Guantanamo Bay tells a hypocritical tale of two worlds: a United States that constantly boasts of freedom of democracy and a U.S. that shores up a prison with numerous human rights and international law violations, including sickening allegations of torture.
Closing Guantanamo is a necessary step to salvage the already struggling international image of the U.S.. But more importantly, closing Guantanamo would represent respect for basic freedom and human rights in the U.S. — norms that are disrespected by Guantanamo’s continuing to function. We need to stand up for the rights of others.
While some may feel that Guantanamo is a necessary evil, evidence suggests otherwise. Torture is well known for being ineffective and producing poor information and is also an immoral practice. The United Nations defines it as “any act by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted on a person” to punish them, coerce them or obtain information or a confession.
Thus, when we ask if torture is immoral, the answer is in the question. There is nothing controversial about the statement that no one — especially the government — should ever subject another to the extreme pain or suffering torturing evokes.
Even if torture was a useful tool for learning new information and everyone at Guantanamo was charged with terrorism, that would not justify keeping Guantanamo open.
To combat all these issues, President Joe Biden must take certain steps to avoid making the mistakes that Obama made in his efforts to close Guantanamo. One of the most important things that Biden must do is act quickly, not leaving it up to Congress. Congress has interpreted the National Defense Authorization Act in such a manner as to prevent the movement of any detainee from Guantanamo to the U.S., so Biden must take the matter into his own hands.
Credible decisions regarding each detainee’s case can be made in a rapid manner, as there are dossiers on each of the detainees and enough experts who are well-informed on case specifics and laws relevant to the detention camp.
In addition, Biden must discontinue the use of military commissions at Guantanamo, a system which makes a laughingstock of the concept of due process.
We can help close Guantanamo by calling on our elected officials and spreading awareness via social media. We can communicate with like-minded individuals in coalitions that are also based in other states and parts of the U.S. We don’t want our taxpayer dollars going toward the continued existence of this dystopian prison.
We can also help publicize and urge others to watch the recently released film “The Mauritanian,” which is based on “Guantanamo Diary,” a best-selling book by Mohamedou Ould Salahi on his experiences at Guantanamo. It also appears that Salahi has still not received his passport, which we can call on the Mauritanian government to issue. By getting his passport, Salahi will have more opportunities to tell the story of his experiences at Guantanamo and, as such, spotlight further international attention on the prison and the necessity of closing it.
For every day that Guantanamo remains open, human rights will continue to suffer. The closing of Guantanamo may seem inherently difficult, but it is an achievable goal. A total of 779 people have been at Guantanamo, and at the time of this writing, the total stands at only 40. I don’t see why it cannot become zero.
Rakesh Peddibhotla PZ ’24 is from Fremont, CA. He enjoys learning about issues of social justice and international relations, as well as playing the trombone and singing.