Human Rights Advocates Rally at White House to Demand US 'Close Guantanamo and End Torture'

Human rights advocates rallied outside the White House on Saturday to demand the closure of the prison at Guantanamo Bay Naval Station. (Photo: Courtesy of Amnesty International USA)

Human Rights Advocates Rally at White House to Demand US 'Close Guantanamo and End Torture'

"18 years of injustice. 18 years of impunity. 18 years too long."

Human rights advocates marked the 18th anniversary of the opening of the U.S. military prison at the Guantanamo 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 Guantanamo 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 Guantanamo 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 Guantanamo 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.

"Guantanamo 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 Guantanamo 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 Guantanamo disappear from the public consciousness."

Join the Movement: Become Part of the Solution Today

We're optimists who believe in the power of informed and engaged citizens to ignite and enact change to make the world a better place.

We're hundreds of thousands strong, but every single supporter counts.

Your contribution supports this new media model—free, independent, and dedicated to uncovering the truth. Stand with us in the fight for social justice, human rights, and equality. As a people-powered nonprofit news outlet, we cover the issues the corporate media never will. Join with us today!

Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.