End 17 Years Of Injustice

Our Aims for 2020’s Presidential Election Year - and New Campaign Posters

"Close Guantánamo" campaign posters for 2020.

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By Andy Worthington, December 4, 2019

For those of us who care about the ever-pressing need for the prison at Guantánamo Bay to be shut down for good, the coming year is going to be challenging.

As long as Donald Trump remains president, and, frankly, as long as Republicans retain control of either the Senate or the House of Representatives, it is reasonable to assume that there will be no movement whatsoever towards the closure of Guantánamo.

Forgotten or ignored, Guantánamo may not even be mentioned at all on the presidential trail, but we’ll be doing our best to make America remember this stain on its national conscience, where 40 men are still held, for the most part without charge or trial, in defiance of all the legal and judicial values the U.S. claims to hold dear.

We’ve just commissioned new campaign posters in connection with our ongoing photo project involving our initiative the Gitmo Clock, which we first launched in 2013 and revived last year, and which counts, in real time, how long Guantánamo has been open.

We’ve just updated the Gitmo Clock, and have five new posters for 2020 — the first marks the 18th anniversary of the opening of Guantánamo on January 11, when the prison will have been open for 6,575 days. For February 5, 2020 there is a poster marking 6,600 days, for May 16 there is a poster marking 6,700 days, for August 24 a poster marking 6,800 days, and for Dec. 2 a poster marking 6,900 days.

By 2021, and the 19th anniversary of the opening of Guantánamo on January 11, 2021, we hope that there will be a new Democratic president and that Democrats will be in the majority in the Senate and the House — not that we are expecting too much from them; after all, under President Obama, they had eight years, between 2009 and 2016, to close Guantánamo, but they failed to do so.

However, our ultimate aim — the closure of Guantánamo once and for all — can, at present, only be regarded as even conceivable if the prison is under Democratic control, and while we encourage you to campaign for Guantánamo’s closure throughout 2020, and to contact your Senators and Representatives (and/or their challengers) to ask them to remember why Guantánamo must be closed, we’re also happy to ask if anyone in the Washington, D.C. area would be interested in approaching Democrats in the House (where Democrats currently have a majority) to discuss movement towards Guantánamo’s closure. Please get in touch if you’re interested.

Meetings took place last January, which fed into passages aimed at moving towards the closure of Guantánamo in this years’ National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which we wrote about in a recent article entitled, Closing Guantánamo, the Democrats and the NDAA. Significantly, as Just Security described it, the House draft, under the new chair of the House Armed Services Committee, Rep. Adam Smith (D-Wash)., was noticeably progressive in seeking to ensure "maximum flexibility for the Commander in Chief by imposing no restrictions on transfers to the United States" from Guantánamo, and also in its proposal that the Attorney General, in consultation with the Secretary of Defense, should "submit a disposition plan to the defense committees … identifying a disposition for each individual still detained at Guantánamo Bay … other than simply continuing to hold the individuals in continued law of war detention indefinitely."

Smith also made a point of mentioning the five men approved for release by high-level government review processes — the Guantánamo Review Task Force and the ongoing, parole-style Periodic Review Boards — under Barack Obama, but who were not released by the time Obama left office, and are still held by Donald Trump, who has no interest in releasing any of the 40 men still held under any circumstances.

Smith’s draft bill called for "an unclassified report to explain why none of the cleared detainees have been transferred and why the process has stalled," also noting that "the lack of transfers is not only problematic from a policy and human rights perspective," but "is also having a negative effect on the functioning of the ongoing periodic review board (PRB) process" — which, as we discussed recently, is now being boycotted by the prisoners, who have correctly concluded that it is now an empty process.

These proposals didn’t make it into the House’s final version of the bill, and, in any case, would not have survived the consolidation process with the Senate Armed Services Committee, which is currently ongoing, as both committees try to thrash out a workable final bill. However, it is clear that Smith’s proposals can and should be revisited this coming year, with even more radical proposals if Democrats gain the upper hand politically next year.

These would include: reinstating the Office of the Envoy for Guantánamo Closure, which Donald Trump scrapped; releasing prisoners who are not going be put on trial; finding a facility on the U.S. mainland that can be used to hold prisoners moved from Guantánamo so that the facility in Cuba can finally be closed; and establishing plans for the men transferred to the mainland to be put on trial in federal court, scrapping the broken military commission system, which is not fit for purpose, as should have happened all along.

All of these moves are necessary if we are to succeed in closing Guantánamo before another anniversary that none of us want to see, but which is only just over two years away: the 20th anniversary of the opening of the prison, on January 11, 2022.

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