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Close Gitmo

Demonstrators at a January 12, 2018 Amnesty International protest outside the White House in Washington, D.C. call for the closure of the U.S. military prison at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba. (Photo: Safvan Allahverdi/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)

Amnesty Follows House Dems' Letter by Imploring Biden to Close Gitmo 'Once and for All'

"This letter, signed by four House committee chairs, should send a clear message to President Biden: He has the political support to swiftly close the detention center at Guantánamo."

Brett Wilkins

The global human rights group Amnesty International on Wednesday followed up a letter by 75 House Democrats to President Joe Biden urging him to shut down the U.S. military prison at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba by reminding him that the 20th anniversary of the extrajudicial lockup is approaching, and that he has the political support needed to close the facility.

"It's time to shutter this horrific symbol of torture, indefinite detention, and injustice, once and for all, and pursue a national security strategy that is rooted in human rights for all."
—Daphne Eviatar, Amnesty International

Politico's "National Security Daily" reported Wednesday that top House Democrats—including Intelligence Chair Adam Schiff (Calif.), Foreign Affairs Chair Gregory Meeks (N.Y.), Armed Services Chair Adam Smith (Wash.), and Judiciary Chair Jerrold Nadler (N.Y.)—sent Biden a letter calling on him to close Gitmo after more than 19 years of operation over the course of four presidential administrations.

"The prison at Guantánamo represents a fundamental betrayal of our values and our commitment as a country to the rule of law," the 75 lawmakers wrote in the letter, which was led by Schiff and Reps. David Price (D-N.C.) and Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.). "You have our full support in your efforts to close the prison once and for all."

Amnesty International USA's security with human rights director Daphne Eviatar said in a statement responding to the lawmakers' move that "this letter, signed by four House committee chairs, should send a clear message to President Biden: He has the political support to swiftly close the detention center at Guantánamo."

"With the 20th anniversary of the so-called 'War on Terror' around the corner, it's time to shutter this horrific symbol of torture, indefinite detention, and injustice, once and for all, and pursue a national security strategy that is rooted in human rights for all," Eviatar added.

The military prison at Guantánamo Bay—built on land conquered by U.S. forces during the Spanish-American War—was opened by the George W. Bush administration in early 2002 following the September 11, 2001 attacks on the United States. The prison's 19-year history has been characterized by imprisonment without charge or trial of hundreds of detainees—many of whom were known to be innocent, according to a former top Bush administration official—torture, and a military tribunal process described as "rigged" by several former prosecutors who resigned in protest.

Although former President Barack Obama signed an executive order to close Gitmo during his first week in office, his administration never did so, focusing instead on finding third countries in which to relocate detainees cleared for release. Efforts to relocate Guantánamo detainees largely stalled during the tenure of former President Donald Trump, who in 2018 signed an executive order to keep the prison operating indefinitely.

In February, the Biden administration announced its "intention" to close the Guantánamo prison.

Of the approximately 780 men and boys imprisoned at Guantánamo, 39 remain following last month's transfer of 56-year-old Moroccan detainee Abdul Latif Nasser, who was jailed for 19 years without charge or trial. Of these 39, 28 have never been charged with crimes over nearly two decades of imprisonment. Ten have been recommended for third-country transfers.

In May, Eviatar called on Biden to "immediately to appoint a high-level official in his administration to take charge of closing Guantánamo and arranging the transfers of all detainees who are not charged with crimes, a critical first step to ending the indefinite detention of the detainees there."


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