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Human rights groups renew calls for closing Guantanamo Bay prison

The file photo shows Detention Center Camp 6 in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

Nearly 160 international rights groups have called on the United States to close down its detention center in Cuba’s Guantanamo Bay.

The human rights groups, including Oxfam America and the Council on American-Islamic Relations, made the plea in a letter to US President Joe Biden on Wednesday, on the occasion of the 21st anniversary of the opening of the infamous military prison.

“Guantanamo continues to cause escalating and profound damage to the aging and increasingly ill men still detained indefinitely there, most without charge and none having received a fair trial. It has also devastated their families and communities,” they said.

They further alleged that the controversial detention facility stoked “bigotry, stereotyping and stigma,” adding that by exemplifying those social divisions, Guantanamo “risks facilitating additional rights violations.”

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) also described the prison as a “global symbol of injustice, abuse and disregard for the rule of law.”

“Guantanamo continues to impose enormous costs to both our values and our resources. It is long past time for this shameful episode in American history to be brought to a close,” the nonprofit rights group said.

January 11 marks 21 years since the opening of Guantanamo, commonly known as “Gitmo.” The prison is still operating as a remnant of the US “war on terror” that started after the 9/11 attacks in 2001, despite promises made to close the facility.

Guantanamo became synonymous with prisoner abuse by the United States in the early years of the so-called war on terror, gaining global notoriety for the widespread use of torture and other violations of human rights that took place in it.

Many detainees were reportedly subjected to psychological and physical abuse — including waterboarding, beating, exposure to deafening noise, and sleep and food deprivation — as part of their “enhanced interrogation,” the accounts of which were gradually leaked to the outside world by the few lawyers who visited the prison and the inmates who have since been released.

There are 35 prisoners left at the facility, down from nearly 680 that it used to hold at its peak in 2003. Most have been languishing there without charge, and proceedings for their release have been delayed at the pretrial state for years.

Washington's promises of closing down the site go back to the first tenure of former President Barack Obama, between 2009 and 2013. Obama had made the closing of Guantanamo one of his top priorities and issued an executive order to do so soon after taking office in 2009. However, he failed to achieve that goal by the end of his second term in the face of stiff opposition in Congress. His successor, Donald Trump, rescinded Obama's order to close Guantanamo.

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