President Obama, fulfill the promise you made four years ago to close the prison at Guantánamo and end indefinite detention without charge or trial. Congress has made this task more difficult for you, but you have the authority to close Guantánamo, and you must use it. Use your authority to direct the release of the men you do not intend to try, and charge the rest in a court that meets fair-trial standards. Begin by releasing the 86 men your own administration has approved for transfer. And appoint an individual within your administration to lead the closure of Guantánamo.
Why is this important?
A grave crisis is currently unfolding at the U.S. prison in Guantánamo Bay, where escalating despair has driven most of the imprisoned men to risk their very lives to protest their indefinite detention through a peaceful, large-scale hunger strike that is entering its fourth month.
This crisis at Guantánamo cannot be divorced from the fact that the vast majority of the 166 remaining prisoners have been held for more than 11 years without any charge or trial, and with no end to their detention in sight.
In the past four years that I have spent learning about the stories of the men detained at Guantánamo, and working with my colleagues at the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) to shut down this notorious prison camp, I have never been as anxious. If ever there was a moment for President Obama to act upon the promise that he made four years ago to shutter the prison, it is now. He must act quickly to release the men that he does not intend to try, and charge the rest in a court that meets fair trial standards. Innocent people should not spend a decade in an American jail, only to die alone and far from home.
CCR’s client Tariq Ba Odah has said, “Freedom is more precious than any other worldly desire. And we should never give it up regardless of how expensive the price may be.” That price has been tremendous for Tariq—more than a decade of separation from his loved ones, living in solitary confinement with almost no contact with others, and the excruciating daily routine of force-feeding. He has been tube-fed through his nose for over 6 years, half as long as Guantánamo has been open. Tariq maintains that hunger-striking “is the only peaceful way I can show the magnitude of the injustice I suffer.” Tariq was sent to Guantánamo in 2002 when he was about 24 years old, and he has been detained without charge ever since. He now weighs just 90 pounds, and needs urgent, sophisticated medical care. President Obama should release Tariq back home to Yemen on humanitarian grounds.
Sign my petition to help secure justice for Tariq and for the rest of the men at Guantánamo. Sign it so this country can better live up to the best of its values.
President Obama acknowledged this week that Guantánamo needs to close because in his words it’s “inefficient” and hurtful to our “international standing.” Words are not enough. He must match his words with actions.
It is the responsibility of all people of conscience to urge President Obama to close Guantánamo, now. I hope you will join me to do so.