The following statements were made by signatories to the Close Guantanamo ad which will be placed in The New York Times.
M. Cherif Bassiouni, Emeritus Professor of Law, DePaul University College of Law:
Like you and many others, I have given a great deal of thought to what can be done to encourage the Obama Administration to release from Gitmo as many persons as possible within the framework of existing legislation and to ultimately close it. This concern has only been heightened by the hunger strike in which a reported 130 men held at Guantanamo are engaged in.
The purpose of this email is to solicit your support for an ad to appear in the New York Times on Thursday, May 16th a copy of which is attached. I would like to know whether you would agree to make a contribution of between $1,000 to $5,000 to this important cause, and/or to agree to include your name in the ad, along side many other likeminded persons, included myself. Will you allow your name to be used? Will you contribute? If so, please respond to The World Can’t Wait at their website, or to WCW’s director, Debra Sweet, at email@example.com.
Gitmo and the practices that have taken place in it have violated the Constitution of the United States, its laws prohibiting torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, and are also in violation of international law.
The Bush Administration argued that there is something called a “War on Terrorism,” which by its mere declaration by the said Bush Administration is enough to make it a legal reality. From that false premise, both the Bush and Obama Administrations, as well as Congress, have assumed that because a presumptive “state of war” exists with non-state actors operating in different countries, all persons suspected by the US armed forces or intelligence community to be deemed a member of such a group, or defined as an “unlawful enemy combatant,” is enough to detain a person indefinitely, without a trial, without legal rights under the Constitution of the United States, and to subject such a person to torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. We can now add to that the force-feeding of a number of Gitmo detainees who have gone on a hunger strike. That, too, is torture. And, the question of torture is not something abstract, it is an international crime as well as a crime under U.S. law for which all perpetrators are subject to prosecution, and if found guilty, to punishment including those medical personnel who participate in such acts (which is also a violation of their Hippocratic Oath and in violation of the “Nuremburg Principles”). All such concerned persons should know that obedience to superior orders is not a defense when the order is manifestly unlawful.
The time to stop these illegal practices has long been upon us, but the political will of a few has so far overcome the good will of the many in this country. All legal avenues through U.S. courts seem to be blocked, for the moment. What is left is for us now is to make another concerted effort to push the administration to act within the limits of the law to release the 86 detainees who have been cleared for release. They have not been charged with any crime and have been confirmed by the Gitmo military authorities not to be subject to prosecution. Subject to existing law, these 86 persons, many of whom have been in prison for almost 10 years, can be released to their country of origin, or any other country willing to accept them so long as no US funds are used to transfer them abroad. Surely the Administration can, through diplomatic contacts, make such persons available to any country willing to receive them and to cover the costs of their transfer from Gitmo to another country.
One way to achieve that is to have a number of notable names go on a series of ads in the New York Times to urge the administration to take such action.
Below is the text of the ad for publication.
Thank you in advance.
Carlos Warner, Esq., Guantanamo Attorney:
We are not engaged in a legal battle. We are engaged in battle for our morals and virtues as a nation. This drive, and others like it, are our only hope to end the atrocity that is Guantanamo.
Marc Falkoff, Guantanamo Attorney:
The hunger strike at Guantanamo has, at long last, refocused the nation’s attention on our infamous offshore prison camp. Though Guantanamo has been the nation’s shame for more than decade, a consensus is growing that it’s high cost in dollars (more than $175 million a year) and in our country’s standing as a beacon for human rights is too terrible a price to pay for no appreciable security benefit.
More than half of the current prisoners have been cleared for release by every executive agency concerned with national security — including the Departments of Justice, Defense, State, and Homeland Security, as well as the Central Intelligence Agency, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and the Director of National Intelligence. Those men, at the very least, should finally be returned home to their families.
I believe that President Obama wants to close Guantanamo, but he won’t do it unless you and I and our neighbors force him to. President Lyndon Johnson once told the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., that he wanted to pass the Civil Rights Act, but the political reality was that he needed to be forced to do it. “Go out and keep doing what you’re doing,” he said in effect, “and make it possible for me to do the right thing.” And that’s what we must do to get President Obama to finally close Guantanamo. Let’s make it possible for him to do the right thing, and let’s do it right now.
Alice Walker, author (quoted from Sister Assata: This Is What American History Looks Like):
What is most distressing about the times we live in, in my view, is our ever accelerating tolerance for cruelty. Prisoners held indefinitely in orange suits, chained and on their knees. Like the hunger strikers of Guantanamo, I would certainly prefer death to this. People shot and bombed from planes they never see until it is too late to get up from the table or place the baby under the bed. Poor people terrorized daily, driven insane really, from fear. People on the streets with no food and no place to sleep. People under bridges everywhere you go, holding out their desperate signs: a recent one held by a very young man, perhaps a veteran, under my local bridge: I Want To Live. But nothing seems as cruel to me as this: that our big, muscular, macho country would go after so tiny a woman as Assata who is given sanctuary in a country smaller than many of our states.