On January 11, 2017, a coalition of human rights activists, torture survivors, Guantanamo attorneys, 9/11 family members, and members of diverse faith communities held a “Rally to Close Guantanamo” outside the U.S. Supreme Court in Washington, D.C. The rally was followed by a march to the Senate Building where the confirmation hearing of Senator Jeff Sessions for Attorney General was taking place.
The rally marked 15 years since the first prisoners were brought to the U.S. detention facility in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba.
The groups called on President Obama to expedite releases from Guantánamo and to make public the full U.S. Senate Torture Report. They demanded that President-elect Trump reject the use of torture, continue transferring men from Guantánamo, end indefinite detention, and reject national security or other measures that discriminate against Muslims.
President Obama has failed in his pledge of eight years ago to close the US detention camp at Guantánamo. To borrow the Bill of Rights Defense Committee & Defending Dissent Foundation, Guantánamo remains a living symbol of US torture and other human rights abuses, and a place of misery for the 59 men it still houses. Most of them have never been charged with, let alone tried for, any crime.
The Supreme Court rally featured statements by representatives of Amnesty International USA, the Center for Constitutional Rights, the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), The National Religious Campaign Against Torture, September 11 Families for Peaceful Tomorrows, Witness Against Torture, and other groups.
Robert S. McCaw, Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) National Government Affairs Director was of the view: “Our outgoing president has failed in his promise to close this prison and our incoming president does not view himself responsible for safeguarding the constitutional values which are meant to protect those in our custody from the abuses of indefinite detention and lack of due process.” Nihad Awad, CAIR executive director told the rally the U.S. is hypocritical for preaching democracy around the world while violating basic democratic values.
“We are here once again, as a people who believe in justice and goodness on the shameful 15th anniversary of the opening of Guantanamo (detention camp),” said the Rev. Ron Steif, executive director of the National Religious Campaign Against Torture, comprising over 300 religious organizations. “Today, we stand with those who are held unjustly in Guantanamo… who were sold for bounty. We stand with those in Guantanamo who were tortured, we stand with those held in Guantanamo who are imprisoned without chance of trial.”
The Center for Constitutional Rights Torture (CCR), said any attempt by the Trump administration to bring back torture or to send new people to Guantánamo will be strongly opposed in the United States and throughout the world. Any effort to persecute Muslims – or any other religious, racial, or ethnic group – through special immigration or surveillance measures is unacceptable.
Dr. Maha Hilal, Executive Director, National Coalition to Protect Civil Freedoms, argued the Guantanamo “prison exists as one of the most egregious manifestations of the War on Terror, demonstrating how the U.S. government has completely devalued and dehumanized Muslim life.”
Andy Worthington of CloseGuantanamo.org said the closure of Guantanamo prison is necessary not just to fulfill his own promise to close it, made eight long years ago, but also to prevent Donald Trump from sending new prisoners there, and refusing to release any others, as he has threatened, as recently as last week.
The Guantanamo detention camp was set up in 2002 by the Bush administration in the wake of the 9/11 attacks, to house terrorism suspects, many of whom were never officially charged with crimes. Once it has housed nearly 800 suspects from 17 countries, majority from Afghanistan.
The rally and march was sponsored by: Amnesty International USA, The Bill of Rights Defense Committee, the Center for Constitutional Rights, CloseGuantánamo.org, Code Pink, the Council on American-Islamic Relations, Defending Dissent Foundation, Ray McGovern with Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity, National Coalition to Protect Civil Freedoms, National Religious Campaign Against Torture, No More Guantánamos, September 11th Families for Peaceful Tomorrows, the Torture Abolition and Survivor and Support Coalition, Veterans for Peace, We Stand with Shaker, Witness Against Torture, Women Against Military Madness, World Can’t Wait, and others.