Guantanamo at 21: Advocates renew calls for closing US prison | Human Rights News

Since the chaotic withdrawal of US forces from Afghanistan In 2021, President Joe Biden and his top aides have repeatedly expressed their sense of accomplishment that Washington is not going to war for the first time in decades.

But not far from the shores of the United States, nestled in a Cuban harbor, Guantanamo Bay Prison is still operating as a remnant of the so-called “war on terror” that began after the 9/11 attacks in 2001.

Wednesday marks the prison’s 21st anniversary, known as Gitmo – an occasion that spurred new calls for the center’s closure. The detainee has abuse details inside the establishment and critics have said basic legal protection was rejected there.

“The ‘war on terror’ will not end until Guantanamo is closed. So any claim that the war is over is wrong,” Lisa Hajjar, a professor of sociology at the University of California, Santa Barbara, told Al Jazeera.

Hajjar is the author of a book titled The War in Court: Inside the Long Fight Against Torture, published last year. She said the prison’s enduring legacy is that the US government – “ostensibly a liberal political democracy” – has denied the humanity of detainees in the name of national security.

‘No fees…no humanity’

Prior to Guantanamo prisoner Mansoor Adayfi said the detention facility’s legacy gets worse every year.

“It symbolizes oppression, injustice, lawlessness, abuse of power and indefinite detention,” he told Al Jazeera.

Adayfi spent 14 years in prison, where he said he endured torture, humiliation and abuse. Originally from Yemen, he explained that he was kidnapped in Afghanistan and turned over to US forces when he was 18 years old. He is accused of being a much older al-Qaeda recruit but maintains his innocence.

Adayfi said it is regrettable that human rights abuses at Guantanamo are perpetrated by a powerful nation that preaches democracy and freedom.

“They kept holding men for 21 years without rights, without charges, without trial, without even humanity,” he said.

The facility used to house nearly 800 prisoners but it now holds 35 prisoners – all Muslim men – most of whom have never been charged, of which 20 have been released. .

On Wednesday, nearly 160 international human rights groups sent a letter to Biden urging him to close the facility.

“Guantanamo continues to inflict escalating and profound harm on the aging and increasingly ailing men who remain incarcerated there indefinitely, most without charges and without a fair trial. . It has also devastated their families and communities,” the letter read.

Groups, including Oxfam America and the Council on American-Islamic Relations, also allege that the prison instills “biggestity, prejudice and discrimination”. By illustrating those social divisions, the groups say, Guantanamo “risks facilitating other human rights abuses”.

In a petition sent to Biden, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), a nonprofit advocacy group, described the prison as a “global symbol of injustice.” public, abuse and disregard the rule of law”.

“Guantanamo continues to impose enormous costs on both our value and our resources. The time has come to end this shameful period in American history,” the statement read.

As a candidate, Biden said he supported shutting down Guantanamo – a task his Democratic predecessor, former President Barack Obama, failed to achieve amid political opposition. despite issuing an executive order on his second day in office. call for the closure of Guantanamo within a year.

Hajjar, a University of California professor, said no influential constituency in US politics favors prison closures. with country facing domestic and international crises, many US politicians have shied away from the “war on terror” and its consequences, she said.

Hajjar also points out that the media has had little coverage of the prison in recent years. She argued that properly defending Guantanamo would require acknowledging that it was a “national disgrace” and considering what had happened since its founding. She added that the legal issues surrounding prison are complicated to explain.

“So the mainstream media doesn’t like to cover it,” she said.


The prison, located on a US military base in Cuba, operates in an alternative legal system led by military commissions that do not guarantee the same rights as traditional US courts . The ACLU questioned whether detainees could receive fair hearings before the committee, given their “looseer standard of evidence.”

The group also points out that detainees cannot use the legal system there to claim damages for any torture they are subjected to, whether at the prison itself or in secret facilities. Secrets run by the Central Intelligence Agency, known as the “dark web”.

In a petition sent to the White House on Wednesday, Amnesty International USA called the prison “a long, dazzling stain on the United States’ human rights record.”

Adayfi, a former prisoner, said justice for those detained at Guantanamo begins with closing the facility. He also called on American officials to apologize and take responsibility for the crimes committed there.

In 2016, a US review board deemed Adayfi fit for release, although he has never been charged.

Former Guantanamo prisoner now creates art inspired by his experiences. He details his story in his memoir, Don’t Forget Us Here: Lost and Found at Guantanamo.

After his release, Adayfi was sent by the US government to Serbia, where he remains to this day. But his struggle continues. He told Al Jazeera that most of those who have been detained at Guantanamo live “in limbo” with no legal status in the host country, unable to work, travel or even have social connections. normal with others.

“It’s really hard. When you’re released from Guantanamo, there’s no kind of rehabilitation program that will help you get on with their lives – [with] family, friends, stable job. Uncertainty is one of the worst feelings,” Adayfi said.

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