December 7, 2021, Washington, D.C. — In response to today’s Senate Judiciary Committee hearing, “Closing Guantanamo: 20 Years of Injustice,” the Center for Constitutional Rights, which represents men in every category of detention at the island prison, issued the following statement:
Today, before the Senate Judiciary Committee, our co-counsel Katya Jestin testified about our client, Majid Khan, and the lessons learned from his case about how to resolve the failed military commissions at Guantánamo and close the prison. She discussed the negotiated resolution of Khan’s case and the completion of his military commission sentence in February 2022, after which he will need to be transferred from Guantánamo. She also addressed Khan’s torture in CIA detention, which included waterboarding and rape, echoing both Khan’s own statement last month and remarks by Committee Chair Senator Durbin.
While Mr. Khan is unique in having had the opportunity to tell his story publicly, he is not alone. A total of 26 survivors of the CIA’s torture and detention program, including our client Sharqawi Al Hajj, are imprisoned at Guantánamo. Like more than two-thirds of the 39 men still held there, Mr. Al Hajj is not charged with a crime, and he is one of several suffering life-threatening health problems – a result, in part, of his torture. Another of our clients, Sufyian Barhoumi, is one of the 13 men still languishing at Guantánamo even though they have been cleared for transfer. While it might be easy to assume the remaining men are the most difficult cases who cannot be sent anywhere, that is far from true. It is a failure of will that keeps them at Guantánamo.
Transferring these men would serve the broader obligation to close this site and symbol of human rights abuses, which the U.S. government created precisely to try to evade the law. Since the prison opened in 2002, every president except Trump has expressed a desire to shutter it, but none has been willing to do the requisite work or spend the political capital. President Obama has said he regrets not shutting it down on his first day in office. Although President Biden says he wants to close the prison, he has transferred only one man in 11 months. The Biden administration must use the power and authority it has to move forward critical pieces of a closure plan.
After withdrawing troops from Afghanistan, President Biden claimed to have ended the U.S. government’s “forever war.” But the forever war will persist as long as its primary prison camp and torture chamber remains open. It is long past time to end indefinite detention without charge and close Guantánamo.
The Center for Constitutional Rights has led the legal battle over Guantánamo for nearly 20 years – representing clients in two Supreme Court cases and organizing and coordinating hundreds of pro bono lawyers across the country, ensuring that nearly all the men detained at Guantánamo have had the option of legal representation. Among other Guantánamo cases, the Center represents the families of men who died at Guantánamo, and men who have been released and are seeking justice in international courts.
The Center for Constitutional Rights works with communities under threat to fight for justice and liberation through litigation, advocacy, and strategic communications. Since 1966, the Center for Constitutional Rights has taken on oppressive systems of power, including structural racism, gender oppression, economic inequity, and governmental overreach. Learn more at ccrjustice.org.