By Andy Worthington, May 2, 2013
Please sign the petition to President Obama, asking him to close Guantánamo now.
With a prison-wide hunger strike raging at Guantánamo, the world's media -- and people all around the world -- have woken up to the fact that a chronic injustice is still ongoing at Guantánamo, and that nothing will be done about it unless serious pressure is exerted on President Obama and on Congress, who, between them, have ensured that none of the remaining prisoners at Guantánamo -- 166 in total -- can leave the prison alive under any circumstances.
This is a monstrous betrayal of all notions of justice and decency. The men at Guantánamo are indefinitely detained without charge or trial -- a situation that is unacceptable under any circumstances -- even though 86 of them were cleared for release at least three years ago by a sober and responsible inter-agency task force that President Obama established when he took office in January 2009 -- when, of course, he also promised to close Guantánamo within a year.
In the hope of persuading President Obama to take the necessary steps to resume releasing prisoners from Guantánamo, and to revisit his failed promise to close the prison once and for all, following the fine words he uttered at a press conference yesterday, my colleague Col. Morris Davis has launched a petition, via Change.org, entitled, "President Obama: Close Detention Facility at Guantanamo Bay," which has gone viral, attracting over 110,000 signatures in two days, a sure sign that the American people -- and people around the world -- have woken up to the horrors of Guantánamo, and do not intend to be brushed aside.
Col. Davis, who is one of the signatories on the mission statement of the "Close Guantánamo" campaign, which the attorney Tom Wilner and I established last January, is the former chief prosecutor of the military commissions at Guantánamo. He resigned in 2007 when he was placed in a chain of command under Pentagon General Counsel William J. Haynes, who advocated for the use of torture, and had been instrumental in formulating the Bush administration's torture policy for so-called "high-value detainees" seized in the "war on terror." I am honored to have shared a stage with Col. Davis at events in Washington D.C. marking the anniversary of the opening of Guantánamo for the last three years, and I commend him on his timing and his commitment to righting the wrong that is Guantánamo.
Col. Davis's petition more or less echoes calls that I have been responsible for promoting on the "Close Guantánamo" website, and on my website, calling for President Obama to appoint someone to deal with the closure of Guantánamo, to drop his own ban on releasing cleared Yemenis, and to demand that Congress also drops its unjustifiable obstacles to the release of prisoners.
Specifically, Col. Davis calls for Chuck Hagel to "issue the certifications or national security waivers required by the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA 2013) to effect transfers from Guantánamo." This is hugely important if Congress fails to be swayed by calls for lawmakers to drop their obstructions to the release of prisoners, as it allows the administration to bypass Congress if lawmakers fail to be swayed by the need to stop posturing and close Guantánamo once and for all.
Col. Davis also calls for the President to appoint someone to deal specifically with the closure of Guantánamo, and to commit to closing the prison, showing that he is serious by immediately releasing Shaker Aamer, the last British resident, and Djamel Ameziane, an Algerian represented by the Center for Constitutional Rights. These men are two of the many worthy candidates for release, but please look at this article if you want to know more about the prisoners cleared for release but still held.
Please, please, please sign the petition and forward it to everyone you know. As I explained when I signed it two days ago, "Every day this prison remains open the virus of injustice continues to eat away at America's soul. Close it now, Mr. President!"
I served 25 years in the U.S. Air Force, I was the Chief Prosecutor for the Terrorism Trials at Guantanamo Bay for more than two years, and now I need your help.
I personally charged Osama Bin Laden’s driver Salim Hamdan, Australian David Hicks, and Canadian teen Omar Khadr. All three were convicted … and then they were released from Guantánamo. More than 160 men who have never been charged with any offense, much less convicted of a war crime, remain at Guantánamo with no end in sight. There is something fundamentally wrong with a system where not being charged with a war crime keeps you locked away indefinitely and a war crime conviction is your ticket home.
As of April 29, 2013 -- 100 of the 166 men who remain in Guantánamo are engaged in a hunger strike in protest of their indefinite detention. Twenty-one of them are being force-fed and five are hospitalized. Some of the men have been in prison for more than eleven years without charge or trial. The United States has cleared a majority of the detainees for transfer out of Guantánamo, yet they remain in custody year after year because of their citizenship and ongoing political gamesmanship in the U.S.
That is why I am calling on Secretary of Defense Charles Hagel to use his authority to effect cleared transfers from Guantánamo and on President Obama to appoint an individual within the Administration to lead the effort to close Guantánamo. Obama announced on April 30 that he plans to do his part to close Guantánamo, but he has made this promise before. Now is the time to hold him to his promise and urge him to take the steps necessary to dismantle Guantánamo Bay Prison.
If any other country were treating prisoners the way we are treating those in Guantánamo we would roundly and rightly criticize that country. We can never retake the legal and moral high ground when we claim the right to do unto others that which we would vehemently condemn if done to one of us.
It is probably no surprise that human rights and activist groups like the Center For Constitutional Rights, Witness Against Torture and Amnesty International have been outspoken critics of Guantánamo. It may surprise you that a former military prosecutor and many other retired senior military officers and members of the intelligence community agree with them.
The Patriotic thing, the American thing, the Human thing to do here is to Close Guantánamo. Please join us in the fight by signing this petition.
President Barack Obama
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington DC, 20500
Re: Concern about hunger strike and stalled efforts to close the detention facility at Guantánamo Bay
Dear President Obama,
I am writing to urge you to take immediate steps to end indefinite detention without charge and begin closing the detention facility at Guantánamo Bay. If ever there was a moment to act upon the promise you made more than four years ago to close Guantánamo and begin to restore America’s reputation as the champion of the rule of law, it is now.
For several weeks, major news outlets, attorneys for the detainees, and even military officials have reported that there is a hunger strike occurring among a significant number of the men detained at Guantánamo. As a detention facility official told reporters during their visit the week of April 15, “there will be more than one death.” The current situation is the predictable result of continuing to hold detainees indefinitely without charge for more than eleven years. Therefore, I urge you to begin working to transfer the remaining detained men to their home countries or other countries for resettlement, or to charge them in a court that comports with standards we would accept if it was Americans on trial. I also urge you to appoint an individual within your administration to lead the transfer effort.
Specifically, I ask that you:
1) Direct Secretary of Defense Charles Hagel to use his authority to issue the certifications or national security waivers required by the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA 2013) to effect transfers from Guantánamo.
2) Appoint an individual within your Administration to lead the effort to close Guantánamo.
3) Announce a concrete and specific plan to close the facility. As a first step and a clear signal that this is the beginning of a new chapter in Guantánamo’s legacy, you should immediately release Shaker Aamer and Djamel Ameziane.
I urge you to order the relevant authorities to take swift measures to humanely and lawfully address the immediate causes of the hunger strike in a manner consistent with international standards of medical ethics before irreparable harm occurs to the detainees. Moreover, I urge you to take steps to address the root of the problem by fulfilling your promise to close Guantánamo without further delay. While I stand ready to support the Administration’s efforts to close Guantánamo Bay in a manner consistent with its international legal obligations, this problem demands the leadership that only you as the President of the United States can provide. I urge you to act now.