Jan. 20, 2022

Religious leaders reiterate calls for closing prison at Guantanamo Bay, seek justice for those held

The World Council of Churches (WCC) supports a renewed call issued by interreligious leaders from the United States for the prison at Guantanamo Bay to be closed, and for justice for those being held.
Photo: Albin Hillert/WCC
20 January 2022

In an 11 January letter from, among more than two dozen others, the National Council of Churches (USA), T'ruah: The Rabbinic Call for Human Rights, and Islamic Society of North America, religious leaders called for President Biden to ensure that all of the people held at Guantanamo Bay are either released, agree to a plea deal, or receive a fair trial in a federal court.

“In the fullness of time we now know that many of the people sent to Guantanamo were never involved in terrorism in the first place,” the letter reads. “Even today, 20 years after the prison was opened, most of the prisoners have never been tried or convicted of any crime.”

The letter noted that, although the right to a trial is a bedrock American value, it has been denied to those at Guantanamo. “Allowing the government to claim a war-based authority to hold people for decades without charge or trial, in a conflict that has no clear end-state or conditions for victory, and for which the government does not recognize clear geographic boundaries, is an extraordinary and dangerous expansion of governmental authority,” the letter reads. “While the sustained immorality of holding people without trial ought to be reason enough to close the prison, it is also unreasonably expensive – costing more than half a billion dollars each year, or over $13 million per prisoner per year.”

The letter urges US leaders to spend tax dollars wisely. “More importantly you are responsible for upholding American values,” the letter concludes. “The prison at Guantanamo does neither. We pray that you will close it.”

Peter Prove, WCC Director for International Affairs, welcomed this renewed call by US religious leaders, noting that “the World Council of Churches has long been requesting justice and human rights for Guantanamo detainees.” A WCC central committee statement in 2005 urged the government of the United States "to immediately grant the legal rights accorded to detainees to all those held at the Guantanamo Bay naval base "without due process and in total violation of the norms and standards of international humanitarian and human rights law.”

WCC Statement on Detainees at Guantanamo Bay (WCC Central Committee, February 2005) (https://www.oikoumene.org/resources/documents/statement-on-detainees-at-guantanamo-bay)

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