On January 11, 2018, on the 16th anniversary of the Guantánamo prison’s opening, the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR), Reprieve, and co-counsel filed a motion on behalf of 11 men held at the military facility for 16 years, challenging indefinite detention without charges or trial.
The motion argues that Trump’s proclamation against releasing anyone from Guantánamo, regardless of their circumstances, which has borne out for the first full year of the Trump presidency, is arbitrary and unlawful and amounts to “perpetual detention for detention’s sake.”
In a press release CCR Senior Staff Attorney Pardiss Kebriaei, who represents Sharqawi Al Hajj, said that “continuing indefinite detention after all this time is unprecedented and experimental. Another three or seven years under President Trump may mean a death sentence for men like Sharqawi Al Hajj, who is in poor health and damaged by past torture.”
According to the filing the continued detention is unconstitutional because any legitimate rationale for initially detaining these men has long since expired. Detention 16 years into Guantánamo’s operation, is based only on Trump’s raw antipathy towards Guantánamo prisoners – all foreign-born Muslim men – and Muslims more broadly.
Some of the men participating in the filing allegedly have been detained in Guantánamo for nearly 16 years without charge or trial—detention that has spanned three presidential administrations and five presidential terms.
Two of the petitioners have even been approved for transfer, narrowly missing their chance at release in the final days of the Obama administration.
The CCR press release states that Reprieve attorney Shelby Sullivan-Bennis, who represents prisoners at Guantánamo, said, “Since Guantánamo opened, it’s been clear to all – including U.S. officials – that the detainees were being held on the basis of mistakes, faulty evidence, and forced ‘confessions’. The U.S. has had 16 years to build a case against these men, and yet 28 of 41 prisoners are held without charge or a trial of any kind – a shocking violation of America’s founding principles.
On January 11, 2018, human rights activists, torture survivors, Guantánamo attorneys, 9/11 family members, and members of diverse faith communities rallied outside the White House to mark the 16th anniversary and the continued operation of the Guantánamo Bay prison. The coalition issued a press release about the rally. The coalition included the Center for Constitutional Rights, Close Guantanamo, Codepink, Council on American Islamic Relations, Defending Rights and Dissent, Justice for Muslims Collective, National Religious Campaign Against Torture, No More Guantanamos, Reprieve, September 11th Families for Peaceful Tomorrows, Torture Abolition and Survivors Support Coalition, Veterans For Peace, Voices for Creative Nonviolence, Witness Against Torture, and World Can’t Wait.
Meanwhile, a spokeswoman for the Department of Justice declined to comment, saying that officials were reviewing the filing.
As defense counsel to United States citizens abroad, I used to be able to successfully argue that the foreign government had detained my clients for days and weeks without filing charges and/or affording them right to counsel, consular access, etc. In view of conduct by the U.S. government with respect to Guantánamo detainees, such arguments no longer resonate.
Another consequence of the continued detentions is that, in extradition requests by the U.S. government, especially with respect to national security and Muslim defendants, courts from democratic countries no longer accord the U.S. the benefit of the doubt as they did previously.