Gitmo

Religious Groups Mixed Over Guantánamo Closure Plan

Image via REUTERS/RNS

After years of activism and campaigns, religious groups have mixed reactions to the White House’s proposed closure of the Guantanamo Bay military prison. The blueprint for closure, submitted to Congress on Feb. 23 for review, would establish a U.S. location for detainees currently held at the detention facility located at the U.S. naval base in Cuba.

Obama Unveils Plan to Close Guantánamo

Vice President Biden and President Obama with Defense Secretary Ash Carter. Screenshot via White House

President Obama promised to close the Guantánamo Bay detention facility at the beginning of his presidency. Seven years later — nearly to the day — he released a plan to do it.

“For many years it’s been clear that the detention facility at Guantánamo Bay does not advance our national security,” Obama said.

“It undermines it.”

The Power of Prayer: Christian Witnesses at Guantanamo

Guantanamo Bay
Aerial view of the U.S. Naval Station Guantanamo Bay Cuba. Everett Historical / Shutterstock.com

We are in Cuba. More specifically, 14 members of Witness Against Torture are in the Department of Guantanamo, at the Mirador overlooking the U.S. Naval Base. We are being hosted by the staff of La Gobernadora restaurant and lounge. From the lookout, we can see the U.S. base that has occupied more than 100 square kilometers of Cuban land for more than a century. We can orient ourselves toward the camps where the Abd and Mohammed and their brethren are being held. We are camping. We are praying. We are acting. We are transforming a random international tourist spot — one more site to click photos, drink a beer, and move on from before heading to the beaches — into a place to honor and connect and extend ourselves toward the men our nation has demonized and then forgotten. 

Mr. Obama, Close Down This Jail!

PUBLIC PRESSURE IS finally building on President Obama to fulfill his promise to close the Guantanamo prison, which still houses 166 miserable leftovers from the Bush-Cheney “war on terror.” That pressure is well-placed. Gitmo has been a disaster from the beginning. Christians and other people of faith must join in calling for its closure.

Detainees were originally shipped to Gitmo in the vain hope of avoiding the reach of the U.S. judiciary. In this sense Gitmo was conceived in Constitution-evading sin. The Supreme Court rejected the evasion in 2006, but the damage was already done.

Some of the detainees brought to Gitmo were tortured. This has been confirmed by numerous sources, including a leaked 2006 Red Cross report and the 577-page report of a bipartisan blue-ribbon detainee panel organized by The Constitution Project, on which I served.

More than half of the remaining detainees have been cleared for release, but for domestic and geopolitical reasons they continue to be held. More than 100 of them are currently on a hunger strike, with dozens being force-fed, a practice that violates both American Medical Association and World Medical Association standards and which our Detainee Task Force condemned unequivocally.

Some detainees cannot be tried because the evidence against them was obtained by brutal or torturous means and is tainted or would be embarrassing to the U.S. Others are slated for trials in novel military commissions whose legal problems are so severe that they have not proceeded. Civilian trials on U.S. soil were blocked in 2009 by a fearful, recalcitrant Congress. So 166 men are held in limbo indefinitely, without trial and without foreseeable prospect of release. This is unconstitutional and a violation of the most basic legal and human rights.

There are many lessons to be learned from this debacle, especially if one searches deeply into its origins.

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