey)
Human Rights Association (IHD-Turkey)
Committees for the Defence of Democracy Freedoms and Human Rights in Syria (CDF)
Kurdish Organization for the Defence of Human Rights and the General Liberties in Syria (DAD)
The Human Rights Organization in Syria (MAF)
The Arab Organization for Human Rights in Syria (AOHRS)
National Organization for Human Rights in Syria (NOHR-S)
The Kurdish Committee for Human Rights in Syria – the rased (KRDCHR)
Women Journalists Without Chains (WJWC-Yemen)
Civil Liberties Organization (CLO-Nigeria)
Human Rights Information & Training Center (HRITC-Yemen)
Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies (CIHRS-Egypt)
Damascus Center for Human Rights Studies (DCHRS-Syria)
Committees for the Defense of Democracy, Freedom, and Human Rights in Syria (CDY-Syria)
The Egyptian Organization for Human Rights
Comite de Accion Juridica (CAJ-Argentina)
Liga Argentina por los Derechos del Hombre
Observatorio Ciudadano (OC-Chile)
La Fundación Regional de Asesoría en Derechos Humanos (INREDH-Ecuador)
Asamblea Permanente de Derechos Humanos-Bolivia (APDHB-Bolivia)
Asociación Pro Derechos Humanos de España (APDHE-Spain)
Comisión Cubana de Derechos Humanos y Reconciliación Nacional (CCDHRN-Cuba)
La Liga Mexicana por la Defensa de los Derechos Humanos A.C. (Limeddh-Mexico)
La Fundación Diego Lucero A.C.
La Asociación de Familiares de Detenidos Desaparecidos y Víctimas de Violaciones de Derechos Humanos en México
El Observatorio Nacional de Prisiones México (ONP México)
La Red Universitaria de Monitores de Derechos Humanos (RUMODH)
El Centro de Derechos Humanos Coordinadora 28 de Mayo A.C.
La Asociación de Derechos Humanos del Estado de México (ADHEM-Mexico)
La Comisión Ecuménica de Derechos Humanos (CEDHU-Ecuador) Programa Venezolano de Educación Acción en Derechos Humanos (PROVEA-Venezuela)
Asociación Pro Derechos Humanos (APRODEH-Perú
Oficina Jurídica para la Mujer de Cochabamba (Bolivia)
Instituto de Derechos Humanos de la Universidad Centroamericana “José Simeón Cañas” (IDHUCA- El Salvador)
Observatorio Venezolano de Prisiones (OVP-Venezuela)
Comisión Ecuménica de Derechos Humanos (CEDHU- Ecuador)
Centro de Documentación en Derechos Humanos “Segundo Montes Mozo S.J.” (CSMM- Ecuador)
Plataforma Interamericana de Derechos Humanos Democracia y Desarrollo
Malta Association of Human Rights
International Muslim Women’s League-Europe
Scotland Against Criminalising Communities
Flemington & Kensington Community Legal Centre Inc. (FKCLC-Australia)
Unione Forense per la Tutela dei Diritti Umani (UFTDU – Italy)
Reforest the Earth, UK
Finnish League for Human Rights (FLHR)
Brighton Against Guantanamo (UK)
Worthing Against War (UK)
Citizens United for Rehabilitation of Errants (CURE)
Lewes Amnesty International Group (UK)
Galway Alliance Against War (Ireland)
Hellenic League for Human Rights
Save Shaker Aamer Campaign – Last UK Resident in Guantanamo (SSAC)

Individual Signatures:

Ann Wright (Ret. U.S. Army Colonel and State Department Official)
Ray McGovern (Former US Army Intelligence Officer; CIA analyst)
Ray Abourezk (Former US Senator, South Dakota)
Chris Hedges (Journalist and Author, Pulitzer Prize Winner)
Kristiina Kouros (Secretary General, Human Rights League)
Ariel Dorfman (Chilean author, Duke University)
Danial Saoud (President, Committees for the Defence of Freedoms and Human Rights in Syria)
Mustafa Osso (President, Kurdish Organization for the Defence of Human Rights and the General Liberties in Syria)
Mahmoud Merai (President, The Arab Organization for Human Rights in Syria)
Ammar Qurabi (President, National Organization for Human Rights in Syria)
Radeef Mustafa (The Kurdish Committee for Human Rights in Syria) Omar Deghayes (formerly detained at Guantanamo)
Moazzam Begg (Director, Cageprisoners, formerly detained at Guantanamo)
Andy Worthington (Journalist, Author, Filmmaker)
Karen Greenberg
Judith Butler (Author, Maxine Elliot Professor of Rhetoric and Comparative Literature, Co-Director of the Program in Critical Theory, University of California, Berkeley)
Almerindo E. Ojeda (The Guantanamo Testimonials Project)
Raji Sourani (Director, Palestinian Centre for Human Rights)
Leili Kashani (the Center for Constitutional Rights)
Frida Berrigan (Witness Against Torture)
Ozturk Turkdogan (General President, Human Rights Association-Turkey)
Yavuz Onen (Former President of Human Rights Foundation of Turkey, human rights activist)
Yusuf Alatas (Vice President, FIDH)
Fr. Bob Bossie (SCJ, 8th Day Center For Justice)
Michael P. Seng (Professor, The John Marshall Law School)
Medea Benjamin (CODEPINK Women for Peace)
Leonard Goodman (Attorney)
Michael Berube (Pennsylvania State University, Director – Institute for the Arts and Humanities)
Alice Kessler-Harris (Columbia University, Dept. of History)
Tom Hayden (Peace and Justice Resource Center)
Ellen Schrecker (Yeshiva University, Dept. of History)
Gregory Friedd (Suffolk University, Department of Philosophy)
Noam Chomsky (Author, Former Institute Professor, MIT)
Nancy Fraser (The New School, Dept. of Political Science)
Todd Gitlin (Columbia University, Professor of Journalism and Sociology)
Anna Marie Smith (Cornell University, Dept. of Government)
Richard Flacks (University of California at Santa Barbara, Dept. of Sociology)
Eli Zaretsky (The New School, Dept. of History)
John D’Emilio (The University of Illinois at Chicago, Gender & Women’s Studies and History)
Maurice Isserman (Hamilton College, Professor of History)
Jodi Dean (Hobart and William Smith College, Dept. of Political Science)
William Blum (Author)
Andrew Arato (The New School, Dept. of Politics)
Richard Bernstein (The New School, Dept. of Philosophy)
Lawrence Wittner (The State University of New York at Albany, Dept. of History)
David Newbury (Smith College, Dept. of History)
Van Gosse (Franklin and Marshall College, Dept. of History)
Jinee Lakoneeta (Drew University, Dept. of Political Science)
Nicola Foote (Florida Gulf Coast University, Latin American and Caribbean History)
Timothy Patrick McCarthy (Harvard University, Carr Center for Human Rights Policy)
Jay Bernstein (The New School, Dept. of Philosophy)
Paul Apostolidis (Whitman College, Dept. of Political Science)
Timothy Kaufman-Osborn (Provost and Dean of the Faculty, Whitman College)
Stephen Duncombe (The Gallatin School, New York University, Media Studies)
Neil Gordon (Author, The New School, Dept. of English)
Jeremy Varon (The New School, Dept. of History)
Michael S. Foley (Sheffield University, UK, Dept. of History)
Alyson Cole (Queens College and the CUNY Graduate Center, Political Science Department and Women’s Studies Program)
Roxanne Dunbar Ortiz (California State University, Professor Emerita) Oz Frankel (The New School, Department of History)
Ian Lekus (Harvard University)
Cyrus Bina (University of Minnesota, Distinguished Research Professor of Economics)
Ben Sheperd (City University of New York, Department of Sociology) William Ayers (University of Illinois at Chicago, Distinguished Professor of Education)
Dan Berger (Postdoctoral Fellow, University of Pennsylvania)
Amy Kaplan ( University of Pennsylvania, Department of English) Victoria Langland (University of California at Davis, Department of History)
Lauren Goodlad (Director, Unit for Criticism, The University of Illinois at Champagne-Urbana)
John Morefield (Educational Consultant)
Romand Coles (Northern Arizona University, Program for Community, Culture and Environment)
Robert Shaffer (Shippensburg University of Pennsylvania, Department of History)
Mark Hatlie (University of Maryland University College, Department of History)
Robby Cohen (New York University, Department of Teaching and Learning)
David Lelyveld (William Patterson University, Department of History) Michael J. Sullivan III (Drexel University, Professor of History and Politics)
Michael Hanagan (Vassar University, Department of History)
A. Tom Grunfeld ( Empire State College, Distinguished Teaching Professor)
John M. Shaw (Portland Community College, History Instructor)
Nicolas J S Davies (Author)
Scott Laderman (University of Minnesota, Duluth, Department of History)
Avery Gordon (University of California at Santa Barbara)
Dick Bennet (University of Arkansas, Fayetteville, Professor Emeritus of English)
Keith Carson (Atlantic Cape Community College, Department of History)
E. Wayne Ross (University of British Columbia, Department of Curriculum and Pedagogy)
Michael C. Batinski (Department of History, Emeritus)
Marc Becker (Truman State University, Professor of History)
Marian Mollin (Associate Professor of History, Virginia Tech)
Takao Takahara (Meiji Gakuin University, Japan, International Politics and Peace Research)
Bruce Cohen (Worcester State University, Department of History) Judith Abbott (Sonoma State University, Department of History)
Stan Nadel (University of Portland)
Harriet Alonso (City College of New York, Department of History)
Ralph Summy (University of Sydney, Centre for Peace & Conflict Studies)
Kevin P. Clements (University of Otago, New Zealend, National Centre for Peace & Conflict Studies)
Brad Simpson (Princeton University, History and International Affairs) Astra Taylor (Independent Filmmaker)
Sam Green ( Independent Filmmaker)
Jeff Mangum (Musician;, Neutral Milk Hotel)
Andrew Boyd (The Other 98% and Agit-Pop Communications)
Hilton Obenzinger (Author)
Doug Rossinow (Metropolitan State University)
Paul C. Mishler (Associate Professor of Labor Studies, IU Program in Labor Studies- IUSB)
Richard Fedder (Civil Rights Attorney)
Toby Lieberman (Affordable Housing Loan Program Director, Opportunity Fund, San Jose, CA)
Elsie Monge (CEDHU-Ecuador)
Cesar Duque (CEDHU-Ecuador)
Carolina Pazmiño (CEDHU- Ecuador)
Milton Vargas (CEDHU-Ecuador)
Consuelo Cano (CEDHU-Ecuador)
Alicia Granda (CEDHU-Ecuador)
Luisana Aguilar (CEDHU-Ecuador)
Susana Díaz (CEDHU-Ecuador)
Mario Chuquimarca (CEDHU-Ecuador)
Luis Acebal-Monfort (Board Member, Asociación Pro Derechos Humanos de España-Human Rights Association of Spain)

Andy Worthington is the author of The Guantánamo Files: The Stories of the 774 Detainees in America’s Illegal Prison (published by Pluto Press, distributed by Macmillan in the US, and available from Amazon — click on the following for the US and the UK) and of two other books: Stonehenge: Celebration and Subversion and The Battle of the Beanfield. To receive new articles in your inbox, please subscribe to my RSS feed (and I can also be found on Facebook and Twitter). Also see my definitive Guantánamo prisoner list, updated in July 2010, details about the new documentary film, “Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo” (co-directed by Polly Nash and Andy Worthington, currently on tour in the UK, and available on DVD here), my definitive Guantánamo habeas list and the chronological list of all my articles, and, if you appreciate my work, feel free to make a donation.

12 Responses

  1. Tweets that mention Human Rights Groups and Individuals Tell Obama: Close Guantánamo With Justice Now | Andy Worthington -- Topsy.com says...

    [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Andy Worthington. Andy Worthington said: Human Rights Groups and Individuals Tell Obama: Close #Guantanamo With Justice Now – Important document for 9th anniv. http://bit.ly/efpg3l [...]

  2. Dean Procter says...

    I applaud the effort, however offer a more likely solution.
    Perhaps on a date 11/11/11 for instance we have a party in Cuba as close to Guantanamo Bay base as possible. Everyone – every 1 is invited. 100000 watt sound system, world music and live bands to show the world that people from all over the world can come together to quash injustice. I’m sure the inmates would be used to loud music, but the guards may not enjoy a more cosmopolitan selection of music.
    It would be fairly difficult politically to retain the base after such a perhaps week long event. It would no doubt assist the economy of Cuba and display that nations real charms.
    @deanprocter on twitter.com

  3. Andy Worthington says...

    An excellent idea, Dean!

  4. Valerie Lucznikowska says...

    Please add my name to the signatories above. I am a member of September Eleventh Families for Peaceful Tomorrows.

  5. Close Gitmo, End Torture Demonstration at U.S. Justice Department + Obama to Sanction Indefinite Gitmo Detention « Dandelion Salad says...

    [...] AI-USA, WAT and the Center for Justice and International Law (CEJIL) released a “Close Guantánamo with Justice” statement that is gathering support from prominent human rights organizations, activists, scholars, artists, [...]

  6. Andy Worthington says...

    On Facebook, Mui J. Steph wrote:

    I think they should stop calling certain countries “Partners in the war on terror” when it’s clear that that partnership is basically oppression of local minorities and has nothing to do with “terror” (M. China > Uighurs & Tibet).
    Or I should say the state is more traditionally terrorist, not the minorities.

  7. Andy Worthington says...

    Willy Bach wrote:

    Thanks, Andy, sharing!

  8. Andy Worthington says...

    Susan Hall wrote:

    What to say after 10 years? One of my senators (Senator Udal) commented that he believed a trial should be order for those that it was appropriate for. There was more to his comment, but basically he was admitting that though he realized that there were real people who had been treated unjustly while he was in authority, he did not know much about it EVEN AFTER 10 YEARS, as is true of most of the USians in this country. DISGRACEFUL.

  9. Andy Worthington says...

    Kyunghee Kim wrote:

    Thanks,Andy…Shared :-)

  10. Andy Worthington says...

    Talat Gilani Hamdani wrote:

    ‎*sharing*

  11. Andy Worthington says...

    Ruth Gilburt wrote:

    done!

  12. Andy Worthington says...

    Thanks everyone. Apologies for the delay in getting back to you. It was so hectic while I was away in the US that I was struggling to keep up with writing, and couldn’t get round to responding to Facebook comments.
    And Mui/Steph, it was great to meet you in New York! Thanks for coming along!

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