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PHR Participates in International Rally to Urge Closure of Guantánamo

on January 13, 2012

On January 11, 2012, ten years after the first detainees were brought to Guantánamo, demonstrations took place across the globe to protest the continued existence of the prison camp that has come to symbolize torture and indefinite detention. From Washington DC all the way to San Francisco, across the ocean to London, Paris, and Brussels—hundreds of protestors marched, demonstrated and chanted slogans, demanding justice for the men at Guantánamo.

In Washington DC, at a pre-rally event at the National Press Club, former US judge advocate general John Hutson, stated, “It's not a rule of law unless it applies all the time, and it's not a human right unless it applies to all people.”

At the main event, an estimated 500-750 people gathered in front of the White House to call upon President Obama to keep his promise and close Guantánamo. Several people spoke in support of closure, including Talat Hamdani, a Muslim American whose son died in the attacks on World Trade Center on September 11, 2001. He said, “Guantanamo is a shame—a disgrace for our nation, and we need to set the record straight by leading by example.”

Several attorneys for the detainees also spoke, telling the crowd that the detainees themselves were engaging in a 3-day peaceful sit-in to demonstrate solidarity with the protestors and to demand they be sent home or put on trial. 

Despite a heavy downpour of rain, the protestors marched all the way to the Supreme Court, led by 171 individuals wearing orange jumpsuits and black hoods to represent the 171 men still remaining at Guantánamo. More than half of these were cleared for release almost two years ago by President Obama’s Task Force.

The procession made its way back to the White House where the group Witness Against Torture had set up a mock cell with a single “detainee” sitting inside.

I had the privilege of reading a poem written by a Guantánamo detainee. Perhaps Vince Warren, Executive Director of the Center for Constitutional Rights, said it best: “If we roll up the Constitution every time that there's a difficult factual situation, we might as well roll up the entire democracy.”

You can support the closure of Guantánamo by signing the petition here.

Places: United States