Can You Make 1 Phone Call Before 5pm EST Today to Help Close Guantanamo?


Activists demonstrate against indefinite detention and unfair trials at US Naval Station Guantanamo Bay (Photo Credit: Shawn Duffy).

Angry. That’s how I felt when President Obama signed the 2013 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) into law, despite containing terrible provisions that run afoul of human rights standards and have been used to justify indefinite detention at Guantanamo.

Well, the NDAA is back in the House of Representatives this week and the bad Guantanamo provisions are in it again. Will you join me in demanding that Congress support the human rights of all people?

Pick up the phone and tell your Representative to support closing Guantanamo – but you must call before 5pm EST TODAY!


Do You Know Who is Detained at Guantanamo Bay?

guantanamoOn May 23, 2013, President Obama stated that history will cast a harsh judgment on the legacy of the Guantanamo Bay Detention Center and those who fail to end it. Unfortunately, the current reality is that dozens of men are detained in Guantanamo despite being cleared for transfer. Here are just a few:

Yusef Abbas, Hajiakbar Abdulghupur, and Saidullah Khalik – Detained in Guantanamo for 10 years and 11 months. The three men are ethnic Uyghurs from China. They were arrested in Pakistan in late 2001. After they were given over to U.S. forces, they were transferred to Guantanamo in 2002. In 2008, they, along with 14 other Uyghurs, successfully filed writs of Habeas Corpus. While all the other Uyghur held at Guantanamo have been transferred, these three remain detained.

Shaker Aamer – Detained for 11 years and 4 months. Originally from Saudi Arabia, he was arrested in Afghanistan, where he was living with his family, in 2001. He was transferred to Guantanamo in February, 2002. Under President Bush he was cleared for transfer. Despite the U.K. government’s requests he be transferred to the U.K., Shaker Aamer remains in Guantanamo.


Writing Letters to Guantanamo

Sami al Hajj received than 20,000 letters from members and supporters of Amnesty International during his last two years at Guantánamo Bay (Photo Credit: Sami al Hajj).

Sami al Hajj received than 20,000 letters from members and supporters of Amnesty International during his last two years at Guantánamo (Photo Credit: Sami al Hajj).

Have you ever doubted the power of a letter?

If so, read this note Amnesty received from Sami al Hajj, who was held at Guantanamo without charge for years and finally transferred home to Sudan in 2008:

“I received more than 20,000 letters from members and supporters of Amnesty International during my last two years at Guantánamo Bay…These letters really encouraged me during my very difficult time. They made me feel as though I was not alone and not to give up…Also, I felt and could notice that from all these letters, the Administration of Guantánamo Bay changed and improved towards me, as they knew I was not alone and I had people who cared about me. The guards said to me that they could see I was someone who mattered and must be important because of all the letters – this made them respect me more.”

Read Sami’s full letter to Amnesty supporters here.

Turn to Guantanamo today – we’re entering month five of the hunger strike and over 11 years of indefinite detention. It is well past time for each detainee to either be charged and fairly tried in federal court, or released.


7 Recommendations to President Obama on Guantanamo, Torture & Drones

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).

Today, Amnesty International released in-depth analysis of President Obama’s speech on national security: “Words, War, and the Rule of Law. President Obama revisits counter-terrorism policy, but human rights still missing.”

Our report makes clear that, while there were encouraging signs in the speech, the continuing absence of international human rights law from the US government’s counterterrorism framework remains a grave cause for concern.

Here are seven key recommendations from the report:


Dispatch from Guantanamo: Military Commissions, in Fits and Starts

Camp Justice, Guantanamo Bay, Cuba

This assignment was supposed to fulfill a career-long dream. In the ten years I have been employed by Amnesty International USA in research, the opportunity to travel to Guantánamo Bay, Cuba to observe military commission proceedings against the detainees charged with leading involvement in the September 11th terrorist attacks was something I always wanted to experience firsthand.

I flew down to this US Naval station on the southeast edge of Cuba and I arrived Sunday evening just in time to gain my first experience of the ever-changing world of military commission justice when the press briefing rules were amended at the last minute to prevent observers from attending the opening press briefing by the defense and prosecution counsels.

As a human rights researcher, I somewhat knew what to expect. However as an attorney, this morning threw me a relative curveball, even from a military commission process which is now in its third incarnation with multiple legal challenges and stoppages in the past 12 years.  SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

President Obama: Recapture the Human Rights High Ground

President Obama

US President Barack Obama gives a thumbs-up after winning the 2012 US presidential election in Chicago on November 7, 2012. Photo: SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images

When President Obama was first elected in 2008, many human rights activists rejoiced. It had been eight long years where the United States tortured, detained hundreds without charge and trial and tried to justify the horrors of Abu Ghraib.  His first campaign for the White House offered the promise of an administration that would recapture the United States’ credibility on human rights issues, bringing detention practices in line with international law, repudiating secrecy and ensuring that human rights weren’t traded away in the name of national security.

More simply, President Obama promised a new dawn of American leadership, one in which human rights would be given more than lip-service.

Unfortunately, the first Obama administration broke many of its promises when human rights were pitted against national security interests. When it comes to countering terrorism, President Obama has hidden behind national security imperatives to shield administration policy in secrecy and pursue programs such as expanded drone use and thwarted accountability.


Good News! Court Blocks NDAA Indefinite Detention Provision

guantanamo adnan latif

Protest in Washington DC of the 9th anniversary of the Guantanamo prison.

On Wednesday, a U.S. judge ruled that a provision in the 2012 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) that authorizes indefinite detention is unconstitutional, and blocked the government from using the provision to hold people without charge.

The ruling is a major win for the movement to end indefinite detention, which for over 10 years has been a hallmark of the human rights vaccum at Guantánamo and was codified in U.S. law last year by President Obama and Congress. Shamefully, the Obama administration has appealed.

Why care about indefinite detention?

Imagine you were locked up, accused of—but never charged with—a crime, and denied a fair trial to make your case. Seem farfetched?


Guantanamo: Still Open, Still Violating Human Rights

Omar Khadr guantanamo

Omar Khadr has been held since he was 15 years old, and awaits transfer home to Canada as part of a plea deal.

Today, 168 people are imprisoned at Naval Station Guantanamo Bay by the US government.

I’ll be at Guantánamo this week to observe military commission proceedings in a case relating to the September 11 attacks. (When possible, I’ll share my thoughts from Guantánamo on the blog and on Twitter @ZekeJohnsonAi.) The case is resuming over three years after President Obama ordered the prison closed in one year.

All of the detainees at Guantánamo should already long ago have either been charged and tried fairly in civilian court, or been released to countries that would respect their human rights.

Instead, the US government continues to violate human rights at Guantánamo Bay. A 2010 government task force outlined the Administration’s plans:

Military Commissions: Still a Failure

Camp Justice, Guantanamo Bay, Cuba

Last week a court in Brooklyn convicted Al Qaeda operative Adis Medunjanin of plotting to bomb the New York subway.

Bosnian-born US citizen Medunjanin conspired with Najibullah Zazi and Zarein Ahmedzay to launch a major attack before the anniversary of the 9/11 attacks in 2009.

U.S. intelligence and law enforcement officials disrupted the plot before anyone could get hurt, and arrested those involved.

Make no mistake, this plot represented a serious threat to the United States. It was conceived in 2008 by the then head of Al Qaeda’s external operations, Rashid Rauf.


Eric Holder Unveils 'The Cake Doctrine'

Holder Discusses Obama Administration's Counterterrorism Efforts

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder Discusses Obama Administration's Counterterrorism Efforts at Northwestern Law School March 5, 2012 (Photo by John Gress/Getty Images)

Speaking yesterday at Northwestern University the Attorney-General Eric Holder set out the clearest intellectual framework so far for the Obama administration’s evolving counterterrorism doctrine.

All good doctrines need a name and so I am going to take this opportunity to propose one for President Obama’s approach: ‘The Cake Doctrine.’

As in wanting to have your cake and eat it too.

The Cake Doctrine is an advance on the Bush Doctrine of pre-emptive self-defense in that President Obama has more faith in the courts and our system of justice than his predecessor did.