On the occasion of President Obama’s Berlin speech on June 19, 2013, AVA-Berlin joined the Amnesty International Berlin-Brandenburg group in calling for a closure of the Guantánamo prison camp. More photos here.
The following is the text of Ann Wertheimer’s speech on behalf of American Voices Abroad Berlin at the Amnesty International tent in Berlin (June 19, 2013):
Heute, hier am Potsdamer Platz, spreche ich für American Voices Abroad, eine Gruppe U.S.-Amerikaner, die sich seit über 10 Jahren in Berlin gegen präventive Kriege und für Bürgerrechte engagieren. Wir sprechen heute direkt mit unserem Präsidenten, der bald am Brandenburger Tor eine wichtige Rede halten wird.
Mr. President, we are your constituents, from all over the United States of America. We have thanked you, and we do so again today, for your achievements, especially for Obamacare. But we have also criticized you, as friends must. And now we urge you once again: close the prison in Guantánamo.
In September of 2006, in a speech on the Senate floor, you said that imprisoning people in Guantánamo without habeas corpus rights (that is, detaining them without the right to be heard in a court of law) is un-American and betrays our long-held principles of justice; you said that unlawful imprisonment is tyrannical; that it doesn’t fight terrorism but fuels it; that it provokes anti-Americanism; that it endangers our own captured soldiers and Americans traveling abroad.
You have always said no to renditions, no to warrantless wiretaps. You said that part of your job would be “to break the fever of fear” that has been exploited by the Bush administration.
You said that you would “close Guantánamo and restore the right of habeas corpus, because that’s how we lead, not with the might of our military but with the power of our ideals.” You said that the prison in Guantánamo has made the United States weaker by diminishing our moral authority and our influence overseas.
In the meantime, Congress blocked funds needed for the transfer or release of prisoners held at the Guantánamo Bay detention camp. Vicious obstructionism has come from the Republicans as well as from the right wing of your own party.
Just a few weeks ago you called on Congress to lift restrictions on transferring detainees that the Pentagon has cleared for release and said that you were ending the moratorium on sending about 50 Yemenis home. You are appointing senior officials at the State Department and the Pentagon to oversee the process. (Just a few days ago you announced that Clifford Sloan would be the State Department envoy in charge of closing Guantánamo.) We now ask you to order the Pentagon to begin certifying the transfer of the 88 detainees who have already been approved for release.
You said that the most daunting obstacle to closing Guantánamo is what to do with about 80 prisoners that your administration has decided cannot be tried in court and are too dangerous to be released. But as you recently said: “[T]he politics are hard…. Imagine a future — 10 years from now or 20 years from now — when the United States of America is still holding people who have been charged with no crime on a piece of land that is not a part of our country.” You asked: “Is that who we are? … Is that the America we want to leave to our children?”
We say no, this is not the America we want our children to inherit. We believe that these prisoners can be tried in court, that the U.S. legal system is robust and capable of providing Americans the protection they deserve. So we urge you to convene the review boards that you yourself established to examine the cases of the remaining prisoners. Charge the prisoners. If they are proved guilty, transfer them to a maximum-security prison in the United States. If innocent, release them.
We, Americans Voices Abroad, are waiting with the rest of the world for you to live up to your pledges. Mr. President, we call on you to close the prison in Guantánamo.