Letter signed by "diverse group" of NGOs calls for closing Guantanamo Bay detention facility in Cuba, which was created after September 11, 2001 attacks but shortly thereafter became a site of "unrelenting human rights violations".

A group of people dressed as prisoners protest Guantanamo Bay detention camp outside of US Capitol in Washington, DC.
A group of people dressed as prisoners protest Guantanamo Bay detention camp outside of US Capitol in Washington, DC. (Reuters Archive)

More than 150 organisations have sent a letter to US President Joe Biden urging him to "prioritise closing the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba."

The letter was signed by 159 organisations from the US and other countries who called themselves a "diverse group of non-governmental organisations" working on issues including international human rights, immigrants' rights, racial justice and combating anti-Muslim discrimination.

"It is long past time for both a sea change in the United States' approach to national and human security, and a meaningful reckoning with the full scope of damage that the post-9/11 approach has caused," they wrote in the letter on Wednesday.

"Closing the Guantanamo detention facility, ending indefinite military detention of those held there, and never again using the military base for unlawful mass detention of any group of people are necessary steps towards those ends."

"We urge you to act without delay, and in a just manner that considers the harm done to the men who have been detained indefinitely without charge or fair trials for two decades," they added.

Often referred to as Gitmo, the Guantanamo Bay detention facility was created after September 11, 2001 attacks to hold suspects captured in Afghanistan, Iraq and elsewhere.

It became the focus of worldwide controversy over alleged violations of the legal rights of detainees and accusations of torture or abusive treatment of prisoners by US authorities.

Experts appointed by the UN have called Guantanamo Bay "a site of unparalleled notoriety, defined by the systematic use of torture, and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment against hundreds of men brought to the site and deprived of their most fundamental rights." 

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'It destroyed many Muslim lives'

Meanwhile, a virtual rally was held on Wednesday to mark 21 years since the opening of the US military prison in Guantanamo Bay.

The virtual event was attended by many people from different locations, including activists, lawyers and human rights advocates, who demanded the closure of the notorious prison that the US leased from Cuba in 1903 as a coaling station and naval base.

Among the speakers were Daphne Eviatar, Amnesty International USA's Director of Security with Human Rights, Aliya Hana Hussain, Advocacy Program Manager at the Center for Constitutional Rights and Andy Worthington of the Close Guantanamo campaign as well as other advocates, with Lu Aya, co-founder of The Peace Poets, the moderator.

The participants called on the US government to close Guantanamo prison while talking about the stories of injustice.

Besides calling for justice, the participants marked the 21st anniversary of Guantanamo by reading poems and singing tribute songs.

Like other speakers, Maha Hilal, an author and the co-director of Justice for Muslims Collective, called for the closure of Guantanamo because "it has destroyed the lives of so many Muslim men and boys."

"As we call for the closure of Guantanamo, we call for the abolition of Guantanamo, and an end to Islamophobia," she said.

The detention camp has held roughly 780 detainees since it was opened, most of them without charge or trial, with many said to have gone through unspeakable horrors. 

Currently, 35 detainees remain and 20 of them are eligible for transfer.

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Source: TRTWorld and agencies