Advocates who want to do away with the detention center in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, see this year as their last chance to hold the President Barack Obama accountable to his pledge to close the prison and release any prisoners who are unjustly detained. United Church of Christ leaders and their partners in faith, marching Monday, Jan. 11, in Cleveland and Washington, D.C., reminded the president of that promise as part of a series of nationwide vigils calling for the closure of the prison.
"It's important for people of faith to oppose torture because it is an abuse of human rights and a desecration of the sacred in all of us," said Derek Duncan, UCC associate for global advocacy and education who attended the Cleveland rally. "As citizens it's important to hold our nation accountable and say torture is illegal and un-American. Guantanamo remains the base and symbol for U.S.-sponsored torture and it's time for Obama to keep his promise and close it."
The vigil and march in downtown Cleveland, sponsored by the Greater Cleveland Immigrant Support Network and the Interreligious Task Force on Central America, was part of a wider witness around the country for rallying, fasting and public demonstrations.
Guantanamo Bay, which accepted the first detainees 14 year ago, now holds 114 men, 52 who have been cleared for release and are being held without charge or trial.
Obama and Sen. John McCain, his opponent in the 2008 Presidential Election, both called for the closure of the prison, with the president periodically restating that the facility needs to be closed indefinitely, claiming that it is costly to maintain and that it has become a recruiting tool for terrorists. There could be some movement on the issue, with the White House chief of staff saying the president feels an obligation to his successor to close Guantanamo before he leaves office, and that he will present Congress with a plan to do so in the near future.