Today marks the 14th anniversary of the opening of the U.S. military prison at Guantánamo, where 107 prisoners are still being held. Hina Shamsi, director of the American Civil Liberties Union’s National Security Project, represented Mohamedou Ould Slahi, one of the men still being held. Last year a book collecting Slahi’s diary writings became a surprise best-seller. "This is a shame that threatens more than ever to mar President Obama’s legacy as he leaves office, and the potential that he leaves office without closing Guantánamo," Shamsi says. "There are many men unjustly continuing to be held at Guantánamo. My client’s story is symbolizing an aspect of it."
AMY GOODMAN: Finally, I wanted to turn to another issue. Today marks the 14th anniversary of the opening of the U.S. military prison at Guantánamo—107 prisoners still there. Many have been cleared for over a decade to leave. One of your clients, Mohamedou Ould Slahi, is among the men being held. Last year, a book collecting his diary writings became a surprise best-seller. Your thoughts today? And what is happening to him?
HINA SHAMSI: The national shame of Guantánamo’s existence continues 14 years later. And this is a shame that threatens, more than ever, I think, to mar President Obama’s legacy as he leaves office, and the potential that he leaves office without closing Guantánamo.
I think my client—there are many, many men unjustly continuing to be held at Guantánamo. I think my client’s story is symbolizing an aspect of it. He was picked up after he voluntarily turned himself in to Mauritanian authorities. He has sought, at every opportunity that he could, to show that he is unjustly detained and should be released. And he’s done that in—through the courts, as well as by seeking what’s called a periodic review board, which could clear him by determining that his ongoing detention is unjustified.
We’re really at a point, Amy, where the president can and should direct the Department of Defense to stop putting up roadblocks. There are some very credible accounts of the roadblocks that Department of Defense has been putting up. It needs to stop putting up roadblocks. The Justice Department could choose not to contest cases in which detention authority is unjustified or no longer justified. And we can bring these numbers down this year. The president has already indicated that those numbers will be brought down this year.
And we need to move forward to close the place, because the existence of Guantánamo isn’t just about the place, it’s also about the principle that it represents, which is the principle of the United States continuing to hold people without charge or trial. Until that is put to an end, we’re not going to be able to return fully to the family of nations with the rule of law, as we proclaim it to be.
AMY GOODMAN: Hina Shamsi, I want to thank you for being with us, director of the American Civil Liberty Union’s National Security Project.
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