The Church of the Brethren’s Office of Peacebuilding and Policy was one of more than 80 religious, humanitarian, and peace and justice organizations and groups to sign on to a letter to President Biden calling for progress towards responsibly closing the Guantánamo detention center.
The full text of the letter follows:
January 9, 2024
President Joseph Biden
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington, 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.
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