To mark the 10th anniversary of the opening of Guantánamo, on January 11, I was involved in two particular projects — firstly, the establishment of a new campaign and website, “Close Guantánamo,” designed to raise awareness of the continuing injustice of Guantánamo, and, in particular, the injustice of continuing to hold 89 of the remaining 171 prisoners, even though they have been cleared for release; and secondly, the establishment of a petition on the White House’s “We the People” website, calling on President Obama to fulfil his promise to close Guantánamo.
The “Close Guantánamo” project has only just begun, and will enter a new phase next week with the publication of the first of the profiles of the 171 prisoners still held, designed to inform people that they are human beings, with feelings, and with families, who, after ten years, are not held legitimately, but are, as Navi Pillay, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, explained last week, subjected to arbitrary detention.
In contrast, the second project — the petition on the White House’s “We the People” website — has just three days left until its deadline of one month is reached, so please, if you haven’t yet signed it, sign it now, and please also tell everyone you know. This could be the weekend that we beat the odds and come up with the signatures we need to secure a response from President Obama. The countdown clock, above, by the way, is from the Center for Constitutional Rights’ “Close Guantánamo” page, which also features videos from the protests in Washington D.C. on January 11 (and which I wrote about here).
Please note, crucially, that you do not have to be a US citizen or a US resident to sign the petition. When registering (which you must do first), just leave the box blank that asks you for your zip code.
Also, please note that some people have had problems with the site, which, unfortunately, are beyond the control of those setting up petitions. However, the following advice is from a friend who managed to overcome the obstacles:
A trick for getting the not-very-helpful website to work:
Having created an account, then persuaded it to accept your password (this can take a while), you’ll then find you’re on your profile page, miles away from the petition. In another tab, reclick the link to the petition.
If the “Sign Now” button is greyed out, make sure you’re logged in, then reload the petition page. Eventually you’ll get there, but they don’t make it easy.
They don’t indeed, and the problems with the site, to my mind, reflect badly on the Obama administration, which has also been beset with problems — like failing to keep important promises, such as the promise to close Guantánamo within a year, which the President made in an executive order on January 22, 2009.
My thanks to everyone who has worked to promote this petition, and to try to raise awareness of an ongoing disgrace that far too many people would rather forget. Guantánamo can be closed, and those of us who care — including those who signed up to the “Close Guantánamo” mission statement — will continue working hard to make that day a reality.