Amnesty Calls on Biden to Close Guantánamo and End Military Commissions “Once and For All”

By Jessica Corbett

After U.S. military prosecutors filed formal charges against three longtime prisoners at the Guantánamo Bay offshore prison for nearly 15 years without trial, Amnesty International on Monday reiterated demands that President Joe Biden urgently end military commissions there and close down the detention center once and for all.

The Pentagon on Thursday announced charges against Riduan Isamuddin—better known as Hambali—of Indonesia as well as Mohammed Nazir Bin Lep and Mohammed Farik Bin Amin of Malaysia. They were captured in Thailand nearly 18 years ago and sent to Gitmo in September of 2006.

“The charges include conspiracy, murder, attempted murder, intentionally causing serious bodily injury, terrorism, attacking civilians, attacking civilian objects, destruction of property, and accessory after the fact, all in violation of the law of war,” the Pentagon said in a statement.

The statement came on the first full day of Biden’s presidency. Even before it began, he faced pressure to shutter the prison. On January 11, the 19th anniversary of its opening, Amnesty declared, “The treatment and imprisonment in Guantánamo are glaring human rights violations that the Biden administration must end now.”

In a statement Monday responding to the new charges and pushing the president to take immediate action, Daphne Eviatar, director of the Security With Human Rights program at Amnesty International USA, said, “The military commissions at Guantánamo Bay are a human rights calamity and a complete failure.”

As Eviatar explained:

For almost two decades, the United States has denied justice to the dozens of men the country has kept detained at Guantánamo Bay indefinitely, without charge or trial. It’s time to give up the illusion that either true justice or any semblance of a fair trial will result from these fundamentally unfair proceedings. The only just path forward is to close down the detention center and the military commissions once and for all. If the United States has admissible evidence that internationally cognizable crimes were committed, it can bring those claims in a civilian court, if a fair trial is even possible after nearly two decades of unlawful detention and ill-treatment.

The Pentagon’s actions here are shameful. It’s time to mark a new path for United States national security policy and close down Guantánamo. The detention center that has come to symbolize around the world the United States’ use of torture, rendition and indefinite detention without charge or trial—in complete violation of internationally agreed-upon standards of justice and human rights. President Biden must close down the Guantánamo detention center and the military commissions, once and for all.

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Biden served as vice president to former President Barack Obama, who failed to deliver on his campaign promise to close Gitmo, which opened under former President George W. Bush. Biden’s predecessor, President Donald Trump, kept his campaign promise to keep the prison open, despite global criticism of human rights violations.



Earlier this month, on the anniversary, Amnesty released a new report about past and present human rights violations at the detention facility.

“This is about more than just the 40 people still held at Guantánamo—it is also about the crimes under international law committed over the past 19 years and the continuing lack of accountability for them,” Eviatar said at the time. “It is about the future, too, as we move towards the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks and strive for enduring justice.”

With help from the human rights organization Reprieve, one of the tortured detainees, Ahmed Rabbani, wrote an op-ed for the Independent on Friday directed at Biden. Rabbani noted the trauma that the president has experienced in his personal life, writing: “He has felt so much pain; I hope that means he will understand mine.”

He continued:

When I was kidnapped from Karachi in 2002 and sold to the CIA for a bounty with a false story that I was a terrorist called Hassan Ghul, my wife and I had just had the happy news that she was pregnant. She gave birth to my son Jawad a few months later. I have never been allowed to meet my own child. President Biden is a man who speaks of the importance of family. I wonder if he can imagine what it would be like to have never touched his own son. Mine will soon be 18 years old, and I have not been there to help him or to guide him.

The 2014 Senate report on CIA torture says Rabbani was tortured for 540 days in Afghanistan. “I can confirm that the torture did take place,” he wrote, “although I couldn’t have counted the days myself: the days and nights blended into one while I was hung from a bar in a black pit, in agony as my shoulders dislocated.”

“I have no interest in revenge, but I would like people to know what happened to me and how it has been swept under the carpet—so that we are protected from presidents like Biden’s predecessor who might make someone face it again,” he added. “The stain of torture can be excised from American history. Biden and his administration can’t just put their heads in the sand and pretend it did not happen.”

Rabbani, who noted that he is “just taxi driver from Karachi, a victim of mistaken identity,” concluded that “President Biden has the power to do something. I would like justice, obviously, for all the abuse I have suffered, but most importantly, I do not want to go home in a coffin or a body bag. I just want to go home to my family, and to finally—for the first time—hold my son.”

Source: Common Dreams

Top image: President Joe Biden is facing demands from human rights groups to immediately close down the U.S. military prison at the Guantánamo Bay Naval Station. (Photo: Susan Melkisethian/flickr/cc)

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