On the first anniversary of President Obama’s failure to close Guantánamo within a year, as he promised on his second day in office in January 2009, the Center for Constitutional Rights, which has led the legal battle over Guantánamo for the last nine years, and has been responsible for organizing and coordinating more than 500 pro bono lawyers across the country to represent the prisoners, issued the following press release, not only condemning all three branches of government for their failure to close Guantánamo with justice, and to remove this enduring stain on America’s reputation, but also releasing information from a prisoner currently held, describing “a spontaneous peaceful protest that has swept through Camp 6, where most of the remaining detainees are currently being held,” with the men creating signs “demanding justice and humane treatment,” and also explaining how “the protest was inspired by news of the recent revolution in Tunisia.”
One Year after Obama’s Promised Deadline to Close Guantánamo, Detained Man Describes Peaceful Protests against Indefinite Detention at the Prison
CCR Denounces Failure of All Three Branches to Close Guantánamo
Upon the anniversary of President Obama’s broken promise to close Guantánamo, the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) reported that a man detained at the prison, who prefers to remain anonymous, told his attorney during an unclassified call of a spontaneous peaceful protest that has swept through Camp 6, where most of the remaining detainees are currently being held. He described signs the men have posted demanding justice and humane treatment.
The protest began because the government has been transferring — sometimes by force — detainees from the communal facility that had previously held most of the men, Camp 4, to the solitary-celled, Supermax-style facility of Camp 6. The detained man said the protest was inspired by news of the recent revolution in Tunisia. The detainees object to the move because of worse conditions in Camp 6, and because of their accurate perception that the move is a signal that the Obama administration has no plans to send them home anytime soon. See below for more information on the protest, language from the protest signs and excerpts from the unclassified attorney call with the detained man who reported the protest. CCR also released the following statement:
In the last presidential election, both candidates campaigned on a promise to close Guantánamo — an international symbol of injustice that both men acknowledged was damaging U.S. foreign policy and national security interests. Today, on the first anniversary of President Obama’s failed deadline to close Guantánamo, it is clear that all three branches of government have effectively abandoned that goal.
The President continues to make hollow assertions that closing Guantánamo is the right thing to do and will make the U.S. safer. Yet, he has shown no willingness to use political capital to pursue that goal against strident opposition from demagogues in Congress and the media. In the absence of presidential leadership, both parties in Congress continue to block transfers out of Guantánamo, even for men who have successfully challenged the legality of their detention or who have been cleared for release by the administration’s own thorough review process. With the Supreme Court now largely removed from the picture, thanks to the likely recusal of Justice Elena Kagan from cases involving detainee affairs because of her previous role as Solicitor General, the Court of Appeals for D.C. — the most deferential in the country to executive claims of authority — has raised the burden on detained men seeking relief through the courts to levels even higher than the government has requested.
As the men detained at Guantánamo enter their tenth year of imprisonment without charge, we call on President Obama to show political and moral leadership and publically recommit to rapidly closing Guantánamo. All the remaining men must be charged and fairly tried or released. The blanket ban on repatriations to Yemen must be lifted, and the men who cannot return to their home countries for fear of torture and persecution must be safely resettled. President Obama must also make good on his promise to seek repeal of the recently passed congressional restrictions on the transfer of detainees out of Guantánamo.
Excerpts from an Unclassified Attorney Call Regarding the Protest
“Conditions in Camp 6 are difficult. There are many men kept in each block – twenty per block. Everything is chaotic. The recreation space is tight. Treatment from the guards has worsened. This internal [recreation] walk has walls that are so high you can barely see the sky.”
“We decided to protest … The entire camp made sign boards saying ‘it’s unacceptable to keep detaining us because of what’s going on outside,’ [meaning, incidents like the Detroit underwear bomber or unrest in Yemen]. Why are we being punished for the bad acts others are doing outside?”
“The construction work going on here is giving us the impression that we are going to be here forever. People detained here are feeling this.”
In Tunisia, “After 23 years of injustice, finally people decided to liberate themselves and seek freedom. Now we need to struggle for ourselves.”
“We have children, wives, families. It is not only Americans who are human beings. Our families are crying and asking, ‘Where are our fathers? Where are our sons?’ We want to be treated like human beings.”
“We can no longer tolerate this situation. It seems to us we are being treated in a very racist way, exactly how black Americans were treated. We’re 100 Yemenis, 10 Saudis — and we don’t know why they are keeping us here.”
“Honestly we have lost any trust in the American government. But we still have some hope. A mistake was made and maybe it will be corrected. It’s not a shame to make a mistake. The shame is to continue [the same way after the mistake]. The American government needs to understand that it made a mistake and correct the mistake. Shame on the American government. They are acting like the Tunisian dictators.”
“I am not the only one who is talking like this. There are many, many people inside who are very frustrated with what is happening inside the camp. They can’t understand this hatred [coming from the administration].”
“The world outside of America is made of human beings too. But we are being treated like animals. We’re being indefinitely detained here.”
Of the protesters in front of the White House and Department of Justice on January 11, which marked the beginning of a decade of arbitrary detentions at Guantánamo: “We’d like to thank the protesters from the depths of our hearts. They are asking for justice even though they are not imprisoned.”
The detained man reported that the men at Camp 6 were peacefully protesting by hanging signs: “These signs are posted everywhere — the doors where the visitors [to Camp 6] come in, the doors where the journalists come, the signs are everywhere.”
Moreover, he said, “The signs that people posted are in English — everything is in English.” These men have been detained without charge for so long that many of them have learned how to write in English during their years of detention: “Yes, indeed, most of us have learned English, reading and writing, from the books we have read here. Everything [the protest signage] was written by the detainees themselves.”
Some of the signs posted say the following:
“We are human beings, exactly like you. We have wives, children, fathers and mothers. Let us go to them.”
“You cannot detain us because of what other people are doing outside. Release us.”
“Give us our rights inside the camp. If you don’t want to give us our rights, get us out of here.”
“Until when are we going to stay here?”
“Close this camp of discrimination and racism.”