To mark the 10th anniversary of the opening of Guantánamo, on January 11, I was involved in two particular projects — firstly, the establishment of a new campaign and website, “Close Guantánamo,” designed to raise awareness of the continuing injustice of Guantánamo, and, in particular, the injustice of continuing to hold 89 of the remaining 171 prisoners, even though they have been cleared for release; and secondly, the establishment of a petition on the White House’s “We the People” website, calling on President Obama to fulfil his promise to close Guantánamo.
The “Close Guantánamo” project has only just begun, and will enter a new phase next week with the publication of the first of the profiles of the 171 prisoners still held, designed to inform people that they are human beings, with feelings, and with families, who, after ten years, are not held legitimately, but are, as Navi Pillay, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, explained last week, subjected to arbitrary detention.
In contrast, the second project — the petition on the White House’s “We the People” website — has just three days left until its deadline of one month is reached, so please, if you haven’t yet signed it, sign it now, and please also tell everyone you know. This could be the weekend that we beat the odds and come up with the signatures we need to secure a response from President Obama. The countdown clock, above, by the way, is from the Center for Constitutional Rights’ “Close Guantánamo” page, which also features videos from the protests in Washington D.C. on January 11 (and which I wrote about here).
Please note, crucially, that you do not have to be a US citizen or a US resident to sign the petition. When registering (which you must do first), just leave the box blank that asks you for your zip code.
Also, please note that some people have had problems with the site, which, unfortunately, are beyond the control of those setting up petitions. However, the following advice is from a friend who managed to overcome the obstacles:
A trick for getting the not-very-helpful website to work:
Having created an account, then persuaded it to accept your password (this can take a while), you’ll then find you’re on your profile page, miles away from the petition. In another tab, reclick the link to the petition.
If the “Sign Now” button is greyed out, make sure you’re logged in, then reload the petition page. Eventually you’ll get there, but they don’t make it easy.
They don’t indeed, and the problems with the site, to my mind, reflect badly on the Obama administration, which has also been beset with problems — like failing to keep important promises, such as the promise to close Guantánamo within a year, which the President made in an executive order on January 22, 2009.
My thanks to everyone who has worked to promote this petition, and to try to raise awareness of an ongoing disgrace that far too many people would rather forget. Guantánamo can be closed, and those of us who care — including those who signed up to the “Close Guantánamo” mission statement — will continue working hard to make that day a reality.
Note: Please also see the Facebook events page.
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, Twitter, Digg and YouTube). Also see my definitive Guantánamo prisoner list, updated in June 2011, “The Complete Guantánamo Files,” a 70-part, million-word series drawing on files released by WikiLeaks in April 2011, and details about the documentary film, “Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo” (co-directed by Polly Nash and Andy Worthington, and available on DVD here — or here for the US). Also see 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.
On Facebook, Hataf Ali wrote:
Thank you friend.
George Kenneth Berger wrote:
I’m digging this, Andy. Dejanka and I shared and reposted this several times.
Thanks, Hataf, George and Dejanka – and everyone who’s been pushing this. We’ve now reached 6,000 signatures – 6.009 at the latest count! Please keep encouraging people to sign it throughout the rest of the weekend!
It’s time America became normalized. Signed with gratitude along side all good Americans.
Thanks, John. That’s very good to hear.
We’ve reached 6,303 signatures! Thanks to everyone who has taken the time to sign this petition. Depending on how the one-month period is calculated, we either have five hours left, or one day and five hours.
6,328! Thanks again, everyone. And goodnight from London.
With just under 12 hours to go, the total stands at 6,394 signatures. Thanks to everyone who has signed!
We just reached 6,400!
That’s the end of the petition, folks! Its time limit has been reached and it is no longer listed on the “We the People” website. We will be back! But for now our energies will be focused on publicizing the prisoners’ stories via the “Close Guantanamo” website. New material will be published there from tomorrow onwards: http://www.closeguantanamo.org/
Umm Amina wrote:
Hello Andy , I would like to thank you and all people for effort in everything you do , I just want to ask will this petition work , since we didn’t manage to collect more then 6.400 signature? And what is option if this is not enough? Thank you. : )
Hi Umm Amina,
No, sadly President Obama is off the hook and doesn’t even have to reply to us because we didn’t reach our target of 25,000. We will be back soon with another proposal to involve people and to try and put pressure on the administration, but in the meantime please keep publicizing Guantanamo issues via my website and here, and, as mentioned above, watch out for prisoner profiles on the “Close Guantanamo” website.
Umm Amina wrote:
Oh I was so worried , tryed to collect more signatures by inviting people , but I saw petition 2 weeks ago…plz for any support or help in any thing , just msg me , I will try to do more. Thank you so much , I really admire and respect you. Wish you all the best.
Waris Ali wrote:
why is it that there are seperate major petitions on this, theres the amnesty one calling on the closure of guantanamo which has far more signatures, and then theres this one. Surely itd be better if there was one main one that everyone could sign?
Hi Waris, we were trying to create a broad consensus outside of any particular organization, and when we established it, we weren’t aware that Amnesty would be doing their own petition. I do think that everyone should come together to promote this through one petition, but That doesn’t appear to be a very realistic hope, unfortunately.
And thanks also, Umm Amina. I appreciate all your support!
And here’s a lovely message from my friend Bennett Hall, who, encouraging his friends to sign the petition, wrote:
My friend Andy Worthington’s work is poignant, detailed and timely, especially as the closure of this base was a Presidential campaign promise. His website and blog provide heart-wrenching accounts of what is/has happening there. If justice is a topic of interest to you, I recommend following his work.
Thanks, Bennett. The petition failed to reach 25,000 signatures, so it’s no longer on the White House website, but thank you for the kind words and the support. We’ll establish a new campaign soon.
Karin Friedemann wrote:
Just tried but got a message saying it expired
Yes, Karin, sadly the petition was removed as soon as its time limit was reached. We’re now thinking of a new approach, which, I believe, needs to involve calling for the release of Shaker Aamer, the last British resident in Guantanamo.
Asif Rana wrote:
25,000 was always a tough ask Andy. Well done for giving it a go. Persistence is the key. There are plenty of people who are prepared to sign it, even I got a few to sign. There is of course a general apathy, in all of us, to one extent or another. Regarding politics there is even more, which is how they like us to be. For this reason alone I would sign a petition! Next time.
Thanks, Asif. We live and learn, and I’m sure that the next time we can mobilize and motivate many more people.
Waris Ali wrote:
Aah i see, yes i also agree that there shud be more co ordinated action between the big human rights organisations like amnesty, especially when it comes to online petitions and also epetitions in Britain in particular. As for calling on the release of shaker aamer amnesty have also got there own thing going on on that one, where u can print off letters and send them to hillary clinton, basically calling for his release and so on. We appreciate the work you do Andy, hopefully all this will contribute to bringing about the closure of guantanamo and the release of its prisoners, it really is a dark mark in our history that this has been allowed to go on as long as it has.
Karin Friedemann wrote:
Prisoner release: how to achieve it? Hard question even within US borders, the case of Aafia Siddique is unbelievably cruel.
Have you been following her case?
Ahmad Belal wrote:
Karin 100% agree with your statement. Andy Worthington: Assume and hopefully one day we will see the fruits of the efforts made by the people across the globe to close the GITMO. How about the rest of the torture cells hold by the US in different countries, do we have any plan for that ? Any petitions, Demos etc. ? One more thing Andy, don’t you think we need to expose those torture cells and the countries involved, just to let the people know. I mean to highlight a bit more.
Thanks, Waris, Karin and Ahmad.
To answer your points and your questions: you’re right, Waris, about Amnesty USA’s campaign for Shaker, which is here – and is to be encouraged of course: http://takeaction.amnestyusa.org/siteapps/advocacy/ActionItem.aspx?c=6oJCLQPAJiJUG&b=6645049&aid=516553
Karin, I have covered Aafia Siddiqui’s case in detail, although I haven’t found the time to write about her recently. This is my archive: http://www.andyworthington.co.uk/category/aafia-siddiqui/
This is good for updates: http://www.justiceforaafia.org/
As for prisons elsewhere, Ahmad, there has not been enough investigation of the Bush administration’s network of secret prisons, but they are mostly no more. Obama, as is clear, prefers assassinations to imprisonment, and the man detention problem outstanding is Bagram, and other facilities in Afghanistan. This was my most recent article: http://www.andyworthington.co.uk/2012/01/31/obama-considers-repatriating-foreign-prisoners-from-bagram/
are there any more petitions for guantanamo? or was this the actual one that was recognised by the government? when will be the next one? i signed it too late
There are no more petitions planned just now, although we hope to return with something new in the not too distant future. By the way, the petition wasn’t actually recognised by the US government as such. It was a petition submitted on the White House website, which would have secured a response from the President if we had reached the target of 25,000 signatures.
Writer, campaigner, investigative journalist and commentator. Recognized as an authority on Guantánamo and the “war on terror.” Co-founder, Close Guantánamo, co-director, We Stand With Shaker. Also, singer and songwriter (The Four Fathers) and photographer.
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