News Release

Obama Can Transfer Hunger Strikers from Guantanamo


President Obama was questioned today about the hunger strikers at Guantanamo: “as you probably are aware, there’s a growing hunger strike at Guantanamo Bay among prisoners there. Is it any surprise, really, that they would prefer death rather than have no end in sight to their confinement?”

President Obama: “Well, it is not a surprise to me that we’ve got problems in Guantanamo … I continue to believe we’ve got to close Guantanamo. … I don’t want these individuals to die. … Obviously the Pentagon is trying to manage the situation as best as they can. But I think all of us should reflect on why exactly are we doing this? Why are we doing this? … We can handle this.

“I am going to go back at this. … I am going to reengage with Congress that this is not in the best interest of the American people.” See video.

CARLOS WARNER, carloswarnerlaw at, @Carlos_Warner
Warner is an attorney with the Federal Public Defender of the Northern District of Ohio. He represents 11 Guantanamo prisoners. He said today: “I applaud President Obama’s remarks — he hasn’t mentioned Guantanamo in years — but the fact is that Congress has very little to do with it. NDAA as written allows the President to transfer individuals if it’s in the national security of the United States. The President’s statement made clear that Guantanamo negatively impacts our national security. The question is not whether the administration has the authority to transfer innocent men, but whether it has the political courage to do so.”

Davis and Daloisio are with Witness Against Torture. Daloisio said today: “Obama can appoint a senior government official to shepherd the closure of the prison, and vest that person with sufficient authority to resolve inter-agency squabbling and get the job done.

“It’s more than one thousand days since Obama had promised Guantanamo would be closed and 83 days into a hunger strike. We have people, cleared to be released years ago, saying: ‘I do not want to kill myself. My religion prohibits suicide. But I will not eat or drink until I die, if necessary, to protest the injustice of this place. We want to get out of this place. It is as though this government wishes to smother us in this injustice, to kill us slowly here, indirectly, without trying us or executing us.’ (Moath Hamza Ahmed al-Alwi.)

“Now, President Obama responds to what is a crisis, with ‘we can handle this’? Why, lacking any proposed concrete steps, should we — or more importantly those starving for justice — believe him?”

JEREMY VARON, jvaron at
Varon, also with Witness Against Torture, said: “We first heard of the hunger strike about six weeks ago when the U.S. military was denying it was even taking place. Our goal as Witness Against Torture was to build awareness that it was happening, engage in all kinds of solidarity and citizen action work, from vigils to fasting to demos to calls to White House and military to, so far, one direct action. We have seen the story move from the far margins to the headlines. …

“The hunger strike at Guantanamo is the latest, tragic reminder that Guantanamo must close. Keeping men there indefinitely — without charge or trial and even when deemed no threat by the U.S. government itself — is morally unacceptable and politically unsustainable. The Guantanamo nightmare must end now.”

See in The Hill: “President Obama Must Act to Close Guantanamo.”