January 11, 2014, Washington, D.C. – Today marks the 12th anniversary of the arrival of the first men to be detained without charge at Guantánamo. Human rights and civil liberties groups gathered opposite the White House at noon to demand President Obama honor his many promises to close the prison. They then proceeded to the National Museum of American History to indicate that Guantánamohas become a part of the American landscape, but must become relegated to the American past.
Today, 155 men are still detained at Guantánamo. Many of these men have been cleared for years but remain imprisoned, trapped by politics. More than half of the men are Yemeni, and despite the fact that President Obama lifted his self-imposed ban on transfers to Yemen last spring, not one has been sent home since 2010.
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Center for Constitutional Rights, Amnesty International, Witness Against Torture, Codepink: Women for Peace, National Religious Campaign Against Torture, September Eleventh Families for Peaceful Tomorrows, Council on American-Islamic Relations, Bill of Rights Defense Committee, Project Salam: Support and Legal Advocacy for Muslims, Reprieve, Torture Abolition and Survivors Support Coalition, World Can’t Wait, Defending Dissent Foundation, The Blue Lantern Project, CloseGuantánamo.org, Columban Center for Advocacy and Outreach, Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns, Interfaith Action for Human Rights.
Vincent Warren, Executive Director, Center for Constitutional Rights: “This January 11, most of the men at Guantánamo begin their 13th year of arbitrary detention. Their continued imprisonment remains a travesty of justice, which the men themselves brought back into the consciousness of the world through their mass hunger-strike this year. And today, the base is looking increasingly like an internment camp for Yemeni men. Although most were cleared for release years ago by the Obama administration, Yemenis now constitute more than half the population at Guantánamo. Their collective punishment based on their nationality must end. To make real progress towards closing Guantánamo, the administration must release these men without further delay. It could start by releasing our Yemeni clients Tariq Ba Odah, Mohammed al-Hamiri, Fahd Ghazy, and Ghaleb Al-Bihani.”
Steven Hawkins, Executive Director, Amnesty International USA: “Guantánamo is immoral, expensive and unnecessary. President Obama was right to refocus in 2013 on closing it. This year it’s time to get the job done. The President must immediately ensure that each detainee is either fairly tried in US federal court or released to a country that will respect his human rights. Political posturing and Congressional restrictions on transfers do not justify further delay. Each day Guantánamo remains open, our rights to due process and a fair trial slip further away.”
Nihad Awad, National Executive Director, Council of American-Islamic Relations: “Twelve years is too long for the U.S. to imprison men at Guantánamo without charge or trial. For six years, the president has promised to close this prison, which has become a blemish on our nation’s commitment to the rule of law, yet the situation has not improved. We are responsible for safeguarding theconstitutional values that are meant to protect all Americans, persons who reside in the U.S., and those in our custody from the abuses of indefinite detention and lack of due process. We must shut down the prison at Guantánamo.”
Jeremy Varon, Witness Against Torture: “Clearly responding to the hunger strike at Guantánamo and an outpouring of pressure worldwide, the Obama administration is at last taking real steps to close the prison. But the administration has a long way to go. No prisoner should remain at Guantánamo one minute longer. So we will keep up the pressure until he President’s promise is fulfilled and the United States squarely confronts the reality of torture and indefinite detention.
Rev. Ron Stief, Executive Director, National Religious Campaign Against Torture: “As people of faith, we believe that torture is a moral abomination that runs contrary to the teachings of all religions. Not only is torture illegal, it affects all involved—the victims, perpetrators, and policy-makers—and dishonors God and the traditions of all our faiths. Congress has recently given President Obama new tools that will allow him to follow through on his past promises by dramatically reducing the prisoner population in Guantánamo, a symbol of U.S. torture. The more than 325 religious organizations that belong to the National Religious Campaign Against Torture affirm the need to close Guantánamo and put an end to this sad and immoral chapter of U.S. history.”
Medea Benjamin, Cofounder, CODEPINK: Women for Peace: “In 2013, it took a massive, torturous hunger strike to get the Obama administration to begin the trickle of 11 prisoners released fromGuantánamo. With Congress loosening restrictions on freeing cleared prisoners, the administration has fewer and fewer excuses. President Obama should stop talking about how Guantánamo should be closed, and start acting on it.”
Valerie Lucznikowska, September Eleventh Families for Peaceful Tomorrows: “The release of a few long-exonerated prisoners from Guantánamo, prompted by a long-term prison hunger strike, has been hailed by many as a sign of its imminent closing. As a family member of a victim murdered on 9/11, I reject congratulating this administration, and ask—when will we see real justice after 12 years of this shameful gulag? Where is restitution for those released without any charges? The Military Commissions court has been laboring for years to invent a new form of justice to try some prisoners, when they could have been tried and judged fairly in federal courts long ago. GTMO prisoners are all Muslims, and Muslims are being targeted by U.S. drones strikes in Yemen, Afghanistan and Pakistan, energizing those who say America is waging religious war. Isn’t it time we Americans resolve to closeGuantánamo and make amends to live peacefully with our neighbors on this small planet?”
Shahid Buttar, Executive Director, Bill of Rights Defense Committee: “Despite reaching the White House on a pledge to reverse the Bush legacy, President Obama has entrenched it. Outrageously, dragnet NSA surveillance continues, as does indefinite detention without trial or proof of crime. And asGuantánamo Bay enters its 13th year, former U.S. officials complicit in torture continue to draw taxpayer-funded salaries from the federal appellate bench and public university faculties. To reverse the Bush legacy and enable one of its own, the Obama administration must close Guantánamo, declassify the Senate’s secret report on U.S. human rights abuses, and hold those responsible accountable.”
Luke R. Nephew, The Blue Lantern Project: “With the enduring tragedy of Guantánamo Bay’s illegal prison, the United States has openly adopted a practice of torture and disrespect for the rule of law. This practice is seeping into our society as an illness. Hope for justice is dying. The treatment is urgent advocacy, organizing and resistance. It’s time to stand up, sing out, and force our government to respect the rights of all human beings now!”
Andy Worthington, CloseGuantánamo.org: “Last year, it took a prison-wide hunger strike for President Obama to resume releasing prisoners from Guantánamo, after three years of inaction. That was a good start, but 76 prisoners are still held who were cleared for release four years ago and they must be freed as soon as possible. There can be no more excuses.”
Debra Sweet, Director, Director, World Can’t Wait: “Guantánamo is a torture camp from which the only exit for the last several years, up until late 2013, was in a coffin. Obama needs to immediately release the 76 cleared prisoners who have waited for years; charge or release those 45 men being held indefinitely without charges, and close the prison.”