Please Send Us Your Photos for May 14, Marking 250 Days Left in the Countdown to Close Guantánamo

9.5.16

Former Guantanamo prisoner Moazzam Begg, in Portcullis House, in London (across the road from the Houses of Parliament), holding a poster reminding President Obama that, on May 14, he has just 250 days left to close Guantanamo as he promised when he took office in January 2009 (Photo: Andy Worthington).Print off a poster here, take a photo with it, like former Guantánamo prisoner Moazzam Begg, and send it to us!

I wrote the following article for the “Close Guantánamo” website, which I established in January 2012, on the 10th anniversary of the opening of Guantánamo, with the US attorney Tom Wilner. Please join us — just an email address is required to be counted amongst those opposed to the ongoing existence of Guantánamo, and to receive updates of our activities by email.

Next Saturday, May 14, is the next milestone in the Countdown to Close Guantánamo that we launched in January, to count down the last year of the Obama presidency, and to remind President Obama of his promise to close the prison before he leaves office, which he first made on his second day in office in January 2009.

Launched on January 20 with exactly one year to go — by Close Guantánamo co-founder Andy Worthington and music legend Roger Waters on Democracy Now! — the countdown has continued with posters every 50 days. 350 days was on February 4, and 300 days was on March 25, and we’re now asking you for your photos for next Saturday, May 14, marking 250 days to go.

Over 300 supporters from across the US and around the world — including some celebrities — have so far sent in photos, which can be seen here and here, and we are delighted to invite you to join them. Shown above is former Guantánamo prisoner Moazzam Begg, who I photographed at a Parliamentary briefing last month about the case of Mohamedou Ould Slahi, Guantánamo prisoner and best-selling author, whose memoir, Guantánamo Diary, written in the prison, was published last year to widespread acclaim. See here for the campaign to free Slahi.

Please also visit, like, share and tweet the Gitmo Clock, which we recently relaunched as part of the Countdown to Close Guantánamo, and which is counting down the days, hours, minutes and seconds until the end of Obama’s presidency. The original clock was launched in 2013 to count how many days it was since President Obama’s May 2013 promise to resume releasing prisoners from Guantánamo, after nearly three years in which releases had largely ground to a halt because of unprincipled Congressional opposition, and the president ‘s refusal to spend political capital overcoming those obstacles, even though he had the means to do so.

At the time, 166 men were still held, but in the last three years 86 men have been freed, leaving just 80 men still held. At the start of the year, via the Pentagon, President Obama finally delivered a long-promised plan to close Guantánamo to Congress, which I wrote about here. It has been reassuring to hear that the administration intends to release all the prisoners approved for release by summer — currently 26 of the men still held, and it is also reassuring to hear that the administration intends to hold Periodic Review Boards for all those who are eligible for them by the fall. The PRBs are reviewing the cases of everyone not already approved for release (by President Obama’s high-level, inter-agency Guantánamo Review Task Force in 2010) or facing trials (and just ten men are in this latter category), and have already approved 20 men for release.

We hope that several dozen more men — at least — are also approved for release by PRBs, but for President Obama to close Guantánamo he either needs the support of Congress, or, if that is not possible, he needs to close the prison via an executive order, something that former White House counsel Greg Craig and Cliff Sloan, the former State Department envoy for Guantánamo closure, believe is possible.

We also hope that Congress can be persuaded to support President Obama, for the reasons we have always explained — because Guantánamo damages America’s belief that it is founded on, and respects the rule of law every day that it remains open, and because it also damages its reputation around the world.

We are aware that some advocates for Guantánamo’s closure are adamant that, for the prison to be closed, no one must be transferred to the US mainland to be held without charge or trial. However, we must respectfully disagree with this position. The US has the right to hold prisoners seized in wartime without charge or trial until the end of hostilities, and although the Guantánamo prisoners have been deprived of the rights to which they were entitled under the Geneva Conventions, the US government is still able to make a case that they are held according to the laws of war.

Moreover, if they are moved to the US mainland, we fervently believe that they will have rights under the US Constitution that, to date, they have been deprived of — in particular, since appeals court judges in Washington, D.C., in 2010-11, cynically gutted habeas corpus of all meaning for the prisoners, despite their resounding Supreme Court victories in 2004 and 2008. It is also noticeable that the Supreme Court has persistently failed to take back control of detainee issues from the appeals court.

Describing the prisoners’ rights if moved to the US mainland, “Close Guantánamo” co-founder Tom Wilner has explained:

If the detainees are brought to the United States, the government loses its prime argument for denying them constitutional rights. The imprisonment of anyone without charge or trial on the US mainland is radically at odds with any concept of constitutional due process. Bringing them to the United States means that they would almost certainly have full constitutional rights and the ability to effectively challenge their detentions in court. They would then no longer be dependent solely on the largesse of the Obama administration, or whatever administration happens to follow it, but could gain relief through the courts.

That said, it would obviously make sense for the US to prosecute anyone it wants to carry on holding who is allegedly involved in any way with terrorism, and we hope the administration is looking closely not only at prosecuting in federal court those currently in interminable pre-trial hearings in the largely discredited military commissions, but also in adding to their number anyone else against whom a criminal case can be made.

In conclusion, we hope that President Obama recognizes the importance of fulfilling his promise to close Guantánamo before he leaves office. If he is succeeded by a Democrat, it is probable that efforts to close the prison will continue, but that is not the case with the Republican challengers, and, in any case, the health of President Obama’s legacy depends on not having failed, over the course of eight long years, to fulfill a promise to close the stain on America’s reputation that is Guantánamo that he made back in January 2009.

Thank you for your support.

What else you can do

If you want to do more, please feel free to call the White House on 202-456-1111 or 202-456-1414 or submit a comment online.

You can also encourage your Senators and Representatives to support President Obama’s efforts to close the prison. Find your Senators here, and your Representatives here.

Andy Worthington is a freelance investigative journalist, activist, author, photographer, film-maker and singer-songwriter (the lead singer and main songwriter for the London-based band The Four Fathers, whose debut album, ‘Love and War,’ is available for download or on CD via Bandcamp — also see here). He is the co-founder of the Close Guantánamo campaign (and the Countdown to Close Guantánamo initiative, launched in January 2016), the co-director of We Stand With Shaker, which called for the release from Guantánamo of Shaker Aamer, the last British resident in the prison (finally freed on October 30, 2015), and the author of The Guantánamo Files: The Stories of the 774 Detainees in America’s Illegal Prison (published by Pluto Press, distributed by the University of Chicago Press in the US, and available from Amazon, including a Kindle edition — 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, the full military commissions list, and the chronological list of all Andy’s articles.

Please also consider joining the Close Guantánamo campaign, and, if you appreciate Andy’s work, feel free to make a donation.

11 Responses

  1. Andy Worthington says...

    When I posted this on Facebook, I wrote:

    On Saturday (May 14), President Obama will have just 250 days left to close ‪‎Guantanamo‬, so please join us – and former Guantanamo prisoner Moazzam Begg, pictured here – by printing off a poster reminding President Obama he has just 250 days left, taking a photo and sending it to us for the Countdown to Close Guantanamo. Cross-posted from http://www.closeguantanamo.org.

  2. Martin says...

  3. Andy Worthington says...

    Thanks for the update, Martin. New article soon.

  4. Andy Worthington says...

    Sara SN wrote:

    Hi Andy, we have a twitterstorm every Monday at 9pm GMT for the countdown to close Guantanamo. Hashtag is #GitmObama; twitterstorm thanks to London Guantánamo Campaign

  5. Andy Worthington says...

    Thanks, Sara – and the London Guantánamo Campaign. I generally post between 9 and 10pm GMT so if I post on Twitter on a Monday I tend to get involved. I just posted this with the hashtag. It’s a great weekly initiative!
    Hope you can send a photo for the Countdown to Close Guantanamo, Sara.

  6. Andy Worthington says...

    Sara SN wrote:

    Thanks very much, Andy! I’ll share the poster link now in the twitterstorm too

  7. Andy Worthington says...

    🙂 Sara!

  8. Andy Worthington says...

    Lindis Percy wrote:

    Already done and shared encouraging others to do this. xx

  9. Andy Worthington says...

    Thanks, Lindis. Greatly appreciated!

  10. Andy Worthington says...

    When my friend Jan Strain shared this, she wrote:

    Join us in calling for the closure of Guantanamo. President Obama promised that, if elected, this would be one of his first priorities…
    He has 253 days left to make good on his promises

  11. Andy Worthington says...

    Thanks for sharing, Jan!

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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 (The State of London).
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