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On this day 20 years ago, the military detention facility at Guantanamo Bay Naval Base in Cuba was established. It is hard to fathom that it remains open today.

Guantanamo was, on January 11, 2002, what it still is today: an abrogation of our country’s values and a moral and ethical failure. And yet this notorious prison persists, in violation of the rule of law and human rights, damaging our national security, and undermining our moral standing in the world.

As a faith community, we are morally opposed to Guantanamo; the indefinite detention it perpetuates, and its history and legacy of torture.

As a faith community, we are morally opposed to Guantanamo; the indefinite detention it perpetuates, and its history and legacy of torture. Twenty years later, the record of failures at this facility is clear. It is the embodiment of cruelty and injustice—an abject moral failure.

Many of the 39 remaining detainees were subjected to torture and remain in unlawful, indefinite detention. More than two dozen have never been charged with a crime, with several having been unanimously cleared for transfer by U.S. national security agencies for more than a decade.

The Guantanamo Military Commissions case against those allegedly responsible for the September 11 attacks has failed to bring any semblance of justice to victims. Instead, they have been mired in pre-trial hearings for nearly a decade.

After years of stagnation, we were heartened when in early 2021, President Joe Biden announced his intention to finally close Guantanamo. However, recent reports that the administration is constructing a new $4 million secret courtroom at the base contradict this goal. This cost is in addition to the $540 million per year required to keep this shameful facility open.

Further, only one detainee has been transferred from Guantanamo since President Biden took office in 2021. At this rate, it would take 27 years to years to transfer all detainees who have never been charged with a crime.

After 20 years, we must no longer let the wounds of torture, indefinite detention, and a broken military justice system fester. We must finally close Guantanamo.

On this ignominious anniversary, we urge President Biden to adhere to his promise and move expeditiously to take concrete steps to finally close Guantanamo. Rather than investing taxpayer funds in a new secret courtroom, the Biden administration should invest in diplomatic negotiations to transfer the 27 detainees who have never been charged with a crime, either to their home countries or to safe third countries.

Rather than persisting with the failed military commissions, the administration should negotiate plea deals with the 10 detainees who have been criminally charged—a resolution that the families of many who were killed in the September 11 attacks support.

After 20 years, we must no longer let the wounds of torture, indefinite detention, and a broken military justice system fester. We must finally close Guantanamo.

Jim Cason

Jim Cason

Associate General Secretary for Strategic Advocacy
Jim Cason is responsible for directing the full range of FCNL’s strategic advocacy work. In this capacity, he works with program staff to develop long term change strategies that accomplish our particular legislative goals.