Human rights advocates marked the 18th anniversary of the opening of the U.S. military prison at the Guantánamo Bay Naval Station in Cuba with a rally outside the White House on Saturday to “demand an end to years of torture and human rights violations” and call for the detention camp’s immediate closure.
In January 2018, President Donald Trump signed an executive order to keep the prison open. The move, which revoked an order from Trump’s predecessor that called for the prison to be closed, outraged human rights defenders. With the demonstration Saturday, activists criticized not only Trump’s decisions related to the prison but also those of former Presidents Barack Obama and George W. Bush.
“Three United States presidents have overseen Guantánamo during its shameful 18-year existence, yet it continues to remain open as people who have never been granted a trial are still detained and as they age and face the prospect of spending the rest of their lives in the prison, dying far away from the families and loved ones they have not seen in years,” Daphne Eviatar of Amnesty International USA said in a statement.
“It is well past time that Guantánamo close once and for all, and all the men who have long ago been cleared for release are transferred to countries that have agreed to accept them,” added Eviatar, director of the Security With Human Rights program.
Organizers of the “Justice Now: Close Guantánamo and End Torture” rally included Amnesty International USA, Witness Against Torture, Defending Rights & Dissent, Center for Constitutional Rights, CAIR, September 11th Families for Peaceful Tomorrows, the World Can’t Wait, CodePink, National Religious Campaign Against Torture, Close Guantanamo, Tsuru for Solidarity, and Justice for Muslims Collective.
“Guantánamo currently holds 40 individuals: all Muslim men, many of whom were tortured in the camp,” Amnesty’s statement said. “Several detainees are experiencing health problems as a result of years of detention and instances of torture and other ill-treatment. Some remain detained despite having been cleared for transfer for years. This includes Toffiq al-Bihani, who has been imprisoned for eight years without trial.”
Participants in Saturday’s demonstration carried signs which declared “Close Guantánamo now!” and “Investigate and prosecute U.S. torture!” Other signs shared the stories of individuals detained at the prison. Some of the activists wore orange jumpsuits and black hoods.
Along with the rally outside the White House Saturday afternoon, organizers held a funeral procession, which ended at the Trump International Hotel in Washington, D.C. The activists carried nine coffins for nine detainees who have died at the prison.
Organizers of the action aimed to call “attention to the brutality of the prison, including indefinite detention, and for an end to any and all uses of torture,” they explained on Facebook. “We cannot let Guantánamo disappear from the public consciousness.”