More than 160,000 voices call on Obama to close Guantánamo

By  Zeke Johnson, Security with Human Rights campaign director at Amnesty International USA.

Every morning I look out my living room window to check the weather and see the empty space between skyscrapers and apartment buildings where the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center once stood.

My memories of the fear, uncertainty and grief I felt that day, and of the images of the towers burning and falling, all come back. The attacks here in New York, in Washington DC and in Pennsylvania were a crime against humanity, and for ten years now I’ve been waiting for all those responsible to be brought to justice.

Instead, the US government has given us torture, detention without charge, secret prisons, unfair show trials, extra-judicial killings, “disappearances,” global war without end and other human rights violations committed – without irony – in the name of justice and security.

January 11, 2012, marked 10 years since Guantánamo became one of America’s notorious “war on terror” prisons – used to hold and interrogate people outside of the law – and the global symbol of US human rights violations after 9/11.

On the campaign trail in 2007, both Barack Obama and John McCain said they would close it. But after the election, the issue was used by fear-mongering politicians to score political points, and the President caved.

Today – one day after the anniversary of President Obama’s executive order to close Guantánamo – Amnesty International will deliver to the White House 164,058 signatures collected to our global petition against Guantánamo and the human rights violations it stands for.

The outpouring of activism across the political and social spectrums has been inspiring. Occupy groups, libertarians, conservatives, military personnel, 9/11 family members, Christians, Jews and Muslims have all found common ground against the idea that politicians can take away our human rights.

With the passage last year of the National Defense Authorization Act and its provisions that further entrench indefinite detention and other human rights violations, it looks like Guantánamo will remain open for a long time to come, and possibly expand.

But citizens across the United States and around the world have loudly declared, Not in My Name! From Washington DC to Tripoli, Chicago to Paris, Dallas to London people marked January 11 by demanding that the US government change course on human rights.

Tomorrow, the President will give his annual State of the Union address. He and other politicians are unlikely to address the state of human rights in America – but we the people will.

Over ten years later, the tragedy of September 11 and the US government’s tragic response demand nothing less.