Please Sign the Petition to President Obama: Close the Prison at Guantánamo Bay

1.5.13

Please sign the petition to President Obama, asking him to close Guantánamo now.

With a prison-wide hunger strike raging at Guantánamo, the world’s media — and people all around the world — have woken up to the fact that a chronic injustice is still ongoing at Guantánamo, and that nothing will be done about it unless serious pressure is exerted on President Obama and on Congress, who, between them, have ensured that none of the remaining prisoners at Guantánamo — 166 in total — can leave the prison alive under any circumstances.

This is a monstrous betrayal of all notions of justice and decency. The men at Guantánamo are indefinitely detained without charge or trial — a situation that is unacceptable under any circumstances — even though 86 of them were cleared for release at least three years ago by a sober and responsible inter-agency task force that President Obama established when he took office in January 2009 — when, of course, he also promised to close Guantánamo within a year.

In the hope of persuading President Obama to take the necessary steps to resume releasing prisoners from Guantánamo, and to revisit his failed promise to close the prison once and for all, following the fine words he uttered at a press conference yesterday, my colleague Col. Morris Davis has launched a petition, via Change.org, entitled, “President Obama: Close Detention Facility at Guantanamo Bay,” which has gone viral, attracting over 65,000 signatures in less than 24 hours, a sure sign that the American people — and people around the world — have woken up to the horrors of Guantánamo, and do not intend to be brushed aside.

Col. Davis, who is one of the signatories on the mission statement of the “Close Guantánamo” campaign, which the attorney Tom Wilner and I established last January, is the former chief prosecutor of the military commissions at Guantánamo. He resigned in 2007 when he was placed in a chain of command under Pentagon General Counsel William J. Haynes, who advocated for the use of torture, and had been instrumental in formulating the Bush administration’s torture policy for so-called “high-value detainees” seized in the “war on terror.” I am honored to have shared a stage with Col. Davis at events in Washington D.C. marking the anniversary of the opening of Guantánamo for the last three years, and I commend him on his timing and his commitment to righting the wrong that is Guantánamo.

Col. Davis’s petition more or less echoes calls that I have been responsible for promoting on the “Close Guantánamo” website, and on my website, calling for President Obama to appoint someone to deal with the closure of Guantánamo, to drop his own ban on releasing cleared Yemenis, and to demand that Congress also drops its unjustifiable obstacles to the release of prisoners.

Specifically, Col. Davis calls for Chuck Hagel to “issue the certifications or national security waivers required by the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA 2013) to effect transfers from Guantánamo.” This is hugely important if Congress fails to be swayed by calls for lawmakers to drop their obstructions to the release of prisoners, as it allows the administration to bypass Congress if lawmakers fail to be swayed by the need to stop posturing and close Guantánamo once and for all.

Col. Davis also calls for the President to appoint someone to deal specifically with the closure of Guantánamo, and to commit to closing the prison, showing that he is serious by immediately releasing Shaker Aamer, the last British resident, and Djamel Ameziane, an Algerian represented by the Center for Constitutional Rights. These men are two of the many worthy candidates for release, but please look at this article if you want to know more about the prisoners cleared for release but still held.

Please, please, please sign the petition and forward it to everyone you know. As I explained when I signed it last night, “Every day this prison remains open the virus of injustice continues to eat away at America’s soul. Close it now, Mr. President!”

President Obama: Close Detention Facility at Guantánamo Bay
By Col. Morris Davis

I served 25 years in the US Air Force, I was the Chief Prosecutor for the Terrorism Trials at Guantanamo Bay for more than two years, and now I need your help.

I personally charged Osama Bin Laden’s driver Salim Hamdan, Australian David Hicks, and Canadian teen Omar Khadr. All three were convicted … and then they were released from Guantánamo. More than 160 men who have never been charged with any offense, much less convicted of a war crime, remain at Guantánamo with no end in sight. There is something fundamentally wrong with a system where not being charged with a war crime keeps you locked away indefinitely and a war crime conviction is your ticket home.

As of April 29, 2013 — 100 of the 166 men who remain in Guantánamo are engaged in a hunger strike in protest of their indefinite detention. Twenty-one of them are being force-fed and five are hospitalized. Some of the men have been in prison for more than eleven years without charge or trial. The United States has cleared a majority of the detainees for transfer out of Guantánamo, yet they remain in custody year after year because of their citizenship and ongoing political gamesmanship in the US.

That is why I am calling on Secretary of Defense Charles Hagel to use his authority to effect cleared transfers from Guantánamo and on President Obama to appoint an individual within the Administration to lead the effort to close Guantánamo. Obama announced on April 30 that he plans to do his part to close Guantánamo, but he has made this promise before. Now is the time to hold him to his promise and urge him to take the steps necessary to dismantle Guantánamo Bay Prison.

If any other country were treating prisoners the way we are treating those in Guantánamo we would roundly and rightly criticize that country. We can never retake the legal and moral high ground when we claim the right to do unto others that which we would vehemently condemn if done to one of us.

It is probably no surprise that human rights and activist groups like the Center For Constitutional Rights, Witness Against Torture and Amnesty International have been outspoken critics of Guantánamo. It may surprise you that a former military prosecutor and many other retired senior military officers and members of the intelligence community agree with them.

The Patriotic thing, the American thing, the Human thing to do here is to Close Guantánamo. Please join us in the fight by signing this petition.

The petition to President Obama: Close Guantánamo Now

To:
President Barack Obama
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington DC, 20500

Re: Concern about hunger strike and stalled efforts to close the detention facility at Guantánamo Bay

Dear President Obama,

I am writing to urge you to take immediate steps to end indefinite detention without charge and begin closing the detention facility at Guantánamo Bay. If ever there was a moment to act upon the promise you made more than four years ago to close Guantánamo and begin to restore America’s reputation as the champion of the rule of law, it is now.

For several weeks, major news outlets, attorneys for the detainees, and even military officials have reported that there is a hunger strike occurring among a significant number of the men detained at Guantánamo. As a detention facility official told reporters during their visit the week of April 15, “there will be more than one death.” The current situation is the predictable result of continuing to hold detainees indefinitely without charge for more than eleven years. Therefore, I urge you to begin working to transfer the remaining detained men to their home countries or other countries for resettlement, or to charge them in a court that comports with standards we would accept if it was Americans on trial. I also urge you to appoint an individual within your administration to lead the transfer effort.

Specifically, I ask that you:

1) Direct Secretary of Defense Charles Hagel to use his authority to issue the certifications or national security waivers required by the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA 2013) to effect transfers from Guantánamo.

2) Appoint an individual within your Administration to lead the effort to close Guantánamo.

3) Announce a concrete and specific plan to close the facility. As a first step and a clear signal that this is the beginning of a new chapter in Guantánamo’s legacy, you should immediately release Shaker Aamer and Djamel Ameziane.

I urge you to order the relevant authorities to take swift measures to humanely and lawfully address the immediate causes of the hunger strike in a manner consistent with international standards of medical ethics before irreparable harm occurs to the detainees. Moreover, I urge you to take steps to address the root of the problem by fulfilling your promise to close Guantánamo without further delay. While I stand ready to support the Administration’s efforts to close Guantánamo Bay in a manner consistent with its international legal obligations, this problem demands the leadership that only you as the President of the United States can provide. I urge you to act now.

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, Flickr (my photos) and YouTube. Also see my definitive Guantánamo prisoner list, updated in April 2012, “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 please also consider joining the “Close Guantánamo campaign”, and, if you appreciate my work, feel free to make a donation.

63 Responses

  1. Peggy Albrecht says...

    Indefinite detention is horrifically wrong. Military tribunals aren’t much better. Free those who were sold for bounty, stop listening to hearsay upon hearsay and redacting evidenitiary documents.

  2. Torbjörn Englund. Sweden says...

    Guantanamo is a disgrace – Close it now!

  3. samseif barganda makinda says...

    I would like it closed down, if there really is such a place, then it shall be soon abolished… In time.

  4. mariel sanchez says...

    abajo guantanamo! arriba los que luchan!

  5. Stacy Sullivan says...

    Shut it down. It is shameful to hold people I definitely without charge. We are better than that.

  6. TAzeen Hasan says...

    Pls. close Gautanaumo base and stop these crimes against humanities.

  7. Andy Worthington says...

    My thanks to you, Peggy, Torbjörn, Samseif, Mariel, Stacy and Tazeen, for your supportive words for Col. Davis’s petition, and the long campaign to close Guantanamo. The tide of opinion is, I believe, turning in our favor – in the favor, most crucially, of these men detained in a legal limbo that is not substantially different from the black hole created by the Bush administration over 11 years ago, who are in despair and starving themselves to get the world to notice, and to get President Obama to act. End it now!

  8. Andy Worthington says...

    On Facebook, MadLion Muir wrote:

    Signed

  9. Andy Worthington says...

    Dejanka Bryant wrote:

    Done, thanks. Shared.

  10. Andy Worthington says...

    Jamie Corleone wrote:

    Signed! I’m at 71,677

  11. Andy Worthington says...

    Mourad Benchellali wrote:

    signed

  12. Andy Worthington says...

    Lisa Nilsson wrote:

    yes
    Shared at my Politik FB

  13. Andy Worthington says...

    Abby Tallmer wrote:

    Signed, and shared. Thanks.

  14. Andy Worthington says...

    Natashja de Wolf wrote:

    signed & shared

  15. Andy Worthington says...

    Thanks, everyone. Wow, this was just shy of 70,000 signatures when I posted it four hours ago, and now it has 86,645 signatures! The target’s been raised to 150,000. Let’s see of we can get there by the end of tomorrow, and then raise it to 250,000!

  16. Marilyn Walker says...

    I have signed Amnesty International’s petition and sent an email directly to President Obama and will share this as well.

  17. Andy Worthington says...

    Thank you, Marilyn. That’s very good to hear.

  18. Andy Worthington says...

    Foj Autonomous wrote:

    done & shared

  19. Andy Worthington says...

    Pauline Kiernan wrote:

    Signed and will share now.

  20. Andy Worthington says...

    Abby Tallmer wrote:

    Signed and shared. ALSO: Petition against force-feeding hunger striking prisoners at Guantanamo, which the UN, the Red Cross, the AMA, and Doctors Without Borders as well as many other respected bodies consider a form of torture here (together w/brief statement about/explanation of): http://www.opensocietyfoundations.org/voices/failing-heal-hunger-strikes-guant-namo-and-role-medical-professionals

  21. Andy Worthington says...

    Anna Elliott wrote:

    Done and shared.

  22. Andy Worthington says...

    Lindis Percy wrote:

    Already signed plus 4 other petitions re Guantanamo. Added up that’s quite a lot of people…but could be many more if we shared this and encouraged our friends to consider signing.

  23. Andy Worthington says...

    This is the one, Lindis. It’s on 92,901 right now. The sky’s the limit!

  24. Andy Worthington says...

    Farzaanah Richards wrote:

    Signed and shared!

  25. Andy Worthington says...

    Beverly Hendricks wrote:

    Signed. Thanks, Andy.

  26. Andy Worthington says...

    George Kenneth Berger wrote:

    Signed and shared.

  27. Andy Worthington says...

    Thanks, Farzaanah, Beverly and George. It’s edging ever closer to 100,000 signatures!

  28. harpie says...

    Dear President Obama,

    YES YOU CAN!

  29. Anna says...

    Your appeal to sign the petition is the third one I try, unsuccessfully.
    When accessing it directly from Change.org, I can fill out the form, but invariably receive an error message, inviting me to ‘try again later’.
    When accessing from Witness Against Torture’s mail appeal, I do not even get connected, just a succession of ‘connection’ messages,: Connecting … & Waiting for http://www.change.org/CloseGTMO
    When accessing from your site, the flickering is so fast and nervous that I cannot even read all of it, but there seems to be an additional: Done, but with errors on page.
    I just hope it’s because the site is overloaded? Did anyone else face this problem and -what’s more important- find a way around it?

  30. Andy Worthington says...

    Thanks, Harpie. Yes, he can, indeed!

  31. Andy Worthington says...

    Hi Anna,
    I hope your difficulties have been overcome. I found it very easy to access the petition, and so did lots of other people, evidently. Perhaps it’s a geographical problem?

  32. Andy Worthington says...

    Dave Colding wrote:

    Close the whole base down; and give the land back to the sovereign nation of cuba!!

  33. Andy Worthington says...

    Kathleen Kelly wrote:

    Done. I wrote to Obama and Hagel several days ago, as well.

  34. Andy Worthington says...

    Carol Anne Grayson wrote:

    Already signed…

  35. Andy Worthington says...

    Dejanka Bryant wrote:

    Shared again. Used your cover photo too.

  36. Andy Worthington says...

    Mui JS wrote:

    Signed. a few times. But the “sign button” freezes and never registers any confirmation.

  37. Andy Worthington says...

    Thanks, Dave, Kathleen, Carol, Dejanka, Mui, and the many, many people who’ve been sharing this. We’ve reached 111,960 signatures! I’m now going to promote it via the “Close Guantanamo” campaign.
    Sorry to hear you’ve been having problems signing, Mui. I hope those problems get resolved.

  38. Tom says...

    Nice to see the growing support thru signatures and more. Where I can, I’m posting in high visibility areas and thru variations on Guantanamo as a hash tag.

    Also, in case no one’s mentioned this here, a suggestion. While this effort is important and vital in many ways, keep in mind that while odds are most of these detainees have some form of PTSD, you could possibly have it as well. I’m not a doctor or therapist. However, thru necessity and lots of study I’ve learned a fair amount about how to recognize and deal with various forms of PTSD. It is possible for therapists and others who consistently work with PTSD clients to develop it themselves.

    I’m not telling anyone to do anything. Just pointing out what I feel is a necessary thing to keep in mind. Besides, if you’re not in good shape, how can you be effective in things important to you? Thanks for reading.

  39. Brenda Drew says...

    Please close the prison at Guantanamo and end the needless torture there! We should be evolving as a species and not resorting to the brutality of barbarians!! We’d get more truth from our prisoners if we treated them more humanely and not like a bunch of animals! By treating them so brutally we are no better than wild animals ourselves!

  40. Andy Worthington says...

    Thanks, Tom. I do my best to stay in good shape, physically and mentally – much more than in my chain-smoking first five years working obsessively on Guantanamo (the last five terrible years of a 29-year nicotine addiction), leading to my illness two years ago.

  41. Andy Worthington says...

    Powerful comments, Brenda. Thank you. Great to hear from you.

  42. Andy Worthington says...

    Patrick Warren wrote:

    just signed it

  43. Andy Worthington says...

    Thanks, Patrick!

  44. Andy Worthington says...

    Joyce McCloy wrote:

    thanks for getting the heat on this. its not an ugly secret anymore, its an ugly known horror that should get fixed soon. My heart goes out to these poor men.

  45. Andy Worthington says...

    Thanks, Joyce. Powerful words!

  46. Andy Worthington says...

    Sandra Peevers wrote:

    Done and shared.

  47. Andy Worthington says...

    Annika Gullberg wrote:

    Done!

  48. Andy Worthington says...

    Thanks, Sandra and Annika!

  49. Andy Worthington says...

    David Knopfler wrote:

    Just jumped another 4,000

  50. Andy Worthington says...

    That’s great news, David! Sorry to have missed you in the UK. Hope the US tour is going well!

  51. Andy Worthington says...

    Leticia Werner wrote:

    Signed. A friend of a fb friend of mine commented that Obama had already called for a closing of Guantanamo, is that true?

  52. Andy Worthington says...

    At a press conference on Tuesday, Leticia, President Obama eloquently explained why Guantanamo is an un-American, counter-productive abomination that must be closed immediately, but failed to say how he was going to move forward on closing it, beyond a vague pledge to work with Congress. He needs to do much, much more. Congress will probably not be swayed, so he needs to be prepared to use a waiver in the legislation being used by Congress to block the release of prisoners (the NDAA) to legitimately bypass Congress. That will enrage Republicans (and some Democrats), but his only other option is for everyone in Guantanamo to continue to be held indefinitely – until they die, even the 86 men cleared for release. I have an article out soon explaining all this in detail.

  53. Andy Worthington says...

    Willy Bach wrote:

    Thanks again Andy. Time is running out for retrieving any good reputation for the US – the rest of the world is out of patience. Tell Obama to get it done. Signed, tweeted. Good on ya!

  54. Andy Worthington says...

    Thanks, Willy. I’m enormously grateful to Moe Davis for starting the petition, at just the right time. Here’s Moe on Guantanamo, from the 11th anniversary event in DC, where he and I and Tom Wilner get together every year to call for truth and justice! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B0Yq8P3PW-g

  55. Andy Worthington says...

    Erin Cockerham wrote:

    Done 🙂

  56. Andy Worthington says...

    Thanks, Erin!

  57. Andy Worthington says...

    La Mesha Irizarry wrote:

    done

  58. Andy Worthington says...

    Annie Wilson wrote:

    Me too.

  59. Andy Worthington says...

    Thanks, La Mesha and Annie!

  60. Ruth L. Dady says...

    You can do it if you want and if you do, we will think that you mean the promise you made to us during your campaign for President. Stand Strong, Obama and make your promises a reality. I pray for you daily and your family. Please do the right thing for us and for you

  61. Andy Worthington says...

    Thank you, Ruth. Your comments are very much appreciated.

  62. Kary GC says...

    You can do it!

  63. Andy Worthington says...

    Thanks for the comment, Kary. Good to hear from you.

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Andy Worthington

Investigative journalist, author, campaigner, commentator and public speaker. 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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