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 Amnesty International activists dressed in orange jumpsuits and hoods, representing the 39 men still held at Guantanamo

Amnesty International activists dressed in orange jumpsuits and hoods, representing the 39 men still held in the Guantanamo Bay detention facility, marched from Parliament Square to Trafalgar Square marking 20 years of the prison on January 8, 2022. (Photo: Thomas Krych/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)

Ilhan Omar: Close the Prison at Guantánamo Now

"The cruelty of these documented crimes against humanity is abhorrent, yet no one has or will ever face serious charges," the Minnesota Democrat wrote of torture inflicted on Guantanamo detainees. "That has to change."

Andrea Germanos

Democratic Congresswoman Ilhan Omar wrote in a new op-ed that Tuesday—the 20th anniversary of the opening of the U.S. offshore prison at the Guantánamo Bay naval base—should be "a day to reflect, and to act" and urged younger Americans to heap pressure on President Joe Biden to finally close the facility

While "Congress has acted to frustrate rather than facilitate closing Guantánamo," at least most of the work to shutter the prison can be done by Biden, Omar (D-Minn.) argued in her op-ed at Teen Vogue.

To build pressure on the president to actually fulfill his stated goal of closing the prison—where nearly 800 Muslim men and boys have been detained over four administrations—Omar wrote that the voices of youth "are critical."

The op-ed references a 2021 letter from over 100 organizations and led by the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) and the Center for Victims of Torture in which they wrote that the prison "continues to cause escalating and profound damage to the [39] men who still languish there," and "entrenches racial divisions and racism more broadly, and risks facilitating additional rights violations."

Omar also takes issue with the "half a billion dollars each year" the Defense Department spends to run the prison. "Imagine how far that much money would go toward environmental justice, affordable healthcare, or limiting student loan debt," she wrote.

In a Monday tweet, the Minnesota Democrat also highlighted the human rights abuses that have occurred at the prison over the past two decades.

She shared a video from MSNBC host Mehdi Hasan featuring footage from officials, including former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, defending the harsh treatment and torture of Gitmo detainees.

Hasan says in the video that the orange jumpsuits of Gitmo detainees first seen two decades ago "would soon become a horrifying global symbol of America's human rights abuses" and that the prison remains "a permanent stain on our conscience" and "an affront to our Democratic and constitutional values, and perhaps the most stark and occasionally visible reminder of the failure and the horror of our war on terror."

"For 20 years, this monstrous creation of the U.S. government has been intentionally inflicting human suffering."

Omar, in her tweet, wrote that "the cruelty of these documented crimes against humanity is abhorrent, yet no one has or will ever face serious charges. That has to change."

That sentiment was echoed this week by a number of human rights organizations redoubling their calls for Gitmo's closure, including CCR, which represents five of the remaining detainees.

"For 20 years," CCR said in a Monday statement, "this monstrous creation of the U.S. government has been intentionally inflicting human suffering. Today, we think of the victims: the 780 Muslim men and boys who have faced injustice and brutality, from torture to indefinite detention to sham trials to force feeding to profound indifference, if not hostility, from U.S. political leaders. We also think of the families who have been without their loved ones for so long and do not know when or if they will see them again."

"In the name of our clients still there, we call on President Biden to fulfill his pledge to shut it down," the group continued. "He has the authority and the capacity to do so; all he needs now is the will."

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