by Sophie Trist
Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Min) and Rep. David Price (D-NC) are calling on their fellow members of Congress to sign a letter to President Biden, urging him to follow through on his promise to close the inhumane, costly, and unnecessary detention facility at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba. White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki confirmed the administration’s intention to close the prison, the National Security Council is reviewing procedures there with the intent of closing the facility, and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin stated during his confirmation hearing that after two decades, it’s time to phase out Guantanamo.
The prison at Guantanamo Bay held nearly eight hundred prisoners in its heyday — but now, only forty Muslim men are held there. These men are increasingly aging and disabled, and many of them are torture survivors, suffering from physical and psychological trauma related to abuse and indefinite, extralegal detention. The facility costs over $500 million per year to operate. This amounts to $13 million annually per detainee, which is over three times the cost of incarcerating someone in a maximum-security facility on the U.S. mainland. The process by which Guantanamo Bay operates remains dysfunctional, resulting in a painfully slow pace of justice for victims and survivors of terrorist attacks. There is a distinct lack of transparency regarding proceedings at the detention facility, and United States federal courts could quickly and humanely adjudicate the remaining cases.
Our continued presence at Guantanamo Bay is a stain on our nation’s history, a holdover from an era of imperialism. America acquired the naval base at Guantanamo Bay through the notorious Platt Amendment of 1903, which gave the U.S. an economic and political stranglehold over Cuba in its first decades of independence. Guantanamo Bay is part of a legacy of colonialism and subjugation America should be working to leave behind. The inhumane treatment of the prisoners there betrays America’s stated commitment to upholding due process. We cannot claim to stand for human rights while this prison remains operational on another nation’s soil. The Center for Victims of Torture and Physicians for Human Rights have claimed that detainees at Guantanamo are not receiving adequate healthcare, as their medical needs are subordinated to security concerns. As the prisoners age and become disabled, this is likely to become an even greater problem. Given the glacial pace of justice, lack of transparency, exorbitant cost, and human rights violations, it is high time to close Guantanamo Bay.
Please send your congressional representatives this form and urge them to sign onto the Omar-Price letter to President Biden. You can find your House members and senators here. It may be helpful to accompany the link with a short message, using the information in this article and this helpful background reading from Witness Against Torture and Just Security. Republicans, Democrats, international legal scholars, and human rights experts from around the world have called for Guantanamo Bay’s closure. This is a bipartisan goal that legislators from both sides of the aisle should be able to agree on. The Omar-Price letter is time sensitive, so urge your representatives to sign on right away.