Rights groups protest to mark Gitmo decade
To mark 10 years of military detention at Guantánamo Bay, human-rights groups are organizing events worldwide this week, from rallies to flash mobs to concerts.
The Washington Post
Seattle protestActivists from Amnesty International, Washington State Religious Campaign Against Torture and other groups have scheduled a one-hour protest against the Guantánamo Bay detention facility at 5 p.m. today in front of the Jackson Federal Building, 915 Second Ave.
WASHINGTON — To mark 10 years of military detention at Guantánamo Bay, human-rights groups are organizing events worldwide this week, from rallies to flash mobs to concerts. The detainees are marking the anniversary in quieter fashion, with peaceful demonstrations.
Detainees were planning three days of protests, beginning Tuesday, according to an attorney for a handful of the men. Some were expected to refuse to return to their cells for the four-hour nightly lockdown and attempt to sleep in recreation areas. Others planned to refuse food for three days.
"These peaceful protests are the most eloquent response to the U.S. government's refusal to shutter the prison and its claims that Guantánamo is a normal, state-of-the-art facility," said Ramzi Kassem, a professor of law at City University of New York and counsel to some of the detainees.
The Bush administration flew 20 captives into Cuba on Jan. 11, 2002, the first of nearly 800 men who would be held in a series of camps along the base's coastline. Ten years later, 171 detainees remain at the facility, nearly all held at Camp 6, where they live in communal blocks, and Camp 5, a lockdown facility for detainees judged to be "noncompliant" with the military's detention regime.
Guantánamo detainees have staged numerous protests in the past, including on last year's anniversary, which occurred without incident. There are always a number of hunger-striking detainees, some of whom have been force-fed by the military.
At one point last year, some detainees smeared their cells with feces, a tactic adopted from the Irish Republican Army's "dirty protest" in the late 1970s at the Maze Prison in Northern Ireland.
On the 10-year anniversary, Amnesty International and other groups have organized events across Europe, including the construction of a Guantánamo-like cell in Berlin and the delivery of a giant replica of a detainee to the U.S. Embassy in Madrid.
Critics also are angry over President Obama's Dec. 31 signing of the National Defense Authorization Act, which includes a provision allowing indefinite military detention without trial.
"Guantánamo has infected everything it has touched," said Tom Parker, Amnesty International USA policy director for counterterrorism and human rights. "We mark this dismal anniversary knowing with a heavy heart that despite President Obama's election promise to close the facility it will begin its 10th year of operation more deeply entrenched in U.S. life than ever."
A demonstration outside the White House, to be followed by a march to the Supreme Court, also is planned Wednesday.
Camp 5 detainee Shaker Aamer, a Saudi citizen who was formerly a British resident, said he and other prisoners were "very grateful for this expression of solidarity by Americans with the prisoners at Guantánamo and their families," according to Kassem, his attorney.
White House spokesman Jay Carney said Monday that Obama still wants to close Guantánamo because "it's the right thing to do for our national-security interest," a view he says is shared by senior members of the military. He noted President George W. Bush and Arizona Sen. John McCain, while running for president in 2008, also supported closing the prison.
"The commitment that the president has to closing Guantánamo Bay is as firm today as it was during the campaign," Carney said. "... I think this is a process that faces obstacles that we're all aware of, and we will continue to work through them."
Congress has prevented the administration from transferring detainees into the United States for trial, and effectively has halted the transfer of detainees to third countries, even those cleared for release by a Justice Department-led interagency task force. No has been transferred out of Guantánamo in a year, and the Pentagon's general counsel has described the conditions imposed by Congress as "onerous."
Of the 171 detainees remaining at Guantánamo, 59 have been cleared for transfer. The administration also determined that an additional 30 Yemenis could be repatriated if conditions improve in their homeland.
Washington Post researcher Julie Tate contributed to this report. Information from The Associated Press also is included.