[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
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
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
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.
More information about the pjw-list