Next Friday, May 23, is a global day of action, “Not Another Broken Promise! Not Another Day in Guantánamo!” organized by the campaigning group Witness Against Torture, with the support of numerous other groups including Close Guantánamo, Amnesty International, Blue Lantern Project, Center for Constitutional Rights, CloseGitmo.net, Code Pink, London Guantánamo Campaign, National Religious Campaign Against Torture, No More Guantánamos, September 11th Families for Peaceful Tomorrows, Torture Abolition and Survivor Support Coalition, Veterans for Peace and World Can’t Wait.
25 events in five countries have been arranged so far, and they include events in New York, Washington D.C., Boston, Chicago, London, Munich and Toronto. The full list can be found here, and Andy Worthington, the co-founder of the “Close Guantánamo” campaign, will be speaking at the London protest, which takes place in Trafalgar Square from 12 noon to 2pm. If your hometown isn’t represented, and you want to set up your own event, please contact Witness Against Torture, and see this page for a comprehensive toolkit for those organizing protests.
It’s a year since President Obama’s promise to resume releasing prisoners from Guantánamo
The reason for the global day of action next Friday is because, on May 23, it will be exactly a year since President Obama delivered a major speech on national security issues, in which he promised to resume releasing prisoners from Guantánamo, after a period of nearly three years in which the release of prisoners had almost ground to a halt. Sadly, it took a prison-wide hunger strike — and unprecedented domestic and international interest in the plight of the prisoners — for the president to promise action.
Congress had imposed restrictions on the release of prisoners, requiring the administration to certify that, if released, prisoners would be unable to engage in terrorism — a certification that was, essentially, impossible to make. However, although a waiver existed in the legislation, allowing President Obama to bypass Congress if he regarded it as being “in the national security interests of the United States,” the president chose not to use it.
What made this so unacceptable was the fact that 86 of the 166 prisoners still held in Guantánamo when President Obama made his speech and delivered his promise last May had been cleared for release in January 2010 by a high-level, inter-agency Guantánamo Review Task Force, appointed by President Obama shortly after he took office in 2009. The task force reviewed the cases of all the prisoners held when the Obama presidency began, and recommended them for release, for prosecution or for ongoing imprisonment without charge or trial.
Two-thirds of these prisoners were Yemenis, and another obstacle was raised to prevent their release after a airline bomb plot, hatched in Yemen, was foiled in December 2009, and, in response, President Obama issued a moratorium on releasing any Yemenis. The president only lifted that ban in his speech last May, but it had never been fair, as it constituted a blanket form of “guilt by nationality,” and there is no way that establishing a review process and then not releasing prisoners recommended for release can be regarded as anything other than a desperately cruel measure that would shame a dictatorship.
Since President Obama made his promise last May, he has appointed two envoys to assist with the closure of Guantánamo — Cliff Sloan in the State Department and Paul Lewis in the Pentagon — and 12 prisoners have been released. This is commendable, but it is just a start. 77 cleared prisoners are still held — 75 cleared for release by the task force, and two cleared for release by the new Periodic Review Boards established last year — and as long as these men are held, in such significant numbers, there can be no complacency regarding Guantánamo and the still urgent need for the prison to be closed and for this dark chapter in America’s history to be brought to an end.
It is particularly important for the Yemenis — who make up 57 of these 77 men — to be released, and to be released immediately. Not a single Yemeni has been released since President Obama dropped his ban a year ago, and it is disgraceful that everyone in a position of power and responsibility in the US seems to believe that having fears about the security situation in Yemen justifies holding men forever, despite a presidential task force — and, in two recent cases, high-level Periodic Review Boards — concluding that they should be released.
– Please call the White House on 202-456-1111 or 202-456-1414 to urge President Obama to act immediately to release the cleared Yemeni prisoners. You can also submit a comment online.
– Call Cliff Sloan at the State Department on 202-647-4000 to demand action on the release of prisoners. Tell him you’re disappointed that only 12 men have been released since President Obama’s speech last May.
Note: This article was published simultaneously here and on the website of the “Close Guantánamo” campaign.
Andy Worthington is a freelance investigative journalist, activist, author, photographer and film-maker. He is the co-founder of the “Close Guantánamo” campaign, and 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. He is also the co-director (with Polly Nash) of the documentary film, “Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo” (available on DVD here — or here for the US).
To receive new articles in your inbox, please subscribe to Andy’s RSS feed — and he can also be found on Facebook (and here), Twitter, Flickr and YouTube. Also see the six-part definitive Guantánamo prisoner list, and “The Complete Guantánamo Files,” an ongoing, 70-part, million-word series drawing on files released by WikiLeaks in April 2011. Also see the definitive Guantánamo habeas list and the chronological list of all Andy’s articles.
Hi. my friend.
I posted a short piece on Sulia and linked back to your article and to CCR, World Can’t Wait, etc.
Hope to break some “visions of sugar plums” out of some heads
Oh, that’s great, Jan. Thanks. Yes, we have an opportunity with next week’s anniversary to hammer home a few truths. In general, though, it’s demoralizing how much the men at Guantanamo have slipped off the radar again …
What can I do, may I make some slogan cause I am alone from Indonesia
Yes, if you like you can send a photo to Witness Against Torture in support of the campaign. They say:
People all over the world are participating in our photo campaign. We invite you to take a take a photo of yourself with a sign that finishes this sentence: “In 12 years I have …” and send it to firstname.lastname@example.org
See the page here: http://www.witnesstorture.org/may-23rd-action-planning-toolkit/
I am just alone no Group, I want my environment know about this page, so I just send photo? sorry for so many question
I don’t know of any other opportunity to show solidarity, so yes, a photo of you holding up a card saying what you have done over the last 12 years, while the men at Guantanamo have been imprisoned, to be sent to email@example.com
Yes, we need to speak up massively and not rely on ‘official’ organizations to do that for us. Thus for instance I personally found the latest AI document on torture sadly biased.
Plenty of torture cases from all over the world, but only 2 very carefully phrased paragraphs about the US (not a word about Guantanamo), three about EU countries (including secret CIA black holes), but as far as I could see, not a word about the UK, let alone its -after all also EU owned- black hole on Diego Garcia.
If I overlooked a relevant detail, herewith I apologize for the oversight.
It rather underscores the widely accepted idea that torture is generalized in ‘rogue’ states, including Russia, but only a minor ‘collateral’ issue in our own, supposedly civilized and democratic countries. Very disappointing.
Thanks, Anna. The silence on the US from AI is extremely disappointing, and really unforgiveable, as the unaddressed crimes of the Bush administration continue to poison us all. Diego Garcia is something else, as I believe proof is rather lacking of anything other than two rendition flights refuelling there.
Also, there was an interesting – and alarming – angle on this story a few days ago, as AI commissioned a global poll abut torture, with some shocking results from the UK. As the Independent described it:
The poll by Amnesty International found 36 per cent of Britons believed “torture is sometimes necessary and acceptable to gain information that may protect the public”. Just 25 per cent of Russians share the same view – although in China the figure is 74 per cent.
In addition, 44 per cent of Britons reject the idea that there should be a global ban on torture. This despite the fact that the use of torture, as defined by the UN convention against torture and other inhumane or degrading treatment or punishment, has been subject to a 30-year global ban ratified by 155 countries.
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