As dozens of Guantanamo detainees carry on the hunger strike that began in early February over allegations of guards mishandling inmates' Qurans, CAIR is joining 24 other human and civil rights organizations today in sending a letter to President Obama calling for "immediate steps to end indefinite detention without charge and begin closing the prison at GuantÃ¡namo Bay."
Reports differ between military officials and detainees' attorneys on the number of prisoners on hunger strike. The military is claiming that 26 out of the 166 inmates are on strike, with 11 being fed through feeding tubes, while attorneys and prisoners say 130 prisoners are on strike, and that one attempted suicide. As the hunger strike continues, the possibility of prisoner deaths becomes more imminent.
After being detained for 11 years without charge or trial, many GuantÃ¡namo prisoners are willing to go on hunger strike and risk death to draw attention to their indefinite detention.
When President Obama first took office, he pledged to close the prison at GuantÃ¡namo Bay within a year. Yet five years later, Congress has repeatedly outmaneuvered the president's efforts to do so and closing the facility no longer seems to be a priority, deepening the despair of the remaining GuantÃ¡namo prisoners.
After twice failing to make good on his threats to veto the National Defense Authorization Acts of 2012 and 2013, President Obama has signed into law a number of restrictive provisions that check his ability to transfer or prosecute detainees or close the prison. While 86 prisoners were approved for release by the U.S. government's GuantÃ¡namo Review Task Force in 2009, none have been cleared for transfer because of these obstructive provisions.
As this crisis further develops, CAIR is joining the Center for Constitutional Rights, the American Civil Liberties Union, Amnesty International, Witness Against Torture, and many others to call upon President Obama to once again commit his administration "to transfer[ing] the remaining detained men [at GuantÃ¡namo Bay] to their home countries or other countries for resettlement, or to charge them in a court that comports with fair trial standards."
Moreover, we ask that the president appoint an individual within his administration to lead this transfer effort. Appointing such an individual would be an important step to show that he is recommitting to closing the prison at GuantÃ¡namo Bay once and for all.
The shameful detention of prisoners at GuantÃ¡namo has become a symbol of our government's erosion of civil liberties over the past 12 years. Only when we as a nation address the issue of indefinite military detention can we begin to restore those liberties and repair our international reputation as a country committed to the rule of law.
Robert McCaw is the government affairs manager at CAIR's national headquarters on Capitol Hill.