Next Tuesday, October 11, President Obama will have just 100 days left to close the prison at Guantánamo Bay, as he promised to do when he first took office in January 2009.
To encourage him to fulfill his promise, we at "Close Guantánamo" have spent all year running the Countdown to Close Guantánamo, which our co-founder Andy Worthington launched in January on Democracy Now! with the music legend Roger Waters.
We began with a poster that read, "President Obama, you have one year left to close Guantánamo," and then repeated it at 50-day intervals — 350 days on February 4, 300 days on March 25, 250 days on May 14, 200 days on July 3, 150 days on Aug. 22. See the photos here and here, here too and also here.
We are delighted that over 450 photos have been submitted to the Countdown to Close Guantánamo to date, and we hope you will join us next Tuesday to remind President Obama of his unfulfilled promise. Print off the poster here, take a photo with it, and send it to us. We’ll post them here, and on our social media accounts (Facebook and Twitter).
As it stands now, it looks as if President Obama will not succeed in fulfilling his promise to Guantánamo. Congress remains opposed, and laws are still in place to prevent him from bringing any Guantánamo prisoner to the U.S. mainland for any reason. He could issue an executive order, bypassing Congress, but that would bring him into conflict with officials in whatever state or states he chose to bring the prisoners to. As Commander in Chief, it ought to be viable for him to move the men to a military facility, but as we have seen repeatedly in analyses of the problems with closing Guantánamo, there are officials within the Pentagon who do not want to see Guantánamo closed.
If Hillary Clinton wins the Presidential Election in November, and if the Democrats have a majority in both the Senate and the House, it’s possible that President Obama could do something in the small window of opportunity he would have in the new year, before Clinton’s inauguration, but we think it seems more likely now that the task of finally closing Guantánamo will fall to his successor.
We are, however, relieved that President Obama has been doing so much in the last year to work towards Guantánamo’s closure. 55 men have been released in the last year, and throughout this year the pace at which Periodic Review Boards have been taking place has noticeably increased. The PRBs are a parole-like process to assess whether men previously regarded as "too dangerous to release" or as candidates for prosecution can be freed, and out of 64 men’s cases in total, 43 reviews have taken place this year. Overall, the PRBs have led to recommendations that 33 men should be freed (and 20 have been released ), while 23 others have had there ongoing imprisonment upheld, and eight decisions have yet to be taken. Just 61 men are still held, and 20 of those men have been approved for release, and should be released before President Obama leave office.
We remain concerned that the military commission trial system, for the ten men facing trials, is an irredeemably broken system, and we also remain concerned that the men whose ongoing imprisonment has been upheld by the PRBs are still suffering a second-rate form of justice, not held as prisoners of war according to the Geneva Conventions if they were combatants, and not being put on trial if they are regarded as having been involved in any way with terrorism, which is a crime.
We hope that eventually, when Guantánamo is closed, these men will be able to make fresh legal challenges regarding the inadequate basis for their ongoing imprisonment (the Authorization for Use of Military Force, which Congress passed immediately after the 9/11 attacks).
For now, however, we believe that the least we can do is to keep making noise about the need to close Guantánamo before President Obama leaves office, and we hope that you will join us in the latest phase of the Countdown to Close Guantánamo.