By Andy Worthington, January 11, 2013
On the 11th anniversary of the opening of the lawless prison at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, where 166 prisoners seized in the "war on terror" remain imprisoned, I am in Washington D.C., having traveled from my home in London to take part in events designed to raise awareness of the burning need for the injustices of Guantánamo to be brought to an end, for the 86 cleared prisoners still held to be released, and for the others to be tried or released -- or, if the political courage exists, to be redefined as prisoners of war, protected by the Geneva Conventions, so that we can finally begin to ask how long this ill-defined and open-ended "global war" can actually last.
Only those paying close attention seem to know that, of the 86 cleared men still held, all were cleared for release under President Obama in 2009, through the sober and careful deliberations of an interagency Guantánamo Review Task Force, and around half were also cleared for release by President Bush between 2004 and 2007, and yet they remain held because of political inertia, or cynical fearmongering, in all three branches of the U.S. government -- the administration, Congress and the courts.
As those of us who care, and who can find the time to travel, protest outside the Supreme Court, the Capitol and the White House in Washington D.C. -- or take part in other events in Chicago, Dallas, Detroit, Los Angeles, Miami and London -- I wanted to make available to you a message from my friend Omar Deghayes, who was held in U.S. custody, mostly at Guantánamo, from May 2002 until December 2007, when he was released, to be reunited with his family in the U.K. Omar has marked the end of his fifth year of freedom by writing an appeal for justice to President Obama. He sent it to me accompanied by a note in which he said, "Hope you have a good, safe and successful journey to the States. Wanted to be with you in spirit there with all those who care. Please thank them on my behalf and wanted to share these thoughts with them."
Omar's message is below:
On 11th January 2013, we relive and remember the pain and suffering still being endured by many detainees kept far, behind bars and walls, alone, voiceless and stripped of every right, and so are their loved ones, a never extinguished flame in the heart.
Three years after he repeatedly promised to bring this shame to an end, President Obama failed to fulfil his promise, and there it remains a black blemish on the American morality.
I was lucky and grateful to be reunited with my family and back to the warmth of my home, to be touched, at last, by the soft cool wind of freedom, but my joy is incomplete and will remain so, until the rest of the unlawfully held detainees share my experience of freedom at last.
Before another one dies, and loses his rights even after his death, before another one loses his eye sight forever as myself, please bring this grave violation of the most basic human rights to an end, please free these detainees and unite them, intact, with their families, before the rest of their youth perishes behind concrete walls.
Most of these remaining detainees have been cleared for release years ago, never been condemned of committing any crime, yet no laws on earth seem to have the power to save them out of this evil and immoral place.
I strongly urge President Obama to take the right step, and leave behind a legacy that lives up to the terms of his Nobel peace prize.
Former Prisoner at Guantánamo Bay
Legal Director GJC (Guantánamo Justice Centre)
Board member of Cageprisoners