Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Rights groups mark decade of Guantanamo Bay prison

WASHINGTON — To mark 10 years of military detention at Guantanamo Bay, human rights groups are organizing events worldwide this week, from rallies to flash mobs to concerts. The detainees themselves are marking the anniversary with peaceful demonstrations.

Detainees were planning three days of protests, beginning Tuesday, according to an attorney for a handful of the men. Some will refuse to return to their cells for the four-hour nightly lockdown and will attempt to sleep in the recreation areas. Others plan to refuse food for three days.

"These peaceful protests are the most eloquent response to the U.S. government's refusal to shutter the prison and its claims that Guantanamo is a normal, state-of-the-art facility," said Ramzi Kassem, a professor of law at City University of New York and counsel to some of the Guantanamo detainees.

The Bush administration flew 20 captives into Cuba on Jan. 11, 2002, the first of nearly 800 men who would be held in a series of camps along the base's coastline. Ten years later, 171 detainees remain at the facility.

The detainees have staged numerous protests in the past, including on last year's anniversary, which occurred without incident. There are always a number of hunger-striking detainees, some of whom have been force-fed by the military.

On the 10-year anniversary, Amnesty International and other groups are organizing events across Europe, including the construction of a Guantanamo-like cell in Berlin and the delivery of a giant replica of a detainee to the U.S. Embassy in Madrid.

"Guantanamo has infected everything it has touched," said Tom Parker, Amnesty International USA policy director for counterterrorism and human rights. "We mark this dismal anniversary knowing with a heavy heart that despite President Obama's election promise to close the facility it will begin its 10th year of operation more deeply entrenched in U.S. life than ever."

White House spokesman Jay Carney said Monday that President Barack Obama remains committed to closing the facility at Guantanamo.

Congress has prevented the administration from transferring any detainees into the United States for trial, and has effectively halted the transfer of detainees to third countries, even those cleared for release by a Justice Department-led task force.

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