Omar calls for closure of Guantánamo Bay prison after 20 years of 'lawlessness and cruelty'

Rep. Ilhan OmarIlhan OmarSenate needs to confirm Deborah Lipstadt as antisemitism envoy — Now Overnight Defense & National Security — DOD watchdog to review extremism screening Omar calls for closure of Guantánamo Bay prison after 20 years of 'lawlessness and cruelty' MORE (D-Minn.) penned an op-ed piece published in Teen Vogue Tuesday calling for the Guantánamo Bay detention facility to be shut down 20 years to the day of its opening.

The Minnesota representative wrote that she would rather not refer to Jan. 11 as an "anniversary" as it implied a celebration.

"Today is a day to reflect, and to act," wrote Omar.


"I reflect on what scores of men lost when the United States tortured them, systematically dismantling their identity and humanity. I reflect on what the families of victims of the September 11, 2001, attacks lost — any possibility of fair and impartial justice — when the United States decided to trade away decency and the rule of law for torture and indefinite detention. And I reflect on our refusal to hold anyone meaningfully accountable for these acts," she wrote.

Of the 39 remaining prisoners at the facility in Cuba, 27 have not been charged with a crime, according to The New York Times, a fact Omar lamented as going against "the most basic standards of justice" and a knock on the U.S.'s global reputation.

While Congress has taken some action over the years to close Guantánamo down, Omar stressed that the prison's closure was the responsibility of the U.S. president. Shortly after assuming office, President BidenJoe BidenMacro grid will keep the lights on Pelosi suggests filibuster supporters 'dishonor' MLK's legacy on voting rights Sanders calls out Manchin, Sinema ahead of filibuster showdown MORE vowed to try to close down Guantánamo, and in July 2021 his administration transferred one detainee out of the facility.

Omar criticized these actions as not enough and said Biden would need to "dramatically pick up the pace."

"The conversation about closing Guantánamo often centers on the national security costs the prison inflicts. Those costs are real and significant, but so is Guantánamo’s role in fueling social and racial injustice," Omar wrote.


In August 2021, over 70 House Democrats called on Biden to shrink Guantánamo's population and shut it down.

“We ask that as you take the steps necessary to finally close the prison, you act immediately to further reduce its population, ensure that the remaining detainees are treated humanely and increase the transparency of military commission proceedings at the Guantanamo detention facility," the lawmakers said in a letter to Biden.

Lee Wolosky, former U.S. Special Envoy for Guantanamo Closure under the Obama administration, also published an op-ed piece on Tuesday for Politico looking back at the "legal and policy morass" that had developed around the prison and prevented the administration from shutting it down.

"A task that many saw as a matter of decisively turning the page on a dark chapter in American history turned out to be much messier, more tedious and more legally and politically fraught than I anticipated," wrote Wolosky.

"Now we stand 20 years from the opening of Guantanamo on Jan. 11, 2002. The United States has left Afghanistan, and the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks has come and gone. The alleged perpetrators still have not been tried, and numerous other men remain held in indefinite detention without charge. President Joe Biden is completing his first year in office. My State Department office remains empty. Our longest war has ended, yet Guantanamo endures," he wrote.