111 Organizations, Including Close Guantánamo, Sign A Letter to President Biden Urging Him to Close the Prison and End Indefinite Detention

President Biden and the entrance to Camp 6 at Guantánamo.

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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.

We’re delighted that, two days ago, a letter we signed urging President Biden to close the prison at Guantánamo Bay, and to bring to an end the process of indefinite detention without charge or trial that has typified its aberrations over the last 19 years, was delivered to the White House, signed, in total, by 111 organizations.

We’re grateful to the Center for Constitutional Rights and the Center for Victims of Torture for initiating the letter, and to everyone who signed on, from old friends and colleagues including Amnesty International USA, CODEPINK, Reprieve US, Sept. 11th Families for Peaceful Tomorrows and Witness Against Torture, to other organizations that are new to us.

As CCR and CVT explained in a press release, “The letter is signed by organizations ranging from those working to end anti-Muslim discrimination and torture to immigrant rights organizations and organizations working broadly on civil rights, civil liberties, and racial justice at the national and local level.”

The letter aptly describes Guantánamo as “the iconic example of the post-9/11 abandonment of the rule of law,” and “the most expensive prison in the world,” noting that, while the prison “continues to cause escalating and profound damage to the men who still languish there,” it also “continues to fuel and justify bigotry, stereotyping, and stigma” both at home and abroad, as exemplified, under Donald Trump, by his proposal to send undocumented immigrants to Guantánamo to be held as “enemy combatants,” by “his odious Muslim Ban, each iteration of which was explicitly promulgated under the false pretense of protecting the nation from terrorism,” and by the “militarized federal response to protests against the extrajudicial killings of George Floyd and other Black people.”

In conclusion, the letter urges President Biden “to act without delay, and in a just manner that considers the harm done to the men who have been imprisoned without charge or fair trials for nearly twenty years.”

Publicizing the letter, Scott Roehm, Washington director at the Center for Victims of Torture, said, “The president has supported closing Guantánamo since his days as a senator, and now he has the power to do it. This isn’t an intractable problem, but it’s also not one that lends itself to perfect solutions. If the president is determined to close the prison, he can, and in relatively short order. Unless and until he does, Guantánamo’s corrosive impact — both literally and for what it represents — will continue to deepen and spread.”

Aliya Hussain, Advocacy Program Manager at the Center for Constitutional Rights, added, “There is wide-ranging public support for President Biden to close Guantánamo. He must take bold and decisive action, and we will hold him accountable until he does.”

The letter is posted below, and we hope you have time to read it, and that you’ll share it if you find it useful.

Letter to President Biden urging the closure of the prison at Guantánamo Bay by 111 NGOs

February 2, 2021

President Joseph Biden
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington, D.C. 20500

Dear President Biden:

We are a diverse group of non-governmental organizations working at both the local and national level and on issues including immigrants’ rights, racial justice, and combatting anti-Muslim discrimination. We write to urge you to close the prison at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, and to end indefinite military detention.

Among a broad range of human rights violations perpetrated against predominantly Muslim communities, Guantánamo — designed specifically to evade legal constraints, and where Bush administration officials incubated torture — is the iconic example of the post-9/11 abandonment of the rule of law. Nearly eight hundred Muslim men and boys were held at Guantánamo after 2002, all but a handful without charge or trial. Forty remain, at the astronomical cost of $540 million per year, making Guantánamo the most expensive prison in the world.

Guantánamo embodies the fact that, for nearly two decades following the September 11, 2001 attacks, the United States government has viewed communities of color — citizens and non-citizens alike — through a security threat lens, to devastating consequences. This is not a problem of the past. Guantánamo continues to cause escalating and profound damage to the men who still languish there, and the approach it exemplifies continues to fuel and justify bigotry, stereotyping, and stigma. Guantánamo entrenches racial divisions and racism more broadly, and risks facilitating additional rights violations.

For example, President Trump proposed sending undocumented immigrants to Guantánamo to be held as “enemy combatants.” He further built upon the discriminatory animus, policies, and practices that Guantánamo represents through his odious Muslim Ban, each iteration of which was explicitly promulgated under the false pretense of protecting the nation from terrorism. And the Trump administration’s militarized federal response to protests against the extrajudicial killings of George Floyd and other Black people was fueled by the war-based post-9/11 security architecture and mindset that Guantánamo epitomizes.

It is long past time for both a sea change in the United States’ approach to national and human security, and a meaningful reckoning with the full scope of damage that the post-9/11 approach has caused. Closing Guantánamo and ending indefinite detention of those held there is a necessary step towards those ends. We urge you to act without delay, and in a just manner that considers the harm done to the men who have been imprisoned without charge or fair trials for nearly twenty years.

Please contact Aliya Hussain at the Center for Constitutional Rights (ahussain@ccrjustice.org) and Scott Roehm at the Center for Victims of Torture (sroehm@cvt.org) with any questions or to discuss.

Sincerely,

Action Center on Race & the Economy
Adalah Justice Project
Advocate Visitors with Immigrants in Detention
American Civil Liberties Union
American Friends Service Committee
American Friends Service Committee, Colorado
American Muslim Empowerment Network (AMEN)
Amnesty International USA
Asian Americans Advancing Justice – Asian Law Caucus
Bellevue Program for Survivors of Torture
Birmingham Interfaith Human Rights Committee
Black LGBTQ+ Migrant Project
Borderlands for Equity
Bridges Faith Initiative
Capital District Coalition Against Islamophobia, Albany, NY
Center for Constitutional Rights
Center for Gender & Refugee Studies
Center for International Policy
Center for Victims of Torture
Central American Martyrs Center
Central Jersey Coalition Against Endless War
Centro de Trabajadores Unidos – IWP
Chicago Religious Leadership Network on Latin America – CRLN
CLEAR project (Creating Law Enforcement Accountability & Responsibility)
Cleveland Catholic Worker, Ohio
Cleveland Jobs with Justice
Close Guantánamo
Coalition for Civil Freedoms
CODEPINK
Defending Rights & Dissent
Demand Progress Education Fund
Denver Justice and Peace Committee
Detention Watch Network
EarthSong
Going Beyond Sustainability
Government Information Watch
Holy Spirit Missionary Sisters, USA-JPIC
Hope House
Human Rights First
Immigrant Advocacy Project
Immigrant Defense Project
Interfaith Community for Detained Immigrants
International Refugee Assistance Project
InterReligious Task Force on Central America (IRTF Cleveland)
Islamophobia Studies Center
Jews Against Anti-Muslim Racism
Justice for Muslims Collective
Kairos Community, NY
Lincoln Park Presbyterian Church
Louisiana Advocates for Immigrants in Detention
MADRE
MoveOn
Muslim Advocates
Muslim Justice League
Muslim Solidarity Committee
Muslim Solidarity Committee, Albany, NY
Muslims For Liberty
Muslims for Social Justice
National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers
National Immigrant Justice Center
National Immigration Project (NIPNLG)
National Network for Immigrant & Refugee Rights
National Religious Campaign Against Torture
Network in Solidarity with the People of Guatemala (NISGUA)
No More Guantanamos
NorCal Resist
North Carolina Stop Torture Now
Northern Illinois Justice for Our Neighbors
NWI Resistance
Oak Grove Church of God
Open Society Foundations
Pakistan Association of New York Capital District
Palestinian Rights Committee, Upper Hudson Peace Action
Peace Action
Peace Action: The New School
Peacemakers of Schoharie County, NY
Physicians for Human Rights
Project SALAM, Albany, NY
Project South
Provincial Council Clerics of St. Viator (Viatorians)
Reformed Church of Highland Park, NJ
Refugee Council USA
Reprieve US
Reviving the Islamic Sisterhood for Empowerment
Rural Awakening
School of the Americas Watch (SOA Watch)
School of the Americas Watch, Illinois Chapter
Sept. 11th Families for Peaceful Tomorrows
South Asian Americans Leading Together (SAALT)
Southwest Asylum & Migration Institute (SAMI)
T’ruah
Tea Project
The Advocates for Human Rights
The Feminist Front (FF)
Tsuru for Solidarity
Transformations CDC
UC Davis Immigration Law Clinic
United Stateless
US Campaign for Palestinian Rights (USCPR)
USC Gould International Human Rights Clinic
Veterans For Peace
Veterans For Peace, Chapter 10
Vietnam Veterans Against the War, Inc.
Washington Office on Latin America
Win Without War
Witness Against Torture
Witness at the Border
Witness for Peace Southeast
Women Against War
Yemeni Alliance Committee
Yemeni American Merchants Association

* * * * *

Andy Worthington is a freelance investigative journalist, activist, author, photographer (of an ongoing photo-journalism project, ‘The State of London’), 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 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, or you can watch it online here, via the production company Spectacle, for £2.55).

In 2017, Andy became very involved in housing issues. He is the narrator of the 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 2017 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. For two months, from August to October 2018, he was part of the occupation of the Old Tidemill Wildlife Garden in Deptford, to prevent its destruction — and that of 16 structurally sound council flats next door — by Lewisham Council and Peabody. Although the garden was violently evicted by bailiffs on October 29, 2018, and the trees were cut down on February 27, 2019, the resistance continues.

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.

A Roadmap for the Closure of Guantánamo

The US flag at Guantánamo Bay (Photo: Brennan Linsley/Reuters).

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. If you can help, please click on the button below to donate via PayPal.





 

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.

With just five weeks to go until the Presidential Election, we’re pleased to note that, recently, six organizations involved in the long struggle to try and get the prison at Guantánamo Bay closed — the ACLU, Human Rights First, the Center for Victims of Torture, the Center for Constitutional Rights, the National Religious Campaign Against Torture, and September 11th Families for Peaceful Tomorrows — published detailed proposals for how, if voters remove Donald Trump from the White House in November, a new administration can move towards the closure of the prison.

Following up on our thoughts about this topic, which we published in July, in an article entitled, If Elected in November, Will Joe Biden Close Guantánamo?, we’re cross-posting below the NGOs’ proposals, as published on the Just Security website, which we think deserve to be as widely read as possible.

We are particularly taken with two suggestions put forward by the NGOs: firstly, that “the executive branch can expedite transfers by not opposing detainees’ habeas cases”; and, secondly, that progress towards the prison’s closure can also be effected by “charging a small subset of the remaining detainees in federal courts.”

Read the rest of this entry »

Military Judge Rules That Terrorism Sentence at Guantánamo Can Be Reduced Because of CIA Torture

Guantánamo prisoner Majid Khan, in a photo taken at the prison in 2018, and the military commissions judge, Army Col. Douglas K. Watkins, who has ruled that his sentence, based on a plea deal agreed in 2012, can be reduced because he was tortured in “black sites” by the CIA.

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. If you can help, please click on the button below to donate via PayPal.




 

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.

It’s been nearly two years since I last reported on the military commission trial system at Guantánamo, which is less an oversight than a tacit acknowledgement that the entire system is broken, a facsimile of justice in which the defense teams for those put forward for trials are committed to exposing the torture to which their clients were subjected in secret CIA “black sites,” while the prosecutors are just as committed to keeping that information hidden.

I’m pleased to be discussing the commissions again, however, because, in a recent ruling in the case of “high-value detainee” Majid Khan, a judge ruled that, as Carol Rosenberg described it for the New York Times, “war court judges have the power to reduce the prison sentence of a Qaeda operative at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, as a remedy for torture by the CIA.”

When I last visited the commissions, the chief judge, Army Col. James L. Pohl, who had also been the judge on the case of the five men accused of involvement in the 9/11 attacks since the men were arraigned in May 2012, had just caused a stir by ruling that confessions obtained by so-called “clean teams” of FBI agents, after the men were moved to Guantánamo from the CIA “black sites” where their initial confessions were obtained through the use of torture, would not be admitted as evidence. In a second blow, he announced his resignation.

Read the rest of this entry »

The Coronavirus and Guantánamo’s Extraordinarily Vulnerable Prison Population

A collage of Guantánamo and the coronavirus.

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. If you can help, please click on the button below to donate via PayPal.





 

Ever since the coronavirus began its alarming global spread, those who work with, and on behalf of prisoners have been aware of the threat that it poses to those who are incarcerated. This applies, as commentators have noted, whilst urging urgent action, to the many million of prisoners worldwide who are imprisoned after being tried and convicted of crimes, as well as, in some countries, political prisoners.

In the UK, lawyers urged the government, to no avail, to release Julian Assange, who is held in Belmarsh maximum security prison in London, fighting efforts by the British government to extradite him to the US to face entirely inappropriate espionage charges relating to his work with WikiLeaks, and in the US, as well as highlighting the dangers faced by the country’s 2.2 million domestic prisoners — the largest prison population per capita in the world — some activists have also been highlighting the dangers the virus poses to the 40 men still held in the prison at Guantánamo Bay, all held for between 12 and 18 years, and almost all held indefinitely without charge or trial.

The plight of the Guantánamo prisoners was particularly highlighted eight days ago, on March 24, when the US Navy announced in a press release that a sailor stationed at the base had “tested positive for COVID-19” and was “currently undergoing evaluation and treatment.” The Navy’s press release added that the Department of Defense had “notified public health authorities of the positive test” and had “taken prudent precautions” to ensure that the service member was “receiving the appropriate care.” It was also noted that the sailor was “currently isolated at their home and restricted in movement in accordance with the Center for Disease Control and Prevention Guidelines,” and that efforts were underway to trace recent contacts made by the sailor.

Read the rest of this entry »

Good News: Court Orders Trump Administration to Explain Its Position on Guantánamo After A Year of Shocking Inaction

Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly and a photo of the prison at Guantanamo Bay on the day of its opening, Jan. 11, 2002.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.





 

Two and a half weeks ago, on the 16th anniversary of the opening of the prison at Guantánamo Bay, lawyers for eleven of the 41 men still held at Guantánamo, from the Center for Constitutional Rights, Reprieve, and other legal firms, filed a habeas corpus lawsuit with the District Court in Washington, D.C., in which, as I explained in an article at the time, drawing on a CCR press release:

[I]t “argues that Trump’s proclamation against releasing anyone from Guantánamo, regardless of their circumstances, which has borne out for the first full year of the Trump presidency, is arbitrary and unlawful and amounts to ‘perpetual detention for detention’s sake.’”

CCR Senior Staff Attorney Pardiss Kebriaei said, “It’s clear that a man who thinks we should water-board terror suspects even if it doesn’t work, because ‘they deserve it, anyway’ has no qualms about keeping every last detainee in Guantanamo, so long as he holds the jailhouse key.”

CCR’s press release also stated, “The filing argues that continued detention is unconstitutional because any legitimate rationale for initially detaining these men has long since expired; detention now, 16 years into Guantánamo’s operation, is based only on Trump’s raw antipathy towards Guantánamo prisoners – all foreign-born Muslim men – and Muslims more broadly,” adding that “Donald Trump’s proclamation that he will not release any detainees during his administration reverses the approach and policies of both President Bush and President Obama, who collectively released nearly 750 men.”

Read the rest of this entry »

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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 and We Stand With Shaker. Also, photo-journalist (The State of London), and singer and songwriter (The Four Fathers).
Email Andy Worthington

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