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Ten Years Too Long: Time to Close Guantanamo

on January 6, 2012

January 11, 2012 marks the ten-year “anniversary” of the first detainees imprisoned at the US Naval Base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Today, nearly 170 men remain in Guantanamo--incarcerated without ever having been tried for a crime, yet living in severe conditions and cut off from their families and communities. Many have survived torture and abuse at the hands of their American captors. They do not know when, if ever, they will leave the prison. It is time to close Guantanamo and stop this illegal and immoral practice.

Despite having promised to shutter the prison three years ago, President Obama recently signed into law the National Defense Authorization Act for 2012 (NDAA), which makes military indefinite detention permanent for some individuals and places extraordinary restrictions on the ability to transfer the men at Guantanamo—the majority of whom have been cleared for release—home or to other safe countries. With these laws in place, it will be difficult for the President to make good on his promise to close Guantanamo, unless the American people stand up for justice and human rights.

On January 11, PHR joins a broad coalition of human rights groups and like-minded organizations to mark the ten-year existence of a prison that symbolizes torture and the absence of the rule of law.  On Wednesday, January 11, 2012, in Washington DC, a rally will be held at Lafayette Park beginning at 12 p.m., followed by a human chain vigil at 1 p.m. that extends from the White House to the Capitol, illustrating the complicity of the American government in human rights violations. Participants are expressing their opposition of the detention provisions in the NDAA and are urging President Obama to keep his promise and shut down the detention facility.

Speakers at the rally include Colonel Morris Davis, executive director of the Crimes of War Education Project, who previously served as the chief prosecutor for the office of military commissions at Guantánamo Bay; Talat Hamdani, mother of Salman Hamdani, an emergency medical technician who died in the September 11, 2001 attacks while helping people at the Twin Towers in New York City, and Ramzi Kassem, an attorney who represents Guantanamo and Bagram detainees.

Guantanamo has become a place to hold human beings indefinitely, without charge or trial. As PHR has reported, medical evidence demonstrates that indefinite detention can cause lasting physical and psychological damage that may rise to the level of torture and cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment. We the People must insist our government stop violating the same human rights we are trying to promote worldwide. Guantanamo and the practice of indefinite detention committed at home and on our behalf must end.

Places: United States