Today Marks 6,000 Days of Guantánamo: Rights Groups, Concerned Citizens and Former Prisoner Shaker Aamer Urge Donald Trump to Close It

15.6.18

Former Guantanamo prisoner Shaker Aamer urges Donald Trump to close Guantanamo on June 15, 2018, the 6,000th day of the prison's existence.Please support my work as a reader-funded journalist! I’m currently trying to raise $2500 (£2000) to support my writing and campaigning on Guantánamo and related issues over the next three months of the Trump administration.

 

Please join us in urging Donald Trump to close Guantánamo. Take a photo with a 6,000 days poster, either by printing it, or on a tablet or even on your phone, and send it to us to post on the Close Guantánamo website — or post it on Facebook and tag us, joining former prisoner Shaker Aamer, pictured here (click on the image to enlarge it), who says:

“Tell Donald Trump:
As long as Guantánamo is open, America will never be great again.
And as long as America is committing injustice, America will never be great again.
And as long as America has military posts all over the world, America will never be great again.
And as long as America is supporting and helping dictators all over the world, America will never be great again.”

Today, June 15, 2018, is a depressing milestone in the long history of U.S. detention at Guantánamo Bay. Today the Guantánamo prison, set up after the 9/11 attacks, has been open for 6,000 days.

Most of the men held at Guantánamo over the last 6,000 days (16 years, five months and four days) have been held without charge or trial, in defiance of international laws and treaties governing the treatment of prisoners. There are only two acceptable ways to deprive an individual of their liberty: either as a criminal suspect, to be tried in a federal court; or as a prisoner of war, held unmolested until the end of hostilities. The men at Guantánamo are neither. Instead, after 9/11, the Bush administration conceived of a novel category of prisoner — one without any rights whatsoever — and implemented this at Guantánamo.

Although the prisoners were granted constitutionally guaranteed habeas corpus rights by the Supreme Court in June 2008, those rights were eviscerated by a number of appeals court decisions between 2009 and 2011, effectively gutting habeas corpus of all meaning for the Guantánamo prisoners. The unacceptable reality of Guantánamo now is that the men still held can only be freed at the whim of the president, a statutory change by the U.S. Congress, or a landmark judicial decision. None of these possibilities are remotely plausible at present.

Donald Trump inherited 41 prisoners from Barack Obama, but he has only released one man, a Saudi repatriated to ongoing imprisonment as part of a plea deal he agreed in the military commission trial system in 2014. Of the 40 men still held, only nine are facing, or have faced trials. Five were approved for release by high-level government review processes under President Obama, but are still held, while the other 26, accurately described as “forever prisoners” by the media, are being held indefinitely without charge or trial.

Every day that Guantánamo remains open is a black mark against America’s notion of itself as a nation founded on the rule of law, which respects the rule of law. We call on Donald Trump to close it without further delay, and to charge or release those still held.

[Below is a great photo of the Center for Constitutional Rights’ staff and interns in New York united in calling for the closure of Guantánamo on its 6,000th day of existence. Staff also held up placards for three prisoners CCR represent: Sufyian Barhoumi, approved for release by a high-level review process under President Obama,but still held, and “forever prisoners” Sharqawi al-Hajj and Guled Hassan Duran].

A great photo of the Center for Constitutional Rights’ staff and interns in New York united in calling for the closure of #Guantanamo on its 6,000th day of existence on June 15, 2018. Staff also hold up placards for three prisoners CCR represent: Sufyian Barhoumi, approved for release by a high-level review process under President Obama,but still held, and "forever prisoners" Sharqawi al-Hajj and Guled Hassan Duran.Andy Worthington, the co-founder of the Close Guantánamo campaign, said: “6,000 days is far longer than the two world wars combined. It is outrageous that the U.S. government continues to perpetuate the myth of an ‘endless war,’ as a supposed justification for holding prisoners indefinitely without charge or trial, when this is, in fact, a policy for which there is no justification whatsoever.”

Sue Udry, Executive Director of Defending Rights & Dissent said: “Guantánamo Bay prison is a living symbol of America’s refusal to live up to the promise of our Constitution. Although President Trump has made clear his disinterest in human rights, due process, and the rule of law, we call on him to choose justice over inhumanity and close the prison immediately.”

Helen Schietinger of Witness Against Torture said: ”It is significant — and not accidental — that all the men who have been imprisoned at Guantánamo are Muslim. How many holy months of Ramadan have they missed during these 6000 days? How many more must they endure, never being allowed visits by their families?”

Close Guantánamo
Defending Rights & Dissent
Dorothy Day Catholic Worker
London Guantánamo Campaign
No More Guantánamos
September 11th Families for Peaceful Tomorrows
TASSC International (Torture Abolition and Survivors Support Coalition)
The Tea Project
Voices for Creative Nonviolence
Witness Against Torture
World Can’t Wait

The above was issued as a press release by all the groups above. The poster is a Close Guantánamo initiative, via the Gitmo Clock which counts in real time how long Guantánamo has been open. Throughout the year, supporters of the campaign have been taking photos with posters counting how long the prison has been open, and urging Donald Trump to close it. Those photos can be found here.

As published on Close Guantánamo.

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 music is available via Bandcamp). He is the co-founder of the Close Guantánamo campaign (and see the latest photo campaign here) and the successful We Stand With Shaker campaign of 2014-15, and the author of The Guantánamo Files: The Stories of the 774 Detainees in America’s Illegal Prison (click on the following for Amazon in 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), and for his photo project ‘The State of London’ he publishes a photo a day from six years of bike rides around the 120 postcodes of the capital.

In 2017, Andy became very involved in housing issues. He is the narrator of a new documentary film, ‘Concrete Soldiers UK’, about the destruction of council estates, and the inspiring resistance of residents, he wrote a song ‘Grenfell’, in the aftermath of the entirely preventable fire in June that killed over 70 people, and he also set up ‘No Social Cleansing in Lewisham’ as a focal point for resistance to estate destruction and the loss of community space in his home borough in south east London.

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, The Complete Guantánamo Files, 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:

    Here’s an exclusive photo of former Guantanamo prisoner Shaker Aamer calling for the closure of Guantanamo on its 6,000th day of existence, and telling Donald Trump why it must be closed. As he says, “Tell Donald Trump: As long as Guantanamo is open, America will never be great again.”
    The article mainly contains a press release from eleven human rights groups, including Close Guantanamo, which I co-founded in 2012, highlighting this bleak milestone in Guantanamo’s disgracefully long and horrible history, which we’ve been building to all year via the latest Close Guantanamo photo project. If you’d like to join Shaker and us, please do! It won’t change Donald Trump’s mind, but it ought to.

  2. Tom says...

    Spreading links to this.

  3. Andy Worthington says...

    Thanks, Tom. Good to hear from you.

  4. arcticredriver says...

    Thanks again for your important work on the dangers extreme measures in counter-terrorism poses to a free society. Officials who should be overseeing the work of counter-terrorism officials instead give them a free rein, turn a blind eye.

    As risks to public safety go, terrorist attacks are a more realistic danger than the Earth being struck by an extinction level asteroid, or even a city-killer. But it is a less realistic danger than drunk driving, or American gun violence.

    Our public safety funds should be spent wisely, on efforts that are genuinely useful, and in proportion to the actual threat, not the manipulated public perception of danger.

    More people die in largely avoidable drunk driving incidents, every year, than died on 9-11. I called those drunk driving deaths largely avoidable because technology has existed, for decades, where a car’s ignition could be tied into a breathalyzer, preventing drivers from firing up their engine if their breath showed alcohol consumption. Sure, a really determined drinker could figure out a way to disconnect this box, but it would prevent drinkers who didn’t plan to drive drunk, who didn’t realize how drunk they were, to put public safety at risk.

    These devices weren’t cheap, when invented. But with economies of scale, and modern technology, these devices should be as cheap as a cell phone. In terms of actually saving lives, preventing the sudden tragic loss of young productive adults, and their children, this would have been a much more cost effective use of public safety funds.

  5. arcticredriver says...

    Andy, can I ask if you know whether Shaker has said anything about June 10, 2006? Your readers may remember that this was the night when JTF-GTMO was forced to announce the first three official deaths in custody there. They claimed that the three men committed suicide. Admiral Harry Harris shamefully called these so-called suicides an “act of asymetric warfare”.

    Later, it emerged that there was reason to believe that four men had been taken to “Camp No” to be subjected to “dry-boarding”, a more dangerous torture technique than the related “water-boarding”. It was said that all four men there had rags stuffed down their throats, so they started to experience the feeling of dying of suffocation, and that only Shaker survived.

    Didn’t some human rights workers suggest that his release from Guantanamo was delayed, for years, because, once released, he would be able to give his account of 2006-06-10, and confirm that the other men did not commit suicide, but had instead been subjected to this brutal, dangerous technique, which he survived, and they did not.

    Shaker’s release was delayed even after Binyam Mohammed, who had actually been tortured, was released.

    Those of us who haven’t survived years of torture and deprivation can only imagine its effects. I am sure I join with your other readers in wishing Shaker and all the other innocent men, and all the men who may have met the criteria to have been determined to be combatants, but who did not themselves play a role in any terrorist acts, as full a recovery as possible.

    It is possible that Shaker can no longer remember back to 2006, that all his torture and deprivation has blended into one long nightmare, he is doing his best to forget.

    But if he could refute or confirm anything about those events, I think it would generally benefit public safety, around the world.

    P.S. Trump recently rewarded monstrous Harry Harris with an Ambassador’s appointment

  6. Andy Worthington says...

    Thanks, arcticredriver. Good to hear from you, as always, and to have your perspective on how, nearly 17 years after 9/11, the constant fearmongering about terrorism completely distorts reality, and, as you mention, other, bigger killers like cars. Not to mention how absolutely crucial environmental issues have also been cynically shunted aside as the entire rotten corrupt western establishment constantly pushes Islamist terrorism as the only thing to worry about.

  7. Andy Worthington says...

    To respond briefly, arcticredriver, on the occasions that I’ve met Shaker he hasn’t shown any willingness to talk about what he went through, although I have no reason to think that he doesn’t remember everything.
    I presume he just wants to get on with his life, after such a long time in Guantanamo.

    P.S. Yes, I also saw that about Harry Harris’s appointment. These old monsters never go away, do they?
    Did you know, for example, that, after six years at the Heritage Foundation, David Addington is now Senior Vice President, General Counsel, and Chief Legal Officer at the National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB)? https://www.nfib.com/bio-david-s-addington/

  8. arcticredriver says...

    My friend Joshua Boyle has got me thinking about William Sampson. He was one of seven Europeans arrested on trumped up charges, then tortured, by the Saudis, in the early 2000s. Rather, the other men were EU citizens. Sampson was a joint citizen of the UK and Canada.

    We learned, via WikiLeaks, that it looks like the Saudis never believed he or the other men committed the crimes they were convicted of, and never knew anything, making their torture even more worthless than usual from an intelligence point of view. We learned, via WikiLeaks, that it seems the real reason the Saudis seized them was to trade them for the first cohort of Saudis released from Guantanamo.

    Why did they seize Europeans, not Americans? A mystery.

    Sampson was absolutely furious with the Canadian consular officials he was allowed to meet. His interrogators had warned him of the tortures he would endure if he told the diplomats he was being maltreated. He thought part of their diplomatic training should have prepared them to be good observers, and recognize when a prisoner’s denials of abuse should not be taken at face value.

    Sampson was in his late thirties or early forties, when released. He abandoned Canada, and lived in the UK, but only for a few years.

    Movie heroes shake off being tortured. But it seems no one is ever the same after being tortured.

    You probably read about the domestic criminal charges Joshua faces. He spent four months undergoing a mental health evaluation. I am rooting for him to have as full a recovery as possible.

  9. Andy Worthington says...

    I hadn’t heard any of this before, arcticredriver. I’m actually quite shocked – both by the Saudis’ torture of westerners, and by the suggestion that the men were seized to be traded for five Saudis in Guantanamo. There’s a link to an article about that on the Wikipedia page for William Sampson, but it’s a dead link: “STEVE MAICH (31 October 2005). ‘William Sampson Reveals his Mistreatment by the Saudis’. Maclean’s.” There’s also the following, unsupported by any citations: “Officials of both the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (UK) and the State Department (USA) have ‘anonymously’ confirmed this information. [citation needed] A memorandum between officials of the Belgian Ministry of Foreign Affairs referring to the prisoner exchange adds further evidence of its occurrence. [citation needed] The Belgian government has confirmed both the authenticity of the memo and its knowledge of the exchange, but has denied any direct involvement in the negotiations. [citation needed]”
    See: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_Sampson_(author)
    As for Joshua Boyle, you have mentioned him to me before, and it sounds like he has really been suffering mentally: https://www.ctvnews.ca/canada/former-afghanistan-hostage-joshua-boyle-released-on-bail-1.3959784
    As you say, and both examples seem appropriate, with Sampson dying when he was just 52, “Movie heroes shake off being tortured. But it seems no one is ever the same after being tortured.”

  10. arcticredriver says...

    Ah. He was already in custody on 9-11. I got that wrong.

    That Maclean’s article was republished here… https://www.thecanadianencyclopedia.ca/en/article/william-sampson-reveals-his-mistreatment-by-the-saudis/

  11. Andy Worthington says...

    Thanks, arcticredriver.

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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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