Marking the 6,000 days that the offshore prison has been open—"the latest horrible milestone" in its history—a group of human rights campaigners on Friday is urging President Donald Trump to stand on the side of justice and close Guantánamo's doors forever.
"It is outrageous that the U.S. government continues to perpetuate the myth of an 'endless war,' as a supposed justification for holding prisoners indefinitely without charge or trial, when this is, in fact, a policy for which there is no justification whatsoever," declared Andy Worthington, co-founder of the Close Guantánamo campaign.
Rather than looking to close it, however, the U.S. military is looking at the possibility that the prison, which now holds 40 men, will be open indefinitely. "We ultimately have to plan for whether or not they are going to be here for the rest of their lives," said Army Col. Stephen Gabavics, commander of the guard force, to reporters last week. The military even made a pitch for new areas for the prison for "high value detainees" that would include a hospice wing and wheelchair-accessible cells. It would be "the humane way ahead," argued prison spokeswoman Navy Cmdr. Anne Leanos.
The men, as Worthington noted, are held "without any rights whatsoever." Twenty-six of them are "forever prisoners," having been held without any charge. Five have been cleared for transfer, but remain imprisoned. The nine others have been charged but remain at Gitmo, still entangled in the "unfair" military commission system.
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The joint statement from the rights groups, who also include Voices for Creative Nonviolence, September 11th Families for Peaceful Tomorrows, and Witness Against Torture, frames each day the prison stays open as "a black mark against America's notion of itself as a nation founded on the rule of law, which respects the rule of law."
Trump in January reversed his predecessor's order to close the prison and instead affirmed his campaign promise to "load it up with some bad dudes." Since his tenure at the White House, he's released just one man—a Saudi national sent back to the kingdom to be imprisoned.
"Guantánamo Bay prison is a living symbol of America's refusal to live up to the promise of our Constitution," added Sue Udry, executive director of Defending Rights & Dissent. "Although President Trump has made clear his disinterest in human rights, due process, and the rule of law, we call on him to choose justice over inhumanity and close the prison immediately."
In addition to the recent confirmation of Gina Haspel as CIA chief casting doubts on the U.S. commitment to rejecting torture, just six months ago, U.N. special rapporteur on torture Nils Melzer said the U.S. was still carrying out torture at the Guantánamo prison.