At the start of his administration, President Obama signed an executive order mandating the closure of the detention camp at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba within a year. Yet the prison remains open, and on January 11, 2011 it enters its tenth year of operation. Failing to fulfill the executive order, the Obama administration has also extended some of the worst aspects of the Guantánamo system by continuing indefinite detentions without charge or trial, employing illegitimate military commissions to try some suspects, and blocking accountability for torture both by refusing to conduct independent and thorough investigations and by attempting to prevent the courts from reviewing lawsuits brought by formerly detained men.
As human rights organizations and people of conscience, we are calling for the closure of Guantánamo and both transparency at all U.S.-run detention sites and accountability for the abuses that happen within them. We oppose secret detention sites, including so-called “filtration” or “screening” sites like the covert “black prison” at Bagram, where even the International Committee of the Red Cross has been denied access and where abusive interrogations are allegedly taking place. We also express our opposition to excessively punitive conditions of confinement in prisons and detention centers inside the United States, and note that prolonged solitary confinement is a form of torture prohibited under international standards for human rights. We reject the continuation of illegal and abusive Bush-era detention and interrogation policies by the Obama administration.
The story of Guantánamo remains the shameful case of the U.S. government rounding up nearly 800 men and boys, indiscriminately labeling them “the worst of the worst,” and throwing them into an island prison designed to exist beyond the reaches of the law, where they would have no right to challenge their detention or abuse. The vast majority of the prisoners at Guantánamo should never have been detained in the first place. Many were simply in the wrong place at the wrong time and were fleeing the chaos of war when U.S. forces entered Afghanistan. Only one in twenty was captured by the U.S. military. Most were captured by local civilians and authorities in Afghanistan and Pakistan and sold to the United States in exchange for substantial bounty. According to Colonel Lawrence Wilkerson, a senior State Department official who served in the Bush administration between 2002-2005, the Bush administration knew early on that the majority of the men at Guantánamo were innocent but did not release them due to political concerns that doing so could harm support for the government’s push for war in Iraq and the broader “Global War on Terror.”
It is now clear that the Obama administration has no plans to close Guantánamo anytime soon, while opposition from Congress makes that goal even more remote. The prison at Guantánamo continues to exist in violation of both ethical and legal standards, and at risk to our collective safety. President Obama must act decisively or risk making Guantánamo and the Bush detention regime permanent features of the U.S. landscape. We call on President Obama and relevant departments within his administration to:
• Recommit to rapidly closing Guantánamo, and make clear that many of the men there were detained in error. It is by now well established, including by former administration officials, that the majority of the prisoners at Guantánamo should never have been detained. If President Obama were to exercise leadership and acknowledge this, it would help create the political atmosphere necessary to close the prison.
• Charge or release the men detained at Guantánamo. In 2004 and 2008, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the prisoners at Guantánamo may challenge their detention in U.S. federal court by means of habeas petitions. Since then, federal judges have ruled in the great majority of cases that the government lacked evidence sufficient to justify the continued detention of the petitioners. Other men at Guantánamo have been cleared for release by the U.S. government’s own Guantánamo Review Task Force, which consists of representatives from every government agency with a stake in the matter, including the Department of Justice, the Department of Defense, and the CIA. All men ultimately cleared for release by the courts or the government should be immediately repatriated or resettled, and all others should be formally charged and tried in a fair and open proceeding.
• Abandon any plan for indefinite detention. The Obama administration has declared it will hold approximately 50 of the men at Guantánamo indefinitely without charge or trial, and plans to formalize indefinite detention through an executive order. The official justification is that these men are “too dangerous” to release but “not feasible” to prosecute, purportedly because there is not sufficient evidence against them that meets the minimum standards of any court; because their trials could compromise intelligence-gathering; or because detainees could challenge evidence obtained through coercion. But federal courts are fully capable of dealing with sensitive evidence, and if the government only has tainted evidence against a detainee, then the only evidence it has is both illegal and unreliable, and does not justify continued detention. The administration’s plan for indefinite detention constitutes a system of pre-emptive incarceration based on the alleged probability of future crime, and not on verifiable past conduct. This plan is flatly inconsistent with the rule of law and should be rejected.
• Lift the blanket ban on all repatriations to Yemen. The Obama administration must end its indefinite suspension of all repatriations of Yemeni men at Guantánamo and allow those who have won their habeas cases or been cleared for release by the U.S. government’s own extensive Guantánamo Review Task Force to go home. The Yemeni men, like all detainees, must be individually evaluated on the basis of what they have done, not punished based on their nationality or the alleged actions of others.
• Cease forcible repatriations of men whose safety is threatened by transfer. There are men at Guantánamo who have expressed a strong fear of returning to their countries of origin and who should not be repatriated where there is reason to believe they may be at risk on their return. No detainee should be transferred to a state where credible risks exist to his safety.
• Lift the ban on resettling men into the United States. More than 15 countries, including France, Spain, Portugal, Ireland, Hungary, Belgium, Switzerland, Albania, Latvia and Palau, have accepted detainees for resettlement without incident. The U.S. government should also offer a home to men who have won their habeas cases or been cleared for transfer and have no other safe country to go to. (A federal judge did order the release of clearly innocent Uighur Muslim detainees into the United States, but both the Bush and Obama administrations appealed the case and then Congress acted to bar any resettlement of wrongly detained men to the United States.) Offering to resettle such men would also encourage other countries to make similar offers and help shut Guantánamo
• Fully investigate the deaths of men who died in detention, including the three who died in 2006. Three detained men who were never charged with any crime died at Guantánamo in June 2006. Initially reported as suicides, new evidence from four soldiers stationed at the base has raised serious questions about the circumstances surrounding their deaths. Until now, the Obama administration has not only failed to conduct an independent and thorough investigation of the deaths but has opposed inquiry and review by the courts.
• Ensure accountability for crimes. Despite its promise of a new era of accountability and respect for the rule of law, the Obama administration has repeatedly acted to ensure impunity for those under the Bush administration who planned, authorized, and committed torture. The Obama administration must honor its promise by conducting a comprehensive inquiry into well-documented and grave human rights abuses at Guantánamo and elsewhere, including torture. Specifically, the Attorney General should appoint an independent prosecutor with a full mandate to investigate and prosecute those responsible for torture and other war crimes, as far up the chain of command as the facts may lead. Moreover, President Obama should condemn newly revealed pressure by his own administration to secretly obstruct efforts within the Spanish judiciary to investigate egregious violations of international law, including the torture of former Guantánamo detainees and other individuals who have been subjected to the U.S. torture program, and fully cooperate with the proceedings in Spain.
• Take responsibility for the wellbeing of the men after they are released. The U.S. government must not hold men without charge in inhumane conditions for years, subject them to abuse including torture, and then repatriate and resettle them in far corners of the world, leaving their rehabilitation and reintegration to other governments, organizations, and individuals. The government has a responsibility to ensure that the men have adequate support and resources after release.
We also urge the international community to offer safety to men at Guantánamo who cannot leave until third countries come forward to offer them resettlement, and to ensure their rights and wellbeing once resettled. Many of the men resettled have not been granted permission to work, to travel, or to reunite with their families after years of separation and anguish, and the legal status of many remains in limbo.
We invite people of conscience all over the world to work with us to make sure Guantánamo is closed with justice, and recommit to advocating towards this end.
Organizational Signatures: The Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR); Amnesty International U.S.A. (AI-USA); Witness Against Torture (WAT); International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH); National Lawyers Guild; Center for Justice and International Law (CEJIL); Women Journalists Without Chains (WJWC-Yemen); Human Rights Information & Training Center (HRITC-Yemen); Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies (CIHRS-Egypt); La Ligue Algerienne pour la Defense des Droits de l'Homme (LADDH-Algeria); Comite de Accion Juridica (CAJ-Argentina); Liga Argentina por los Derechos del Hombre; Observatorio Ciudadano (OC-Chile); La Fundación Regional de Asesoría en Derechos Humanos (INREDH-Ecuador); Asociación Pro Derechos Humanos de España (APDHE-Spain); Scotland Against Criminalising Communities; Human Rights Foundation of Turkey (HRFT-Turkey); Finnish League for Human Rights (FLHR); Galway Alliance Against War (Ireland); The Egyptian Organization for Human Rights; Human Rights Association (IHD-Turkey); Cageprisoners-UK; Physicians for Human Rights; Torture Abolition and Survivors Support Coalition International (TASCC); The Program for Torture Victims; Metro NY Religious Campaign Against Torture; Guantanamo Justice Center-UK; Progressive Democrats of America; Project SALAM; Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR); Appeal for Justice: A Human Rights Law Practice; Center for Justice and Accountability; South Asia Solidarity Initiative (SASI), Action for a Progressive Pakistan; Pakistan Solidarity Network; Bill of Rights Defense Committee (BORDC); Defending Dissent Foundation; No More Guantánamos; War Resisters League; Friends of Human Rights; National Coalition to Protect Civil Freedoms (NCPCF); Global Exchange; Alliance for Justice; Human Rights Defense Center; CODEPINK for Peace; WESPAC Foundation; International Justice Network; United for Peace and Justice (UFPJ); Amnesty International Ithaca Group 73; Military Law Task Force of the National Lawyers Guild; Disbar Torture Lawyers; Casa Esperanza; New Security Action; Historians Against the War; NC Immigrant Rights Project; womenstanding; Peace and Justice Task Force at All Souls Unitarian Church; Society of Jesus- New York Province; Iraqi Refugees Assistance Connection; Peace and Justice Center of Sonoma Country (CA); WBAI Local Station Board; San Miguel County Board of Commissioners; Voices for Creative Nonviolence; Theater Three Collaborative; Progressive Peace Coalition of Columbus, Ohio; Peace Action of Montgomery County, MD; Peace Action New York State; Pax Christi Metro New York; Western New York Peace Center; White Rose Catholic Worker; Women in Black, Idyllwild CA; World Can't Wait; Connie Hogarth Center for Social Action; Warisacrime.org; Freedetainees.org; The Make Agency; Justice Through Music; Justice for the Newburgh Four; War Criminals Watch; BADIL Resource Center for Palestinian Residency and Refugee Rights (Bethlehem, West Bank); Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR-Gaza); Palestinian Human Rights Organization (PHRO-Lebanon); Committees for the Defense of Democracy Freedoms and Human Rights in Syria (CDF-Syria); Kurdish Organization for the Defense of Human Rights and the General Liberties in Syria (DAD-Syria); The Human Rights Organization in Syria (MAF-Syria); The Arab Organization for Human Rights in Syria (AOHRS-Syria); National Organization for Human Rights in Syria (NOHR-Syria); The Kurdish Committee for Human Rights in Syria (KRDCHR-Syria); Civil Liberties Organization (CLO-Nigeria); Damascus Center for Human Rights Studies (DCHRS-Syria); Committees for the Defense of Democracy, Freedom, and Human Rights in Syria (CDY-Syria); Asamblea Permanente de Derechos Humanos-Bolivia (APDHB-Bolivia); Comisión Cubana de Derechos Humanos y Reconciliación Nacional (CCDHRN-Cuba); La Liga Mexicana por la Defensa de los Derechos Humanos A.C. (Limeddh-Mexico); La Fundación Diego Lucero A.C.; La Asociación de Familiares de Detenidos Desaparecidos y Víctimas de Violaciones de Derechos Humanos en México; El Observatorio Nacional de Prisiones México (ONP México); La Red Universitaria de Monitores de Derechos Humanos (RUMODH); El Centro de Derechos Humanos Coordinadora 28 de Mayo A.C.; La Asociación de Derechos Humanos del Estado de México (ADHEM-Mexico); Grupo de Mujeres de San Cristobal de las Casas - México; La Comisión Ecuménica de Derechos Humanos (CEDHU-Ecuador); El Centro de Capacitación Social de Panama; Asociación Pro Derechos Humanos (APRODEH-Perú); Programa Venezolano de Educación Acción en Derechos Humanos (PROVEA-Venezuela); Acción Solidaria en VIH/Sida - Venezuela; Comité de Familiares de las víctimas de los Sucesos de Febrero y Marzo de 1989 (COFAVIC-Venezuela); Vicaría Episcopal de Derechos Humanos de Caracas - Venezuela; Oficina Jurídica para la Mujer de Cochabamba (Bolivia); Instituto de Derechos Humanos de la Universidad Centroamericana "José Simeón Cañas" (IDHUCA- El Salvador); Observatorio Venezolano de Prisiones (OVP-Venezuela); Comisión Ecuménica de Derechos Humanos (CEDHU- Ecuador); Centro de Documentación en Derechos Humanos "Segundo Montes Mozo S.J." (CSMM- Ecuador); Plataforma Interamericana de Derechos Humanos Democracia y Desarrollo; Malta Association of Human Rights; International Muslim Women's League-Europe; Flemington & Kensington Community Legal Centre Inc. (FKCLC-Australia), Unione Forense per la Tutela dei Diritti Umani (UFTDU – Italy); Reforest the Earth, UK; Save Shaker Aamer Campaign- Last UK Resident in Guantanamo (SSAC); Brighton Against Guantanamo (UK); Worthing Against War (UK); Citizens United for Rehabilitation of Errants (CURE); Lewes Amnesty International Group (UK); Hellenic League for Human Rights Individual Signatures: Ann Wright (Ret. U.S. Army Colonel and State Department Official); Ray McGovern (Former US Army Intelligence Officer; CIA analyst); Ray Abourezk (Former U.S. Senator, South Dakota); Karen Greenberg; Chris Hedges (Journalist and Author, Pulitzer Prize Winner); Tom Hayden (Peace and Justice Resource Center); Yusuf Alatas (Vice President, FIDH); Manuel Olle Sese (Professor of Criminal Law, Rey Juan Carlos University, Madrid. Member of the Human Rights Association of Spain); Luis Acebal-Monfort (Board Member, Human Rights Association of Spain); Omar Deghayes (Legal Director of Guantánamo Justice Center; formerly detained at Guantanamo); Julie Weiner (M.S., Licensed Mental Health Counselor); Moazzam Begg (Director of Cageprisoners; formerly detained at Guantánamo); Andy Worthington (Journalist, Author, Filmmaker); Raji Sourani (Director, Palestinian Centre for Human Rights); Ariel Dorfman (Chilean author, Duke University); Leili Kashani (Guantánamo Global Justice Initiative, Center for Constitutional Rights); Frida Berrigan (Witness Against Torture); (Pardiss Kebriaei, Habeas Counsel, Center for Constitutional Rights); Abdeen Jabara (Center for Constitutional Rights, Fmr. President of the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee); David J. Cynamon (Attorney, Signing on behalf of Kuwaiti Detainees Fawzi al Odah and Fayiz al Kandari); Candace Gorman (Habeas Counsel); Matthew J. O'Hara (Attorney); E. Victor Mereski (Ret. US Navy, E9); Kristiina Kouros (Secretary General, Human Rights League); Ellen Schrecker (Yeshiva University, Dept. of History); Todd Gitlin (Columbia University, Professor of Journalism and Sociology); Noam Chomsky (Author, Former Institute Professor, MIT); Danial Saoud (President, Committees for the Defense of Freedoms and Human Rights in Syria); Mustafa Osso (President, Kurdish Organization for the Defense of Human Rights and the General Liberties in Syria); Mahmoud Merai (President, The Arab Organization for Human Rights in Syria); Ammar Qurabi (President, National Organization for Human Rights in Syria); Radeef Mustafa (The Kurdish Committee for Human Rights in Syria); Judith Butler (Author, Professor of Rhetoric and Comparative Literature, University of California at Berkeley); John D'Emilio (The University of Illinois at Chicago, Gender & Women's Studies and History); Almerindo E. Ojeda (The Guantánamo Testimonials Project); Ozturk Turkdogan (General President, Human Rights Association-Turkey); Yavuz Onen (Former President of Human Rights Foundation of Turkey, Human Rights Activist); Fr. Bob Bossie (SCJ, 8th Day Center For Justice); Michael P. Seng (Professor, The John Marshall Law School); Medea Benjamin (CODEPINK Women for Peace); Leonard Goodman (Attorney); Michael Berube (Pennsylvania State University, Director – Institute for the Arts and Humanities); Alice Kessler-Harris (Columbia University, Dept. of History); Gregory Fried (Suffolk University, Department of Philosophy); Paul A. Passavant (Hobart and William Smith Colleges); Nancy Fraser (The New School, Dept. of Political Science); Anna Marie Smith (Cornell University, Dept. of Government); Richard Flacks (University of California at Santa Barbara, Dept. of Sociology); Eli Zaretsky (The New School, Dept. of History); Maurice Isserman (Hamilton College, Professor of History); Jodi Dean (Hobart and William Smith College, Dept. of Political Science); William Blum (Author); Andrew Arato (The New School, Dept. of Politics); Richard Bernstein (The New School, Dept. of Philosophy); Lawrence Wittner (The State University of New York at Albany, Dept. of History); David Newbury (Smith College, Dept. of History); Van Gosse (Franklin and Marshall College, Dept. of History); Jinee Lakoneeta (Drew University, Dept. of Political Science); Nicola Foote (Florida Gulf Coast University, Latin American and Caribbean History); Timothy Patrick McCarthy (Harvard University, Carr Center for Human Rights Policy); Jay Bernstein (The New School, Dept. of Philosophy); Paul Apostolidis (Whitman College, Dept. of Political Science); Timothy Kaufman-Osborn (Provost and Dean of the Faculty, Whitman College); Stephen Duncombe (The Gallatin School, New York University, Media Studies); Neil Gordon (Author, The New School, Dept. of English); Jeremy Varon (The New School, Dept. of History); Michael S. Foley (Sheffield University, UK, Dept. of History); Alyson Cole (Queens College and the CUNY Graduate Center, Political Science Department and Women’s Studies Program); Roxanne Dunbar Ortiz (California State University, Professor Emerita); Oz Frankel (The New School, Department of History); Ian Lekus (Harvard University); Cyrus Bina (University of Minnesota, Distinguished Research Professor of Economics); Ben Sheperd (City University of New York, Department of Sociology); William Ayers (University of Illinois at Chicago, Distinguished Professor of Education); Dan Berger (Postdoctoral Fellow, University of Pennsylvania); Amy Kaplan ( University of Pennsylvania, Department of English); Victoria Langland (University of California at Davis, Department of History); Lauren Goodlad (Director, Unit for Criticism, The University of Illinois at Champagne-Urbana); John Morefield (Educational Consultant); Romand Coles (Northern Arizona University, Program for Community, Culture and Environment); Robert Shaffer (Shippensburg University of Pennsylvania, Department of History); Mark Hatlie (University of Maryland University College, Department of History); Robby Cohen (New York University, Department of Teaching and Learning); David Lelyveld (William Patterson University, Department of History); Michael J. Sullivan III (Drexel University, Professor of History and Politics); Michael Hanagan (Vassar University, Department of History); A. Tom Grunfeld (Empire State College, Distinguished Teaching Professor); John M. Shaw (Portland Community College, History Instructor); Nicolas J S Davies (Author); Scott Laderman (University of Minnesota, Duluth, Department of History); Avery Gordon (University of California at Santa Barbara); Dick Bennet (University of Arkansas, Fayetteville, Professor Emeritus of English); Keith Carson (Atlantic Cape Community College, Department of History); E. Wayne Ross (University of British Columbia, Department of Curriculum and Pedagogy); Michael C. Batinski (Department of History, Emeritus); Marc Becker (Truman State University, Professor of History); Marian Mollin (Associate Professor of History, Virginia Tech); Takao Takahara (Meiji Gakuin University, Japan, International Politics and Peace Research); Bruce Cohen (Worcester State University, Department of History); Judith Abbott (Sonoma State University, Department of History); Stan Nadel (University of Portland); Harriet Alonso (City College of New York, Department of History); Ralph Summy (University of Sydney, Centre for Peace & Conflict Studies); Kevin P. Clements (University of Otago, New Zealand, National Centre for Peace & Conflict Studies); Brad Simpson (Princeton University, History and International Affairs); Astra Taylor (Independent Filmmaker); Sam Green ( Independent Filmmaker); Joan Wile (Founder and Director, Grandmothers Against the War); Jeff Mangum (Musician, Neutral Milk Hotel); Andrew Boyd (The Other 98% and Agit-Pop Communications); Mitchel Cohen (Brooklyn Greens/Green Party); Robert Avila (arts journalist); Hilton Obenzinger (Author); Doug Rossinow (Metropolitan State University); Paul C. Mishler (Associate Professor of Labor Studies, IU Program in Labor Studies- IUSB); Richard Fedder (Civil Rights Attorney); Connie Hammond (Progressive Peace Coaliton of Ohio); Toby Lieberman (Affordable Housing Loan Program Director, Opportunity Fund, San Jose, CA); Elsie Monge (CEDHU-Ecuador); Cesar Duque (CEDHU-Ecuador); Carolina Pazmiño (CEDHU- Ecuador); Milton Vargas (CEDHU-Ecuador); Consuelo Cano (CEDHU-Ecuador); Alicia Granda (CEDHU-Ecuador); Luisana Aguilar (CEDHU-Ecuador); Susana Díaz (CEDHU-Ecuador); Mario Chuquimarca (CEDHU-Ecuador); Carl Schieren; Afaf Mahfouz; Roger Leisner (Radio Free Maine)