By Andy Worthington, March 25, 2016
Today, March 25, marks 300 days until the end of Barack Obama's Presidency, and, to mark the occasion, celebrities and concerned citizens across the U.S. and around the world have been taking photos of themselves with posters, as part of the Countdown to Close Guantánamo campaign, reminding President Obama that he has just 300 days left to close the prison, as he promised to do on his second day in office back in January 2009. The poster is here, and you can send it to us here.
The actors David Morrissey and Juliet Stevenson, and the lawyer Clive Stafford Smith, the founder of Reprieve, which represents men still held at Guantánamo, are supporting the campaign, along with around 80 other people from the U.S. and elsewhere, who, to date, have sent in photos of themselves with posters reminding the president that he has just 300 days left, to add to the 180 photos sent in when the campaign was launched in January, and marking 350 days last month. All the photos are available on the website here and here, and some are also on our Facebook and Twitter pages.
The Countdown to Close Guantánamo is an initiative of the Close Guantánamo campaign, which I founded in January 2012 (as a journalist, activist and Guantánamo expert) with the attorney Tom Wilner, who represented the Guantánamo prisoners in their habeas corpus cases before the Supreme Court in 2004 and 2008. I launched the Countdown to Close Guantánamo in January this year with music legend Roger Waters (ex-Pink Floyd on Democracy Now!)
Since January, when President Obama released 21 men, there has, unfortunately, been little action on Guantánamo. 91 men are still held, even though 37 of these men have been approved for release (or "approved for transfer" in Guantánamo-speak) -- 24 since 2010, through the deliberations of the high-level, inter-agency Guantánamo Review Task Force that President Obama established shortly after taking office in 2009, and 13 through the deliberations of Periodic Review Boards, another high-level review process established in 2013 to review the cases of prisoners not already approved for release and not facing trials (just ten men are in this latter category).
Last month, President Obama delivered a plan for Guantánamo's closure to Congress, promising to release the men approved for release and to continue with the Periodic Review Boards, and hoping to work with Congress to get the prison closed once and for all. Officials spoke about the prisoners approved for release being freed by summer, and the first round of PRBs being completed by the fall, and the Countdown to Close Guantánamo's regular reminders of how many days he has left are intended to maintain pressure and awareness on the need for Guantánamo to be closed before President Obama leaves office.
The next date is May 14, marking 250 days to go, and 200 days falls on July 3, the day before Independence Day.
Speaking of the Countdown to Close Guantánamo reaching the 300-day mark, Tom Wilner said:
"Closing Guantánamo was one of the principal commitments President Obama made upon assuming office. He should not depart office leaving that lawless prison behind."
Andy Worthington said:
"It is never good news when President Obama goes quiet on Guantánamo. Delivering a plan to Congress is not enough. The President needs to free those men already approved for release, some of whom have been waiting for their freedom for over six years since they were first told the U.S. no longer wanted to hold them. He also needs make sure the Periodic Review Boards continue. To date they have approved for release 20 out of 24 men who, for too many years, were mistakenly described as 'too dangerous to release.' President Obama needs to know that the world is watching, and that he must close the prison as he promised before leaving office. Guantánamo is a legal, moral and ethical abomination, and every days it remains open is an affront to the notions of justice and respect for the rule of law that the U.S. claims to hold dear."
To remind President Obama of his promise to close Guantánamo before he leaves office, call the White House on 202-456-1111 or 202-456-1414 or submit a comment online.