18:43 GMT06 June 2020
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    January 11 marks 15 years since the establishment of the US-run Guantanamo Bay prison in Cuba. Despite pledges from outgoing-President Barack Obama to close the camp, it remains open, with critics telling Sputnik that the detention center is "coarsening the soul of America."

    To protest against the prison's ongoing operation, human rights activists are taking part in a "fast for justice" to try and draw attention to the atrocities committed in the camp, and to put more pressure on Washington to finally close Guantanamo (Gitmo).

    The fast, carried out by the Witness Against Torture movement, was inspired by a 2005 visit to the camp, where campaigners heard stories about the hunger strikes of inmates.

    Many were pleased when current president Barack Obama pledged to close the prison, however Witness Against Torture activist Josie Setzler says many have been left disappointed with Obama's inaction on the issue.

    "It's such a heartbreak for us. We had such hope when he was inaugurated and made that statement," Josie Setzler told Sputnik.

    "I believe that there are a number of reasons. There's a certain amount of political capital that he has not been willing to spend to get it done. He should have got it done in that first year when he had everything in line, including that Democratic majority in congress, and he delayed it somewhat because of other items on his political agenda. So first of all, we have to hold President Obama himself accountable," she added.

    While criticizing Obama, Ms. Setzler also highlighted the strong institutional pressure to keep the prison open, which she labeled a "disgrace."

    "I also need to acknowledge that congress has opposed him [Obama] every step of the way, which has made it very difficult for him and that has been a scandal."

    'It Has Stoked Further Terrorism'

    The prison, established in 2002 by former US President George Bush following the 9/11 terror attacks, has attracted international infamy for its torture methods, and the holding of terror suspects indefinitely without charge or trial.

    At one stage, the camp held 700 detainees, and while most have since been released, 55 remain in the prison, including 19 who have been cleared for release by the governmental reviews.

    Critics fear the camp will continue to hold detainees under the incoming administration of Donald Trump, with Setzler telling Sputnik that Guantanamo's existence has undermined US values.

    "The foundation of our democracy and our judicial system is that you bring charges and you examine the evidence in trial and you decide. That can be done in federal court, and our government refuses to do that," Setzler told Sputnik.

    Given the horrific treatment of detainees, she says the prison has created many problems for the US and its identity.

    "We hear again and again how it has been the basis for a lot of hatred, and perhaps has stoked further terrorism. We see the symbol of the orange jumpsuits when American contractors are executed. But let's go beyond that and see what it's done to the soul of our own nation," she said.

    "All of it is coarsening the soul of America. There's a huge toll both abroad and on our own soil."


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    Gitmo, hunger strike, terrorism, protest, torture, detention, Donald Trump, George W. Bush, Barack Obama, United States, Guantanamo Bay, Cuba
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