Posted by on January 12, 2012 in Blog
By Dalal Hillou
2012 Spring Intern
On January 10, 2012, at an event titled ‘Guantánamo Forever?’, four speakers at the New America Foundation discussed the ten-year anniversary of the highly controversial Guantánamo Bay detention facility. The speakers included Congressman Jim Moran, a Virginian Democrat; Andy Worthington, author of The Guantánamo Files: The Stories of the 774 Detainees in America's Illegal Prison; retired Colonel Morris Davis, former Chief Prosecutor of U.S. Military Commissions at Guantánamo; and Thomas Wilner, who represented Guantánamo detainees in the Rasul v. Bush and Boumediene v. Bush cases. The event was moderated by Peter Bergen, Director of the National Security Studies Program of the New America Foundation.
Congressman Moran started the discussion by stating that the existence of the prison is unconstitutional and it should be closed; prisoners are being denied the right to habeas corpus, and America’s credibility is being undermined for as long as it stays open. He also explained that very few detainees were thoroughly screened when turned over from other prisons in the world and that the majority of detainees have not been proven to have taken hostile action against the U.S. Only 8% were identified as Al-Qaeda, 30% as members of any "potentially hostile" organization, and nearly 67% loosely associated with such an organization. Moran said that the majority of the 175 prisoners still at the prison had been cleared for release, but that 48 were forced to remain without trial. Only six are facing Pentagon tribunals, which may occur over a year from now. Moran advocated that civilian courts are the best way to prosecute those who are guilty, since they have successfully prosecuted more than 400 terrorists. To him, Guantánamo is the “least justifiable” facility controlled by America and also “the most expensive prison on the planet” with a cost of $800,000 per year per detainee.
Next to speak was Andy Worthington, who is responsible for numerous publications on the Guantánamo Bay detention camp. He informed the audience that 2/3 of the prisoners are Yemeni and are held simply due to security concerns around Yemeni extradition. He also pointed out that lawmakers have demanded that the Defense Secretary must not release a prisoner if there is a single accusation against any prisoner of the same nationality; so if one person from Yemen was guilty of terrorism, then no one of Yemeni descent may be released. “The shame of this will only build over time,” Worthington stated as he reminded the audience that the last two prisoners left the prison in coffins and that it is now impossible to leave there through legal means.
Colonel Morris Davis, who was the 2005-2007 chief prosecutor at Guantánamo but resigned due to pressure to use evidence retrieved through torture, spoke next. In a reference to “The Star Spangled Banner,” Col. Davis stated that the United States has become constrained and cowardly, not free and brave. Although he was optimistic when Obama took office, he expressed disappointment that nothing has really changed, especially over the past year. Col. Davis said that Obama hasn’t just embraced Bush policies but has “kissed it on the lips and ran away with it.” He also stated that the actions at Guantánamo – secret trials, evidence by coercion, and so on – are comparable to the current trials in Iran for recently captured Amir Hekmati. According to Davis, America had a reputation during the Gulf War of treating its prisoners humanely, but nowadays it does not.
Thomas Wilner, who has also represented the high-profile human rights cases of a dozen Kuwaiti citizens detained in Guantánamo, was the last to speak. “A lie can only exist in the absence of truth,” he stated in relation to the prison. He elaborated on the terrible effects the prison had on the detainees, and how one of the Kuwaiti prisoners had actually been cleared by the CIA, but would likely still be held there forever due to the climate of fear surrounding inmate release.
In short, the speakers all informed the audience of the injustices that surround Guantánamo detention camp. After Obama’s recent approval of the National Defense Authorization Act, which states that Americans who are even simply suspected of terrorism can be detained without trial for an unlimited period of time, it is more important than ever for Americans to speak up and take action to protect their civil liberties. Check out CloseGuantanamo.org for more information on what you can do to make your voice heard or sign the petition here.
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