On 19th Anniversary of the Opening of Guantánamo, Human Rights First Calls for Its Closure

Nineteen years ago, the first detainees arrived at the U.S. detention facility at Guantanamo Bay as part of an effort to subvert the rule of law based on the false assumption that the Constitution did not apply to the men detained and tortured there. Today, 40 Muslim men remain at Guantanamo, including six men who were long ago cleared for transfer by the Department of Defense, at a cost of $540 million per year – $13 million per detainee.

“After nearly two decades of operation, the Guantanamo experiment has proven itself to be a costly moral and strategic failure,” said Rita Siemion, Director of National Security Advocacy at Human Rights First. She added, “The military commission and detention systems at Guantanamo have harmed national security by undermining efforts to cooperate with allies on global counterterrorism campaigns and feeding into the propaganda and recruitment efforts of terrorist groups. Moreover, the human rights abuses at Guantanamo have tarnished the United States’ reputation as a global leader on human rights at a time when such leadership is being questioned more than ever.”

Bipartisan calls for closing Guantanamo have ranged from President Bush to President Obama. Among the former government officials who support closure are five Secretaries of Defense, eight Secretaries of State, six national Security Advisors, five Chairmen of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and dozens of retired generals and admirals.

President-elect Biden is among those who agree it is past time to shut down the prison. He has stated that the prison, “undermines American national security by fueling terrorist recruitment and is at odds with our values as a country.” Human Rights First urges the incoming Biden administration to swiftly close the prison once and for all. Doing so would not only end the unconscionable morass at Guantanamo that has gone on 19 years too long but would also signify a meaningful step towards reversing the decades-long degradation of American moral authority and erosion of its commitment to the rule of law in the name of national security.

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