Hours after President Barack Obama signed into law a defense bill that continues to thwart closure of the Guantanamo Bay detention facility, a group of human rights activists is staging a vigil and fast at its gates to say “the whole prison must shut down.”
Under the banner “Forced-Feeding, Not Feasting at Guantanamo,” the Thanksgiving Day action outside of the base in Cuba by 14 members of Witness Against Torture aims to put a spotlight on the men who continue to suffer unjust detention and the continued practice of force-feedings of hunger striking prisoners at “the site of one of our country’s greatest shames.”
“Our actions are a simple act of solidarity,” Chris Knestrick from Cleveland, Ohio said in a media statement. “We are here to say: We know you are suffering; we have come to stand with you.”
In addition to closing the prison, the group says the U.S. military needs to shut down entirely its naval base in Cuba.
“The military base itself is an unwelcome symbol of U.S. power, which houses a torture chamber,” said New York artist Enmanuel Candelario. “No country should endure this breach of its sovereignty.”
The group’s current visit to Guantanamo marks their second; their initial trip was a decade ago. “We are impatient,” said Frank Lopez, an educator from New York City. “That is the understatement of the century,” he said, noting that though a few of the detainees have been freed and despite Obama’s pledge in 2008 to close the prison, 47 men who’ve been cleared for release still languish there. “The whole prison must shut down,” he said.
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