On the morning of January 11, 2011, as part of my short U.S. tour to mark the 9th anniversary of the opening of Guantánamo, I found myself in the surreal position of being outside The White House for the first time in my life, addressing a crowd of reporters, activists, lawyers, other members of the public and 173 hooded protestors in orange jumpsuits, as part of actions to mark the anniversary. A report in the Washington Post is available here.
In a short speech, I explained my disappointment at President Obama’s failure to close the prison as he promised, and briefly discussed the problems facing the 173 men still held, almost all of whom face indefinite detention without charge or trial — regardless of whether they have been designated as such, or cleared for release, or proposed for trials — unless the American people persuade the President and lawmakers that this combination of paralysis and obstruction is unacceptable and unforgiveable, and that steps must be taken urgently to ensure that the prison is closed as promised two years ago.
The following is a statement, posted on the website of the Center for Constitutional Rights, containing comments from representatives of the main organizations involved in the rally at The White House on January 11.
Rights Groups Mark Beginning of a Decade of Wrongful Detentions at Guantánamo and Demand Obama Close Island Prison with Justice
Rally in Front of White House to Close Guantánamo Bay Followed by Procession to DOJ
January 11, 2011, Washington, D.C. — As the prison at Guantánamo enters its 10th year, Amnesty International USA, the Center for Constitutional Rights, Witness Against Torture, September 11 Families for Peaceful Tomorrows, the Center for Justice and International Law (CEJIL) and other human rights groups called on President Obama to close the U.S. detention center at Guantánamo Bay with justice at a rally in front of the White House. They closed the rally by reading a message from Omar Deghayes, a man who was arbitrarily detained at Guantánamo without charge for 6 years before being allowed to return to his home in England. After the rally, activists representing the 173 men still at Guantánamo marched in orange jumpsuits to the U.S. Department of Justice, where they held a vigil.
The groups are calling on President Obama to end indefinite arbitrary detention and unfair military commissions trials at Guantánamo Bay, and to either charge and fairly try or release the detained men. The rights groups demanded the president re-commit to rapidly closing Guantánamo, lift the blanket ban on all repatriations to Yemen, and continue to make diligent efforts to resettle the many men who cannot return to their home countries for fear of torture and persecution.
CCR, 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, writers, and torture survivors from all around the world — including the United States, Latin America, the Middle East, Europe, Australia, and Africa. The statement includes a plea to the international community to offer homes to the men at Guantánamo who have been cleared for release or won their habeas cases, but cannot leave until third countries make humanitarian gestures to offer them resettlement. The statement and list of signatories is available on the CCR website here.
Pardiss Kebriaei, Center for Constitutional Rights staff attorney representing men detained at Guantánamo, said, “Approximately 30 men could be released from Guantánamo tomorrow but for a fear of torture or persecution in their home countries. These men appeal to the international community for help in offering them safe havens and a chance to rebuild their lives. People of conscience in the world cannot let yet another anniversary of Guantánamo pass without doing something to help close it. Offering resettlement is a key part of the solution.”
Valerie Lucznikowska, September 11 Families for Peaceful Tomorrows, said, “Our politicians must stop exploiting our grief and our concern for our safety for political ends. The rule of law, the essence of a democratic society, demands Constitutional federal trials of those who continue to be detained in Guantánamo. We cannot continue to deny human beings their freedom without legal charges and fair trials. Those who have been cleared must not continue to be held simply because of their nationality or the U.S. government’s indecisiveness. Guantánamo has made us less safe. Close it.”
Tom Parker, Amnesty International USA’s advocacy and policy director of terrorism, counterterrorism and human rights, said, “For nine years Guantánamo has been a global symbol for injustice and abuse. The idea that you can’t hold people indefinitely without trial has been around since the Middle Ages. It is a basic human right. President Obama continues to promise change, but what this administration has actually delivered is continuity for one of the darkest chapters in America’s recent history.”
Matthew W. Daloisio, organizer with Witness Against Torture, said, “The Obama administration’s failure to close Guantánamo and undo Bush-era policies is a disaster for the rule of law, the best American ideals, and the security of people everywhere who want to live in peace. This is not about the politics of Left and Right; it’s about what’s right and wrong. Guantánamo, abusive treatment, and indefinite detention are wrong, and must once again be decisively rejected.”
Andy Worthington, British author and Guantánamo expert, said, “One year after President Obama promised to have closed Guantánamo 173 men are still there, the majority of whom should never have been held in the first place. Without concerted action from the American people it’s very possible the majority will never be released.”
Viviana Krsticevic, Executive Director of the Center for Justice and International Law (CEJIL), said, “Indefinite detention at Guantánamo will not end unless the international community offers safe homes for the men who cannot return to their countries of nationality for fear of torture or persecution. As co-counsel with the Center for Constitutional Rights before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, representing Djamel Ameziane — an Algerian man now entering his tenth year of arbitrary detention at Guantánamo, who will remain indefinitely imprisoned until a third country offers him resettlement — we call on President Obama to initiate dialogue with the Organization of American States so that countries in the Americas wishing to be involved in the resettlement process as a humanitarian gesture may do so.”
For more information, please visit the websites of Amnesty International USA, the Center for Constitutional Rights, September 11 Families for Peaceful Tomorrows, Witness Against Torture, the Center for Justice and International Law, and Andy Worthington.
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.
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On Facebook, Willy Bach wrote:
A powerful and potent image – and it expresses the world’s complete loss of confidence and anger at the collapse of the rule of law in the USA, and why Julian Assange, and others must not be taken there, and why we know for sure that Bradley Manning cannot get a fair trial in the USA.
Kathleen Stout wrote:
I attended the panel discussion later that evening. It was a great education and helped me understand what is at work. I had always had a little trouble with it before. I hope it reaches the internet. It was a beautiful thing to listen to such committed people give a thorough and thoughtful history of the last 9 years and their efforts. We have got to end this above-the-law sport at play!!!!
Thanks, Willy and Kathleen.
So great that you were at the panel discussion, Kathleen. It was filmed, and I’ll be making it available here very soon.
[…] British journalist Andy Worthington has a description on his website here. […]
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