WASHINGTON | Wed Jan 11, 2012 6:44pm EST
(Reuters) – Human rights protesters dressed in orange prison-style jumpsuits and covering their heads with black bags marched past the White House on Wednesday to mark the 10th anniversary of the U.S. military detention camp at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
Ignoring a steady rain, scores of protesters decried the prison as a disgrace to American values while carrying pictures of inmates and signs that said: “Close Gitmo” and “Investigate and prosecute U.S. torture.”
The United States set up the prison at its Cuban base after U.S.-led forces invaded Afghanistan following the September 11, 2001 attacks. The first 20 prisoners arrived on January 11, 2002.
“This is a day of great shame — 10 years of indefinite detention, 10 years of torture, 10 years of the violation of the rule of law,” protest organizer Frida Berrigan of the Witness Against Torture rights group told several hundred demonstrators in Lafayette Park across the street from the White House.
Ramzi Kassem, a City University of New York law professor who represents Guantanamo inmates, said prisoners were marking the anniversary with a three-day hunger strike and by refusing to return to their cells.
The marchers, chanting “Hey hey, ho ho, Guantanamo has got to go,” continued on to rally outside the Supreme Court, then dispersed.
The Cuban camp has held 779 foreign captives, and 171 remain. The prison was set up to hold and interrogate detainees suspected of links to al Qaeda, the Taliban and other groups classified by the United States as terrorist organizations.
No detainee has been released in a year. After his 2008 election, President Barack Obama ordered the camp closed by January 2010 but missed the deadline.
President George W. Bush authorized military courts to try captives on war crimes charges. Obama criticized the tribunals but has continued them under revised rules.
A spokeswoman for Amnesty International said protests by human rights groups were planned for Miami, Boston, San Francisco and Chicago.
Events also have been scheduled for Paris, Toronto, Madrid, Berlin, London, Brussels and other cities, she said.