[pjw] INFO: Over 100 Organizations Call On Biden To Close Guantanamo Bay (Huffington Post 2/2)

Peace and Justice Works pjw at pjw.info
Wed Feb 3 14:42:56 EST 2021

PJW supporters

A PJW member sent this aticle about a national letter to shut Guantanamo 
yesterday, and it also showed up on the Portland Mercury's blog. We didn't 
hear about the letter before it was sent but likely would have signed it 
(even though we rarely sign on to letters we haven't been involved in 

dan handelman
peace and justice works

Over 100 Organizations Call On Biden To Close Guantanamo Bay
    02/02/2021 12:00 pm ET Updated 9 hours ago
    In a letter shared exclusively with HuffPost, advocates are urging
    Biden to follow through on former President Obama's efforts to close
    the controversial facility.
    By Rowaida Abdelaziz

    Over 100 national and local human rights organizations called on
    President Joe Biden Tuesday to close the infamous Guantanamo Bay
    detention facility once and for all.

    "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 Guant?namo and ending indefinite detention of those held there
    is a necessary step towards those ends," read a letter from the Center
    for Constitutional Rights, American Civil Liberties Union, The Center
    for Victims of Torture, Amnesty International, and dozens of others
    shared exclusively with HuffPost.

    The controversial camp, which was established by former President
    George W. Bush in 2002 following the Sept. 11 attacks and initially
    meant to detain terrorism suspects, has morphed into a human rights
    black site. Since its opening, nearly 800 men and boys have passed
    through its cells, where many were subjected to torture and held
    without charge or trial.

    Biden had previously pledged to follow through on former President
    Barack Obama's efforts to close the facility, which currently houses
    approximately 40 individuals. About 1,500 troops also serve in Cuba
    alongside 6,000 residents of the surrounding area.

    But the administration hasn't offered any further details or timeline.
    And closing the camp is both politically and logistically tricky.

    The administration would need to figure out what to do with the
    remaining captives -- several of whom have already been cleared for
    release and others who have been indefinitely detained without trial.
    Another difficulty is the COVID-19 pandemic, which delayed the military
    commission proceedings for the men accused of plotting the 9/11 attacks
    which were originally scheduled to begin last month.

    Last week, the Pentagon announced it would pause its plan to vaccinate
    those held at Guantanamo Bay after backlash from critics and members of
    the Republican Party. A group of former prisoners who at one point were
    detained at Guantanamo Bay also penned a separate letter to Biden on
    Friday echoing the calls for him to close down the facility.

    The Department of Defense did not respond to HuffPost's request for
    comment about the administration's plans for the facility.

    Running the facility has cost over $540 million in one year - almost
    $13 million per prisoner - according to a 2019 report, making it the
    world's most expensive detention facility. But it's remained open
    through multiple presidencies. In 2018, former President Donald Trump
    signed an executive order to keep the prison open after pledging during
    his campaign to "load it up with some bad dudes."


    Gitmo has been dubbed as the "legal equivalent of outer space" where no
    laws are intended to apply. Former detainees and media reports have
    detailed horror stories of torture and abuse that took place there,
    including food and sleep deprivation, beatings, waterboarding and
    sexual humiliation.

    Scott Roehm, the Washington director at The Center for Victims of
    Torture, described the facility as a representation of the United
    States' "destructive approach to national security."

    "It's a cancer that for two decades has metastasized throughout U.S.
    domestic and foreign policy and Guantanamo is the tumor that needs to
    be excised as a first step towards curing the rest," Roehm said.
    "That's why you see so many groups working on so many different issues
    and representing such a diverse set of communities, coming together to
    push the president to finally close the prison.

    Mohamedou Salahi, a Mauritanian citizen who spent more than 14 years in
    detention at Guantanamo Bay, was among those subjected to repeated
    brutal and severe torture including being "beaten, sexually throttled,
    put in extreme isolation, shackled to the floor, stripped naked and put
    under strobe lights while being blasted with heavy metal music,"
    according to a Justice Department investigation.

      I had no chance to defend myself inside Guantanamo Bay or make
      public appearances to challenge the narrative. Mohamedou Salahi

    "Guantanamo Bay is simply a violation of human rights, of human dignity
    and need to stop these exceptions that people from my part of the
    world, i.e., Africa and the Middle East, don't have the right for human
    life," Salahi told HuffPost over the phone from Mauritania.

    "I can't stand this anymore and I don't want [Gitmo to exist] anymore
    and I'm ready to use my profile, my money, my standing, and everything
    that is legal to enjoy those same rights," he added.

    He was never charged with an offense during his time at Gitmo. One year
    after releasing his 2015 memoir, "Guant?namo Diary," Salahi was
    released to Mauritania.

    "I had no chance to defend myself inside Guantanamo Bay or make public
    appearances to challenge the narrative," he said.

    Salahi considers himself lucky. He was able to earn some money from his
    memoir and is currently working on his second book. (His memoir was
    adapted into a film starring Jodie Foster and Benedict Cumberbatch set
    to premiere this month.)

    Still, he faces challenges trying to rebuild a life after Gitmo. He's
    unable to travel to Germany where his wife and 2-year-old son reside.
    He wants to ensure that no one else suffers his same fate. He is
    hopeful that Biden will be more successful than his predecessors and
    permanently shut down Gitmo.

    "The accountability for the torture program and Guantanamo is still
    unresolved and that is still something we're fighting for and have
    continued to," said Aliya Hussain, advocacy program manager at the
    Center for Constitutional Rights. "Each administration since then has
    played some role in sort of upholding that."

    Over 700 men have been released over the years, but the trauma,
    physical and psychological impacts as well as the stigma of being held
    at Gitmo continues to haunt those men, said Hussain. She noted that
    many of those held have little to no access to rehabilitation services
    and are struggling to resume a normal life.

    Despite the challenges and likely resistance from the GOP, advocates
    and legal organizations who signed on to Tuesday's letter are hopeful
    that the Biden administration will finally shutter Gitmo's doors and
    end its legacy for good.

    "Vice President Biden was one of the most reliable and determined
    voices for closing Guantanamo and for upholding the prohibition on
    torture. And now he has the power to actually close the prison's doors.
    He can do that. He just needs to follow through on the legacy that he's
    had until now," said Roehm.

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