WOLA: Advocacy for Human Rights in the Americas
22 Jan 2016 | News

Civil Society Organizations from the Americas Urge the Closure of Guantánamo on its 14th Anniversary


Joint Statement 

On January 11, 2002, in the wave of counter-terrorism measures put in place by the United States government after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, former US President George W. Bush opened the prison of Guantánamo, located at the US naval base in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba.

Fourteen years later, the detention center remains open and lingers as a global symbol of lawlessness and injustice. Guantánamo is an aberration and a false solution to the terrorist threat. It is impossible for anyone to claim unawareness of the abuses committed against men once or still imprisoned there: from torture to indefinite detention.

We welcome President Obama’s renewed commitment to close Guantánamo1. But this promise is not new. It was first made when he ran for president in 2008 and again once he took office in 2009.2 Now, he has just one year left in his mandate to finally close Guantánamo.

In the last 14 years, almost 780 men and even boys were held in Guantánamo – all Muslim. Today, there are still 913 prisoners. In a recent report4, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) has described the abuses (including torture and ill-treatment, indefinite detention, limited or no access to judicial protection, and trial absent basic elements of due process) endured by these men in Guantánamo for almost a decade and a half. The Commission urged the US government to fulfill its international human rights commitments by closing Guantánamo, appropriately prosecuting those responsible for human rights violations, and ensuring effective redress for victims. The IACHR reemphasized that continued and indefinite detention of individuals in Guantánamo without guaranteeing the right to due process is arbitrary and constitutes a clear violation of international law.

Guantánamo is an example of unlawful actions, impunity, lack of due process and infringement of the right to truth, justice and redress. Its continued existence sends the dangerous message that there will be no consequences for future abuses.

Therefore, we urge the US government to shut down Guantánamo immediately and to: 1) ensure a timely and meaningful Periodic Review Board process for all detainees whose status is still pending; 2) shut down the unfair military commission system, by transferring pending cases to federal courts and opposing any efforts to broaden unlawful indefinite detention beyond Guantánamo Bay; 3) transfer and resettle without delay all detainees cleared for release5 in a manner consistent with international law obligations. The US government must also guarantee an effective and independent criminal investigation and full accountability in all cases of torture and other ill-treatment against men who have been held in Guantánamo.

Latin America’s experiences with seeking truth and justice for crimes against humanity involving arbitrary detention, torture and other rights abuses should compel it to take action. The governments of the region must urge the US administration to close down Guantánamo. They can also contribute to resolving this human rights and humanitarian crisis by supporting a regional effort to receive Guantánamo’s detainees, responding to the call made by the IACHR in its latest report on closing Guantánamo. For years, rights groups have been calling for the closure of Guantánamo and it is high time this happened, as part of the much-needed process of accountability, truth and redress for the crimes committed by the United States in the name of fighting terrorism.


1 See President Obama’s renewed vow during a press conference in Manila (Nov.15) at http://www.miamiherald.com/news/nation-world/world/americas/guantanamo/article45460725.html


2 See Executive Order from January 2009 at https://www.whitehouse.gov/the_press_office/ClosureOfGuantanamoDetentionFacilities


3 See updated figures (as of Jan. 7th, 2016) at http://projects.nytimes.com/guantanamo


4 See IACHR report “Towards the Closure of Guantanamo” at http://www.oas.org/en/iachr/reports/pdfs/Towards-Closure-Guantanamo.pdf


5 As of January 18 2016, there are at least 34 men, almost all Yemenis, in this category.



1. Abogadas y Abogados para la Justicia y los Derechos Humanos (Mexico)

2. Ação Educativa (Brazil)

3. Acción Solidaria en VIH/Sida (Venezuela)

4. Asociación Civil Fuerza, Unión, Justicia, Solidaridad y Paz (Venezuela)

5. Asociación MINGA (Colombia)

6. Asociación para la Prevención de la Tortura – APT (International)

7. Asociacion Pro Derechos Humanos – APRODEH (Peru)

8. Asociadas por lo Justo – JASS (Mexico)

9. Associação Brasileira de Defesa da Mulher da Infância e da Juventude – ASBRAD (Brazil)

10. Associação Nacional dos Centros de Defesa da Criança e Adolescente – ANCED (Brazil)

11. Capacitación social de Panamá (Panama)

12. Center for Constitutional Rights (USA)

13. Centro de Defesa da Criança e dx Adolescente Maria dos Anjos – CDCA/RO (Brazil)

14. Centro de Documentación en Derechos Humanos “Segundo Montes Mozo S.J.” (Ecuador)

15. Centro de Estudios Legales y Sociales (Argentina)

16. Centro de Justicia y Paz – Cepaz (Venezuela)

17. Centro para la Paz y los DDHH de la Universidad Central de Venezuela (Venezuela)

18. Centro Paranaense de Cidadania – CEPAC (Brazil)

19. Civilis Derechos Humanos (Venezuela)

20. Coalición de organizaciones por los derechos a la salud y la vida (Venezuela)

21. Conectas Direitos Humanos (Brazil)

22. Convite (Venezuela)

23. Equipo de Reflexión, Investigación y Comunicación de la Compañía de Jesús (Honduras)

24. Espacio Público (Venezuela)

25. Espaço Paranaese da Diverside LGBT (Brazil)

26. Foro Universitário do Mercosul (International)

27. Frente Ecuatoriano de Derechos Humanos (Ecuador)

28. Fundación Ensayos para el Aprendizaje Permanente – FEPAP (Venezuela)

29. Gabinete de Assessoria Jurídica as Organizações Populares – GAJOP (Brazil)

30. Geledés Instituto da Mulher Negra (Brazil)

31. Grupo de Estudos e Trabalho Mulheres Encarceradas (Brazil)

32. Grupo de Mulheres de San Cristóbal de las Casas (Mexico)

33. Grupo Dignidade (Brazil)

34. Instituto Brasileiro de Análises Sociais e Econômicas – Ibase (Brazil)

35. Instituto Brasileiro de Diversidade Sexual – IBDSEX (Brazil)

36. Instituto de Defensa Legal – IDL (Peru)

37. Instituto de Defensores de Direitos Humanos – DDH (Brazil)

38. Instituto de Estudios Legales y Sociales del Uruguay – IELSUR (Uruguay)

39. International Federation for Human Rights – FIDH (International)

40. International Justice Network (USA)

41. International-Lawyers.Org (International)

42. La Comisión Ecuménica de Derechos Humanos (Ecuador)

43. Laboratorio de Paz – LabPaz (Venezuela)

44. Latin America Working Group (USA)

45. Ligue des droits et libertés (Canada)

46. Movimiento Autónomo de Mujeres (Nicaragua)

47. Núcleo Especializado de Situação Carcerária da Defensoria Pública do Estado de São Paulo (Brazil)

48. Observatorio de Derechos Humanos de la Universidad de Los Andes (Venezuela)

49. Observatorio Venezolano de Prisiones (Venezuela)

50. Pastoral Carcerária do Estado de São Paulo – CNBB (Brazil)

51. Plataforma Interamericana de Derechos Humanos, Democracia y Desarrollo (Ecuador)

52. Provea (Venezuela)

53. Rede Gay Latino (International)

54. SomosGay (Paraguay)

55. Terra Mater (Ecuador)

56. Unidad de Protección a Defensoras y Defensores de Derechos Humanos de Guatemala (Guatemala)

57. US Human Rights Network (USA)

58. Venezuela Diversa (Venezuela)

59. Washington Office on Latin America (USA)