Promises Unfulfilled as Gitmo Turns 10

January 13, 2012

Wednesday marked the tenth anniversary of the opening of America’s outdoor prison, Guantanamo Bay. Sadly, ten years later and one of the biggest promises to close Guantanamo within the first year of President Obama’s presidency unfulfilled, we are still waiting to see that commitment come to fruition. As we had hoped for the closing of Guantanamo Bay, the location remains open, and its existence has been ensured by the passage of the National Defense Authorization Act of 2012 by allowing the indefinite detention of accused terrorists without trial and due process and placing heavy restrictions on transferring any detainees out of the facility.

Aside from the legal woes and troubles Guantanamo has posed for the past two administrations, there are serious moral implications the prison brings to light. Think about the 779 people who have been detained since 2002. Of those prisoners, 600 have been transferred and 171 detainees remain; 89 of the 171 have been cleared for release yet still remain in custody and a majority of those are only being held because of instability in their home countries. Those that are cleared have been living in prison limbo as politicians play into policy games deciding the fate of living out the rest of their lives with or without their families; where is the justice our nation prides itself on?

MPAC has voiced concern in the past over the conditions of detainees at the detention facility as well as its counterproductive elements to our longstanding tradition of American legal values. MPAC President, Salam Al-Marayati stated, “detainee conditions and treatment at Guantanamo Bay undermine our commitment to human rights, and soil America’s image abroad…Let us hope that the closure of Guantanamo will end the era of secret detention facilities, secret trials, indefinite detention and overly broad executive authority.”

With the tenth anniversary of the maintenance of Guantanamo Bay in addition to the recent passage of the NDAA by President Obama with unabashed provisions that are a clear affront to our Constitutional values, the unfulfilled promises are becoming disappointingly a recurrence. To that end, one hope we might rely on is the Due Process Guarantee Act, proposed on the House floor to “clarify that an authorization to use military force, a declaration of war, or any similar authority shall not authorize the detention without charge or trial of a citizen or lawful permanent resident of the United States.”

Although Obama’s attempts to shut Guantanamo Bay down are continually foiled by members of Congress on both sides of the aisle, his actions, such as promising to veto the NDAA and going back on his word, speak volumes. Ten years after the first hooded and shackled prisoners were brought to the detention facility, we look to the leadership of the administration to fulfill the promise of shutting it down; as the old adage goes, better late than never.

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