2021: The Year to Finally Close Guantanamo
(March 4, 2021) — The military prison at Guantánamo Bay represents grave violations of human rights by the US government. As it enters its 20th year of existence as a center for indefinite detention, it continues to hold 40 Muslim men, most without charge, none having received a fair trial. Many, like Toffiq al-Bihani, were tortured by the US government. Six of the detainees, including al-Bihani, have been cleared for transfer to other countries yet remain behind bars.
At the beginning of his presidency, former President Trump signed an executive order to keep the military prison at Guantánamo Bay open. Now, President Biden has an opportunity to end this ongoing abuse of human rights by closing the detention center once and for all.
Amnesty International has released a new report highlighting ongoing and historic human rights violations at the Guantánamo Bay detention facility, as detentions there enter their 20th year and as a new President prepares to enter the White House. Check out the full report, entitled USA: Right the Wrong, Decision Time on Guantánamo..
My New Film — and a Real Chance to Close Guantánamo
Jodie Foster / Amnesty International
(March 2, 2021) — I’m sure you know the story of Guantánamo Bay, where over the last 19 years the US government has imprisoned 780 Muslim men. And you likely remember that President Obama promised to close the prison, and to transfer prisoners securely to other countries. But with so many human rights crises happening in the world, I’m guessing it hasn’t been at the top of mind for many of us in a while.
That was true for me, too, until I filmed The Mauritanian, a new movie that I’m excited Amnesty International is promoting. The film tells the true story of Mohamedou Ould Salahi, who was tortured and held without charge in Guantánamo for more than a decade. It’s based on the best-selling memoir he wrote while detained in the prison, Guantanamo Diary, and I play the defense lawyer Nancy Hollander, who bravely takes on his case.
I’m glad The Mauritanian is putting the spotlight back on Guantánamo. It couldn’t come at a more opportune time: President Biden has a real chance to close Guantánamo, once and for all. The prison there still holds 40 men, most of whom have still never been charged with a crime or given a fair trial. My friends at Amnesty International say there’s a real chance President Biden might make this move — that’s why they’ve launched this petition.
This film challenges the way we perceive fairness and human rights, and reminds us of the human costs of the “War on Terror,” a deadly campaign the US government has waged for almost two decades against whomever it determines is threatening our country.
I’m particularly proud that the film also focuses on sharing the very human story of Mohamedou Ould Salahi, and the horrific injustice that he has been through. Even now, the stigma of being a former detainee includes painful restrictions on his freedom of movement. He’s been unable to secure visas to travel and visit his loved ones, including his new wife and baby. His story matters, and the human rights of all people matter.
I hope you’ll watch The Mauritanian, and help us continue this conversation about justice and human rights. Amnesty International is promoting the film, and you can watch a trailer of it here.
It’s important to tie Mohamedou’s story to what’s still going on in Guantánamo today. I think of Toffiq al-Bihani, a Yemeni citizen who has been held there since 2003. Like Mohamedou, he was cleared for release over 10 years ago, but our government is still holding him behind bars. He’s not alone: 40 other men are there, too. Many of them were tortured by the US government. Those who have been cleared for release deserve to go home. The others deserve a fair trial.
Gar, I usually prefer to trust the experts on human rights issues, and that’s one reason I trust Amnesty International. For 60 years, they’ve worked to protect people wherever justice, freedom, truth, and dignity are denied. And powered by people like you, they’ve freed hundreds of people who were wrongfully imprisoned because of who they are or what they believe — and changed laws in dozens of countries in order to defend and advance human rights.
The situation in Guantánamo is clear: this detention center needs to close, and 2021 will be the year we FINALLY make it happen. That’s why I have chosen to speak up.
Thanks for reading my note, and thanks for taking action with Amnesty.