Torture is morally wrong and prohibited under international law.
We are extremely concerned that detainees at Guantanamo Bay Detention Camp are reported to be on hunger strike. By some accounts, the men on hunger strike number over 100. The men have stated that they have been subjected to treatment that violates their rights, including the confiscation of photos and letters, searches of their Korans, and brutal treatment at the hands of their guards. The International Committee of the Red Cross, which visited the men in February, puts these complaints in context: “The ICRC believes past and current tensions at Guantanamo to be the direct result of the uncertainty faced by detainees.”
We know the anguish of unjust detention and understand the despair men in such a situation suffer. The indefinite nature of their detention vastly amplifies that suffering. Eighty-six of the prisoners at Guantanamo have been cleared for release, but their detention continues. Forty-six are slated to be held indefinitely, without trial. “Prolonged detention without trial has long been considered a serious human rights abuse,” according to United Nations Special Rapporteur on Torture Juan Mendez. The United Nations Human Rights Council just last week stated that the United States was violating international law by imprisoning men for indefinite periods, without charge or trial. Kristine Huskey, of Physicians for Human Rights, recently testified before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights that indefinite detention, with its lasting and severe psychological trauma and physical consequences, “rises to the level of torture or cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment.”
Mr. President, you have abolished the use of torture by the United States, have you not, as well as the use of cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment? Indefinite detention without trial—as well as holding men your own government has cleared for release—violates your own executive order of January 22, 2009.
While Congress has impeded your efforts to close Guantanamo, it is becoming widely known that the same section of the NDAA that sets difficult conditions for the transfer of detainees contains a waiver allowing the Secretary of Defense to certify that “alternative actions will be taken” that “substantially mitigate” the risk that a released prisoner will threaten the U.S. or engage in a future act of terror. Yet you have not issued a single waiver. Nine men have died at the prison, four under your watch. More will die in what Amnesty International has called “America’s gulag.”
It pains us that our taxes are used to unjustly, illegally, and indefinitely detain human beings who have not been proven guilty or been given a fair chance to prove their innocence. We abhor being made complicit in the infliction of anguish.
Please instruct the Department of Defense to meet the detainees’ concrete demands regarding their day-to-day treatment. And please meet the requirements of international law and release the prisoners you have cleared for release, as well as those you have declared will remain imprisoned indefinitely. Please ensure that the remaining prisoners who have yet to be tried receive fair trials, not sham trials before military commissions. To do otherwise is to permanently stain your own honor, as well as that of the United States.
Survivors of torture and friends
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