A coalition of human rights groups is marking the 10th anniversary of the first detainees being jailed at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, by demonstrating in front of the White House and calling on President Barack Obama to close the controversial facility.
Hundreds of demonstrators marched in a cold rain along Pennsylvania Avenue.
They were led by protesters in black hoods and orange jump suits, representing the 171 detainees still held at the Guantanamo Bay detention center.
Tom Parker, with Amnesty International, said “Guantanamo has been open 10 years too long. It is not keeping anybody safe. It is only open really now because of domestic politics. It serves no real useful purpose. It is a stain on America’s reputation.”
Of the nearly 780 detainees brought to Guantanamo over the past decade, about 600 have been released.
Opponents of the facility say the vast majority of the remaining prisoners are not a national security threat to the United States.
Protester Dan Burgevin has been living shackled, in a cage, across from the White House.
“We continue this abominable program that jails people with no charge and keeps them away from their families and people that they love,” said Burgevin. “I mean we just have to ask ourselves as Americans, would we want to be treated that way?”
Ten years ago, and just months after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the United States, the first detainees were flown into Guantanamo.
Images of shackled prisoners in orange jumpsuits captured in the War on Terror led to human rights groups questioning the interrogation techniques being used there.
Some analysts that support Guantanamo refer to those held there as “hybrid warriors” and say detention of the enemy during wartime is part of a broader effort to win the conflict.
Heritage Foundation senior legal fellow Cully Stimson:
“You detain people not to punish them,” said Stimson. “You detain people lawfully under the law of armed conflict to prevent them from taking up arms against you. You don’t want to rearm the enemy while you are trying to defeat the enemy.”
Still, former detainees say their time spent in Guantanamo represents a dark page in the modern history of humanity.
Moazzam Begg spent two years in Guantanamo. “And this is an anniversary of tragedy, of pain, of torment, of families ripped apart,” said Begg.
President Barack Obama promised to close the Guantanamo detention center, but Congress has blocked efforts to move the prisoners.