On the eve of the 17th anniversary of Guantanamo Bay’s opening, human rights advocates made yet another call Thursday for the prison to be closed and the dozens of prisoners held there to be transferred—calling attention back to an institution that has long since faded from American headlines.
Guantanamo Bay’s continued operation and its place in the so-called “War on Terror,” started by the George W. Bush administration and maintained by both the Obama and Trump administrations, has been a “stain” on the United States’ human rights record, said Amnesty International.
“While the prison should have been relegated long ago as an appalling chapter in U.S. history, Guantánamo continues to operate 17 years later as a symbol of Islamophobia that embodies the fear-mongering and xenophobia that defines Trump’s presidency,” said Daphne Eviatar, director of security for the organization.
The group planned to join other human rights organizations including Win Without War and Witness Against Torture in a demonstration in Washington, D.C. at 2:30pm EST on Friday to call for the prison to be shut down and for the 40 men who are being held there to be immediately released or given fair trials.
Many of the detainees have been tortured, and five of them have already been recommended for transfer—including Yemeni national Toffiq Nassar Ahmed al Bihani, who was cleared for transfer nearly a decade ago.
Human rights groups were hopeful when President Barack Obama took office in 2009 that he would shut down the prison, following an executive order he signed on his second day in the White House. Guantanamo’s population was significantly reduced during the administration, but Obama ultimately failed to close the facility. President Donald Trump thwarted any hope that progress would continue, and even authorized $200 million to expand the facility last year.
“When President Trump revoked President Obama’s order to close the military prison at Guantánamo, he opened the door for a whole new era of horrific human rights violations to take place,” said Eviatar.
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Instead of continuing the prison’s history of torture and other offenses, Eviatar continued, prisoners “who are cleared must be transferred immediately, and all other prisoners should either be charged and fairly tried or released to allow this shameful institution to close permanently.”