Guantanamo Has Been Open Longer Under President Obama Than President Bush

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As of January 30th, 2016, Guantanamo will be open under President Obama longer than it was open under President Bush. Here is one detainee’s story—and he is not alone:

“When I used to go for interrogations, I was unable to walk because of the restraints on my legs and tightness on my feet. I would fall down to the ground and scream that I cannot walk. They would pick me up from the ground and I would walk with them while they are hitting me on the way to the interrogation until I would bleed from my feet. When I would fall to the ground, they would drag me while I am on the ground. … Sometimes they would put a weapon on my head threatening to kill me….”

This is how Guantánamo detainee Toffiq al-Bihani described the treatment he suffered at the hands of the CIA before coming to Guantánamo. Starting in early 2002 the U.S. government detained and interrogated Toffiq for about a year. After being subjected to the infamous CIA torture program, he was transferred to Guantánamo in early 2003. That’s where he remains to this day.

As of January 30, 2016, the detention camp has been open under President Obama longer than it was open under President Bush. Despite multiple promises to close Guantánamo, President Obama oversees the continued detention of 91 individuals including Toffiq. SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

Guantánamo is entering its fifteenth year. Here are 5 people waiting for President Obama to keep his promise to close it.

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On January 11, 2016, the detention camp at Guantánamo Bay will enter its fifteenth year of existence. The “forever prison” is perhaps the most infamous icon of the human rights abuses resulting from the global war on terror. Instead of justice for the September 11 attacks, Guantánamo has given the world torture, indefinite detention and unfair trials. SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

After Paris: Don’t Sacrifice Human Rights in the Name of Security

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By Dana Gallaty, Security with Human Rights Action Network

amnestyIt is concerning, though unsurprising, that some U.S. lawmakers’ and politicians’ initial reactions to the horrific attacks in Paris earlier this month were to respond to one set of human rights abuses by threatening another.

Last month, Donald Trump suggested American Muslims should be tracked and forced to carry identification cards denoting their religious beliefs. That statement—and the din of anti-Muslim fear-mongering on mainstream media right now— echo the anti-Semitism that preceded atrocities committed during World War II against Jews in Europe. SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

After 13 years, Shaker Aamer Is Leaving Guantanamo: Here are 5 Things You Should Know

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By Gay Gardner, Amnesty International USA member

I’m an activist with Amnesty International, and today is a reminder of why I have been doing this for more than 30 years. Shaker Aamer is finally returning to his family in the U.K., after being held without charge at Guantanamo for more than 13 years. Amnesty’s campaign, along with the work of countless activists around the world, has helped get the U.S. government to release him. It is the unwavering defense of the dignity of individuals such as Shaker Aamer that inspires me and keeps me active in Amnesty. SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

4,000 Days in Limbo at Guantanamo

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Obaidullah, from Afghanistan, has been in U.S. military custody since July 2002 (Photo Credit: Amnesty International).

Obaidullah, from Afghanistan, has been in U.S. military custody since July 2002 (Photo Credit: Private).

By Rob Freer, Amnesty International Researcher on the USA

Imagine this.

You are 19-years-old, asleep in your family home in a remote rural village. In the middle of the night, foreign soldiers burst in.

They put a hood over your head and force you to sit against a wall. You are terrified.

After a few hours, bound hand and foot and still hooded, you are taken to a military base.

There you are physically assaulted, interrogated, threatened with a knife and deprived of sleep and food. You fear you will be killed.

After what you think is about 48 hours – your disorientation makes it difficult to know for sure – you are bundled, still hooded and shackled, into a helicopter and flown to another, larger military facility. There the interrogations and abuse continue.

Three months later, you are taken from your cell, your head is shaved, you are put into shackles and blacked-out goggles, and you and some others are thrown into a transport plane and tied down like cargo.

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President Obama: Put Words Into Action

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On May 23rd, 2013, President Obama made his first major speech on national security since 2009 (Photo Credit: Getty Images).

On May 23rd, 2013, President Obama made his first major speech on national security since 2009 (Photo Credit: Getty Images).

As I watched President Obama’s speech yesterday on national security, I thought of all the people who have been detained, tortured or illegally killed by the US government since 9/11 and about all of the individuals and communities that have been discriminated against based on their race, religion or identity.

I thought about how these terrible human rights violations were committed in the name of keeping me safe. It made me angry and ashamed. With that perspective, I was also angry that President Obama has said too little, too late. Did he even mention human rights in the speech?

But at another level, I was glad to see that there has been enough pressure on the President, from the hunger strikers, to impacted communities to the public, such that he felt he had to address these issues.

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Nothing Justifies This

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June 26th is the International Day in Support of the Victims of Torture and Amnesty International has launched a powerful new online video – “Hooded” – to mark the occasion.

Hooding is a practice that gets to the heart of the relationship between the torturer and his – or her – victim. The hooded victim is dehumanized – hooding deprives the victim of a face, of an identity – and dehumanization is almost always a precursor of abuse.

The anthropologists Ashley Montagu and Floyd Matson famously labeled dehumanization “the fifth horseman of the apocalypse”, an essential precursor to war, rape, pillage and genocide.

Hooding is disorientating. It is designed to restrict the victim’s ability to defend himself – or herself – from harm. It is also calculated to instill fear, a dread of the unknown, of the dark.

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One of Guantanamo's Forgotten Prisoners

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Shaker Aamer protest in London

Shaker Aamer was cleared for release by the Bush administration in 2007. (Photo by Leon Neal/AFP/Getty Images)

Shaker Aamer, a former UK resident of Saudi descent, has been held without charge at the US detention center at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, for nearly 10 years. He was cleared for release by the Bush administration in 2007 but is still inexplicably incarcerated more than four years later.

Shaker was detained by irregular Afghan forces in Jalalabad in December 2001, shortly after the beginning of Operation Enduring Freedom. By his own account he had been in Afghanistan working for a Saudi charity and no compelling evidence refuting this contention has been presented.

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Close Gitmo and Help Solve the Debt Crisis

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(JTF Guantanamo photo by U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Gino Reyes)

It is not news to any taxpayer in the country that the United States is facing a debt crisis and that public spending is under scrutiny like never before, yet one decade-long drain on the public exchequer has so far escaped the financial meltdown completely unscathed: The Guantanamo Bay Detention Camp.

The main detention facility at Gitmo cost about $220 million to build and, according to the White House, estimated annual operating expenses come in at around $150 million.

To give you an idea of the kind of value for money this investment represents, the Bureau of Prisons noted last year that it cost $27,251 to incarcerate someone in the federal prison system for a year, as compared to an estimated cost of $650,000 per inmate at Guantanamo.

In additional to the hundreds of millions of dollars lavished on the detention facilities, still more money has been poured into the development of courtrooms for the Military Commissions which, since their establishment in 2006, have only heard six cases.

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