As we confront the 22nd anniversary of Guantánamo detention facility, the Center for Victims of Torture worked with partner non-governmental organizations to send this letter to President Biden, urging him to close the facility permanently.
January 9, 2024
President Joseph BidenThe White House1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NWWashington, D.C. 20500
Dear President Biden:
We are a diverse group of US-based and international non-governmental organizations working on a range of issues including international human rights, immigrants’ rights, racial justice, and combatting anti-Muslim discrimination. We write to express our deep concern about how little progress your administration has made over the last year towards responsibly closing the Guantánamo detention center, including rejecting the only realistic opportunity to end the case against those alleged to be most responsible for 9/11, in a way that achieves a modicum of justice and closure for 9/11 family members—and finally to wind down the failed military commission system. Guantánamo has now been open for twenty-two years. Your administration needs to do more, and do it now, to close the facility, and to end indefinite military detention.The Guantánamo detention center – created exclusively to detain Muslim men and boys – was designed specifically to evade legal constraints. It enabled the Bush administration to torture and abuse those held there, and to hide the fact that it tortured and abused men held elsewhere before being sent to Guantánamo. Nearly eight hundred men and boys were detained at Guantánamo after 2002, all but a handful without any charges against them and none with access to a fair trial. Thirty men remain today. Of those, sixteen have been cleared for transfer out – by unanimous agreement of all executive branch agencies with a significant national security function – but they continue to languish in Guantánamo. At the astronomical cost of over $500 million per year, it is the most expensive prison in the world. Guantánamo continues to be a site and symbol of Islamophobia, torture, and impunity.The political decision to keep Guantánamo open has devastating consequences. Detention with no end in sight continues to cause escalating and profound damage to the aging and increasingly ill men who remain, and has shattered many of their families and communities. There is no reasonable prospect of judicial resolution in the 9/11 military commissions case, which, after two decades, has not even gone to trial. Your administration has chosen not to use its authority to encourage a resolution of the case which would provide justice to 9/11 family members—a resolution that even your own military commission chief prosecutor supports.Whether Guantánamo and its injustices continue or – as you promised – end, will be a defining part of your legacy and this pivotal year of your presidency may be the last chance at closing it. It is long past time for a meaningful reckoning with the full scope of damage caused by US policies in response to 9/11 and through the so-called “War on Terror.” Closing Guantánamo, ending indefinite military detention of those held there, and never again using the military base for unlawful mass detention of any group of people are necessary steps towards those ends—and to combatting dehumanizing and Islamophobic narratives. We urge you to act without delay, and in a just manner that considers the harm done to the men who have been imprisoned without charge or fair trials for over two decades.
18 Million RisingAction by Christians for the Abolition of Torture (ACAT) BelgiumACAT GermanyACAT GHANAACAT SwitzerlandAction Center on Race & the EconomyAdalah Justice ProjectAfghans For A Better TomorrowAfrican Human Rights CoalitionAlliance of BaptistsAmerican Civil Liberties UnionAmerican Friends Service CommitteeAmerican Muslim Bar AssociationAmnesty International Kent NetworkAmnesty International USAAssisi CommunityBirmingham Islamic SocietyBlack Alliance for Just ImmigrationBrooklyn For PeaceCAGECampaign for Peace Disarmament and Common SecurityCenter for Constitutional RightsCenter for Gender & Refugee StudiesCenter for Victims of TortureCenter on Conscience and WarCharity & Security NetworkChurch of the Brethren, Office of Peacebuilding and PolicyClose GuantanamoCoalition for Civil FreedomsCODEPINKCommunities United for Status & Protection (CUSP)Council on American-Islamic RelationsDefending Rights & DissentDemand Progress Education FundDenver Justice and Peace CommitteeDRUM – Desis Rising Up & MovingEpiscopal Peace FellowshipFederal Association of Vietnamese Refugees in the Federal Republic of GermanyFranciscan Action NetworkFriends Committee on National LegislationFriends of Human RightsFriends of MatènwaGovernment Information WatchGuantanamo Justice CampaignHawaii Peace and JusticeHuman Rights FirstHuman Rights Initiative of North TexasHuman Rights WatchImmigrant Defenders Law CenterInstitute for Justice and Democracy in HaitiInterfaith Communities United for Justice and PeaceInternational Federation for Human Rights – FIDHInternational Refugee Assistance Project (IRAP)InterReligious Task Force on Central AmericaJust Foreign PolicyLewes Amnesty International GroupLincoln Park Presbyterian Church ChicagoLSE SU Amnesty InternationalMADREMalu ‘AinaMaryknoll Office for Global ConcernsMinistry Against the Death PenaltyMissionary Oblates US ProvinceMPower Change Action FundMuslim AdvocatesMuslim Counterpublics LabMuslim Solidarity Committee, Albany NYMuslims for Just FuturesNational Advocacy Center of the Sisters of the Good ShepherdNational Immigration ProjectNational Religious Campaign Against TortureNo More GuantanamosNorth Carolina Stop Torture NowOut Against WarPax Christi USAPeace ActionPeace Action New York StatePresbyterian Church USA, Office of Public WitnessProject on Government OversightProvincial Council Clerics of St. ViatorReprieveSeptember 11th Families for Peaceful TomorrowsShoulder to Shoulder CampaignSisters of Mercy of the Americas, Justice TeamSisters of St. Francis of PhiladelphiaTea ProjectThe Episcopal ChurchTransitional Justice Working Group (TJWG)UK Guantanamo NetworkUnited Against InhumanityUnited Church of ChristUnited for Peace and JusticeVeterans For Peace, Chapter 113 – HawaiiWashington Office on Latin AmericaWestern States Legal FoundationWin Without WarWitness Against TortureWorld Can’t Wait Hawai`iWorld Organisation Against Torture (OMCT)
CC: The Honorable Lloyd J. Austin, United States Secretary of DefenseThe Honorable Antony Blinken, United States Secretary of StateThe Honorable Merrick B. Garland, United States Attorney General