April 5, 2013
Close Gitmo Now
The Lubavitcher Rebbe taught “You see, if there is one place on earth that is most un-G dly, it is prison. In prison a person is stripped of that which makes him uniquely human: his freedom. For this reason there is no punishment of jail in Jewish law.” This is even truer when one never experienced a fair trial yet is subject to isolation and torture.
The Guantánamo Bay prison (sometimes abbreviated as GTMO and known as “Gitmo”) has been in operation since shortly after the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. While at first people believed that the prison, which is located in the Guantanamo Bay Naval Base in Cuba, would be filled with dangerous terrorists awaiting trial, the increasingly evident reality is that it houses people stuck in a legal loophole that allows them to be held indefinitely without being charged with a crime, under conditions that the International Red Cross has characterized as “tantamount to torture.” Even the United States government admits that 92 percent of the prisoners never fought for al-Qaeda, and that 86 percent were turned over as a result of corrupt and generous bounty offers made by members of the American military to villagers in Afghanistan and Pakistan.
Statistics compiled by the American Civil Liberties Union reveal an alarming abuse of rights and freedoms, with the overwhelming majority of prisoners not being a threat to national security:
Here are three examples showing how there is not even a pretense of legal procedures at Guantánamo.
The continuing history of the infamous Gitmo, the longest operating wartime prison in U. S. history, is a story of political pandering. With enough evidence to warrant a trial for barely two dozen prisoners, President Obama signed an executive order to close the prison in 2009, but since then congressional opposition has prevented the President from sending any prisoners to American prisons or courts for trial. Even though the Government Accountability Office concluded that transferring these prisoners could be done safely (and 500 terrorism suspects have been tried in federal courts since September 2001), Congressional intransigence continues. Typical of the intensely paranoid rhetoric is the statement from Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, who warned against any attempt to “bring these crazy bastards that want to kill us all to the United States." Congress passed legislation in 2009 that prevented the President from bringing any of these prisoners to the United States for trial, or even send them to other countries. Two of the original 48 stuck in a legal no-man’s land (no evidence against, but for other reasons cannot be released) have already died in prison. President Obama has decided that no prisoner will be sent to “unsettled” areas such as Yemen, but the United States has also not allowed arrangements for prisoners to go to other countries until the situation becomes settled. Thus, they are subject to indefinite imprisonment without charges.
Meanwhile, the horrors of Guantánamo continue. During the past several weeks, Guantánamo detainees have gone on a hunger strike to protest conditions and the detention center’s continued existence. Dozens of the 166 prisoners continue to be held despite having been cleared for release. We must continue our efforts to close Guantánamo.
Marine Corps General John Kelly, the head of U.S. military forces in Latin America, said the Guantánamo prisoners began the hunger strike because "they had great optimism that Guantánamo would be closed. They were devastated apparently ... when the president backed off, at least (that's) their perception, of closing the facility."
Lawyers for the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) who represent the detainees said that the detainees have decided to hunger strike because of “the crushing reality that after 11 years in indefinite detention, there is no end in sight to their suffering.”
Here’s what you can do:
We cannot be silent in the face of this ongoing tragedy.
Rabbi Shmuly Yanklowitz is the Founder and President of Uri L'Tzedek, the Senior Rabbi at Kehilath Israel, the Founder and C.E.O. of The Shamayim V’Aretz Institute and is the author of "Jewish Ethics & Social Justice: A Guide for the 21st Century.” In 2012 and 2013, Newsweek named Rav Shmuly one of the top 50 rabbis in America."