This morning, CCR filed the first major legal challenge to Trump’s Guantánamo policy, which we announced at a press conference at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. A rally outside the White House marking the anniversary and calling for the prison’s closure followed. Below are the rally remarks of CCR advocacy program manager Aliya Hussain.
My name is Aliya Hussain, and I’ve been traveling to Guantánamo for nearly all of my professional life. Sixteen years after the first prisoners landed in Guantánamo, it remains a cruel, dark place designed to break the men who are there, and isolate them from all of you.
That is by design, of course. The government doesn’t want the world in outrage over the senselessness of their continued and arbitrary detention and ask the question: why? The government doesn’t want the prisoners to know that there are people like you who see them, in all of their humanity, and will not rest until they are free.
But the prisoners see you—and they persevere.
I’ve seen more decency, humility, compassion, and yes, intelligence, in the meeting rooms in Guantánamo’s Camp Echo than I have seen in the Oval Office this year.
Make no mistake: Trump is keeping it open because he despises Muslims, and Guantánamo is the most dramatic and chilling symbol of what abuse the country can tolerate so long as the victims are Muslims.
That’s why today we’re taking Trump to court.
This morning CCR, Reprieve, and co-counsel filed the first major challenge to Trump’s Guantánamo policy—which is not to release any prisoners, regardless of their individual circumstances—and it is a dramatic shift from the past two adminsitrations.
We filed this on behalf of eleven men, including CCR client Sharqawi Al Hajj, who have been detained without charge for nearly fourteen years. A survivor of CIA torture, Sharqawi has spent nearly 14 years detained at Guantánamo, but has not been charged. Neither have the overwhelming majority of prisoners. Sharqawi describes his imprisonment at Guantánamo as living in a cemetery: [It is] “like we’re buried alive.”
The court must act. Sixteen years of detention without charge is too much. Men cannot be detained forever in connection to a “war” that may never end. Trump’s contempt for Muslims isn’t a legitimate reason to keep this group of men detained for the rest of this term, and possibly, a second. As much as he would like to think so, Trump cannot turn off the Constitution when it doesn’t suit him.
Whatever you believe about the men at Guantánamo, a constitutional democracy owes them more than sixteen years without charge on an island prison, sham military commissions trials, and no accountability for the medieval torture they suffered in Guantánamo and CIA black sites.
Whether Guantánamo closes or expands depends upon all those who oppose this president—in the court, in halls of government, in countries abroad, and in the streets here in the United States.
“Those people who speak on behalf of us are the only hope we have,” Sharqawi told CCR.
We, are their only hope.