4 Things We Can Do in 2013 to Close Guantanamo

Jan 11, 2013 Guantanamo anniversary protest

© Scott Langley Photography

2013 has been a busy year at Amnesty already. From protesting torture at the Washington, DC premiere of the film Zero Dark Thirty to people across the US and around the world spending January 11 (the 11th anniversary of “war on terror” detainees arriving at Guantanamo) marching against the continued human rights violations being committed by the US government, we have some real momentum to start the new year.

We still don’t have the outcome we all want — President Obama hasn’t ended human rights violations and hasn’t kept his long-standing promise to close Guantanamo prison. But we are making progress. We know it will be a long fight, but history shows that change can happen through sustained activism. Just last week the infamous Tamms “supermax” prison in Illinois closed after years of campaigning. Guantanamo will be next!

We can’t do it without you. Here are 4 things we can do to close Guantanamo and promote human rights in 2013:


Prisoner Cleared for Release Marks 10 Years of Captivity at Guantanamo

Shaker AamerToday is the tenth anniversary of Shaker Aamer’s arrival at Guantanamo Bay. Even though he was cleared for release in 2007, he still languishes in a cell there today.

Shaker is a British resident of Saudi descent. He was captured in Afghanistan in December 2001 and was one of the first detainees transferred to Guantanamo when it opened in 2002.

We have seen much of the intelligence on which the US originally based its decision to hold Shaker courtesy of the WikiLeaks website.

Shaker’s Detainee Assessment Brief (DAB) revealed that the bulk of the case against him had been assembled from the testimony of other detainees at Guantanamo.

Prisoners with something to gain from cooperating with their jailers don’t make the most credible of witnesses. SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

10 Years On, 10 Reasons Guantanamo Must Be Closed

guantanamo protest france

(Pierre-Yves Brunaud)

Ten years ago today the first twenty prisoners arrived at the US military detention facility in Guantanamo Bay. As we mark this dismal anniversary, it is instructive to take a moment to reflect on the damage Guantanamo continues to do to the global cause of human rights.

Guantanamo is much more than simply the sum of its parts, and outlined below are 10 powerful anti-human rights messages that the continued existence of the detention facility sends out to the world:


Stop the Ayotte Amendment and Support Fair Trials

Update: We did it — thanks to your calls, the Senate successfully defeated Senator Ayotte’s amendment to ban fair trials for terror suspects! But the fight isn’t over. Please continue to help fight against other legislation that would keep Guantanamo open.

Sentor Kelly Ayotte R-NH ©Alex Wong/Getty Images

A new and dangerous amendment has been put on the appropriations omnibus bill on the Senate floor today — and now’s the time to pick up the phone and urge your Senators to vote no. Senator Kelly Ayotte (R-NH) has introduced an amendment to H.R. 2112 that would bar all federal trials for foreign terrorist suspects and goes further than any previous attempt to undermine the fight against terrorism.


US Courts Best Equipped To Fight Terror

Yesterday in Manhattan federal court, with a minimum of fuss, Arid Uka was charged with first degree murder.

Uka, an ethnic Albanian from Kosovo, allegedly murdered two US servicemen and wounded two others in an assault on a bus full of USAF personnel at Frankfurt International Airport in March 2011.

Uka reportedly told German authorities that he was seeking revenge for the US invasion of Afghanistan and had been stirred to action after watching videos on YouTube. He claimed to be acting alone and said that he was not affiliated to any terrorist group.

Uka is currently detained in Germany and the United States is seeking his extradition to stand trial in New York. No one in New York has bleated about security fears or called for Uka to be sent to GTMO. The wheels of justice grind on slow and sure.

What a contrast with Kentucky where Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell has been calling hysterically for two Iraqi refugees recently arrested in his state to be shipped to Guantanamo post haste without due process of law so that he can sleep safely in his bed at night once more.


Stop Press

The pretrial hearings in the Omar Khadr case ended last week on two particularly sour notes.

First, in a profound blow to the credibility of the Military Commissions process the Department of Defense banned four journalists covering the trial from returning to GTMO.

The four journalists were blackballed for revealing the identity of Interrogator #1. Three of the four are Canadian and they include Michelle Shephard of the Toronto Star who has written a book about the Khadr case, “Guantanamo’s Child”.

The fifth reporter is the Miami Herald’s Carol Rosenberg who has followed the Military Commissions for years and is practically a permanent fixture in GTMO. You can read the Pentagon’s letter by clicking on this link.

What makes this decision so absurd is that Interrogator #1’s identity has been public knowledge for more than two years. He outed himself in 2008 by giving an exclusive interview to Michelle Shephard about his role in Khadr’s interrogation. I suspect Al Qaeda already has access to Google.

Judge Parrish has gone to great lengths this week to stress his commitment to conducting as transparent a proceeding as possible – refusing to hear arguments in chambers that can be made in the courtroom.

The Pentagon has blown this open posture out of the water in an attempt to shut a stable door two years after it was left wide open.

More alarming still was that this decision coincided with an extraordinary attack on Omar Khadr’s defense attorneys by the Chief Prosecutor, Captain John Murphy, at a press conference held after the hearings closed.

Captain Murphy publically accused Khadr’s defense team of ethical violations in the statements that they had given the media about the case over the previous two weeks. He said that he would be referring these violations to the appropriate authorities for investigation.

Taken together it is difficult to escape the conclusion that these two initiatives are intended to intimidate both reporters and defense attorneys from pushing too hard as they perform their duties on GTMO.

There are already precious few guarantors that defendants at the Commissions will receive a fair trial as it is – the government now seems to want to undermine these slim safeguards even further.

Don't Just Close It, Close It Right!

OK, I just ate lunch (yes at 4:39 PM) and I need a few minutes to digest before I dive into emails, so I thought I’d post this, off the top of my head. Please excuse any burrito-coma induced spelling and/or grammatical and/or policy mistakes.

Anyway, there’s been a lot of talk in the last week about when and how President-elect Obama will close GTMO, and while it’s good that he’s said he will close it, it needs to be done the right way.

In part, that means no:

“National Security Courts.” As a New Yorker who saw the towers fall, I want the people responsible held to account–and that means a FAIR trial.  US federal courts can do the trick, and they’ve done it before: e.g., the first WTC bombing and the Oklahoma City bombing. We didn’t need the unfair military commissions set up by the Military Commissions Act and we don’t need a replacement system that’s also unfair.  Agree? Let President-elect Obama know through the change.gov website.

Transfer of detainees to countries where they will be at risk of human rights abuse. The US government is obligated to ensure that people released from U.S. custody are relocated to countries where their human rights will be respected. If the US can’t find a safe place for them, then they should be brought to the US. (Case in point: the Uighurs.) Agree? change.gov website.

Indefinite detention. There’s been talk about people who can’t be tried but who are too dangerous to release. This is absurd. People must either be charged with a crime and given a fair trial, or be released. End of story. That’s the way it works. Either there’s evidence against you or there isn’t. change.gov website.

Lollygagging. I’ve seen quite a few articles, NY Times and The New Yorker included talk about how difficult it will be to close GTMO. I don’t see it. Either charge people and given them a fair trial in a US federal court, or release them to a country where they won’t be at risk of human rights abuse. Problem solved. change.gov

…And no forgetting about Bagram and all the other U.S. facilities–from Afghanistan to Iraq to secret places we don’t know about–where people are held outside of the law. Yup, change.gov

Agree on all? Join us!