Press Release: Berkeley City Council to Vote Today to Resettle Cleared Guantánamo Detainees in Berkeley

From Cynthia Papermaster, Code Pink
Tuesday February 15, 2011 - 10:43:00 AM

Guantánamo detainees would be able to resettle in Berkeley, according to a resolution to be considered today by the Berkeley City Council. 

The Resolution asks Congress to remove any legislative barriers to resettling cleared Guantánamo detainees in the U.S. and welcomes one or two of the detainees to live in Berkeley once they're able to leave Guantánamo. Berkeley will become the third municipality in the United States and the first in California to do so. No city funds would be used to support the former detainees, who would be sponsored by community volunteers and organizations that help torture victims and refugees. 

"I'd offer a room in my house to one of the men," said Cynthia Papermaster, Berkeley resident and who heads Berkeley No More Guantanamos. She asked the Berkeley Peace and Justice Commission to bring the measure to the Council. The commission did so on December 6. 

Papermaster said, "The U.S. government—under President Bush and President Obama-- cleared the majority of Guantánamo prisoners for release, but many cannot safely return to their home countries because of the risk of persecution, torture or death. Berkeley is a compassionate and caring community, like Amherst and Leverett, Massachusetts, which passed similar resolutions in 2009 and 2010. Berkeley wants to extend the hand of friendship and support to help these men resume their lives in peace and safety, and to heal from the ordeal of capture, torture and detention at the hands of our government. I'm proud Berkeley could take this action, to help correct the record and provide some help for the innocent victims of our 'War on Terror.' These men are not and never were terrorists. "Former government officials who illegally authorized torture, such as John Yoo, who lives and works in Berkeley, Jay Bybee, his former boss who has a lifetime appointment to the 9th Circuit Court, Dick Cheney, and Donald Rumsfeld told us to fear all the detainees at Guantánamo. But Americans don’t know that the vast majority of Guantánamo detainees were sold to U.S. forces by people who received bounties averaging $5,000 per head for turning in anyone. Stories those people fabricated to collect the bounties were the initial ‘evidence’ against those men, and false confessions of wrongdoing were secured through torture.” 

Nancy Talanian, Director of No More Guantanamos, points out that "most of the 174 detainees who remain in the prison have been determined to pose no danger to the U.S. or its allies, yet they cannot return to their home countries because they would face persecution or because the Obama administration has placed a moratorium on resettlement of Yemenis. On January 11, 2011, some of the men who remain in Guantánamo Bay prison began their tenth year there.” Talanian explained, “Congress’s ban on allowing any Guantánamo detainees to resettle in the U.S. is standing in the way of their resettlement in other countries. Many U.S. allies want to help, but they question why they are expected to accept all the men in need of third countries when the U.S. refuses to accept a single one." 

"This is an opportunity to bring healing not only to the victims of torture, but to the American people," said Holly Harwood, Coordinator of the Golden Gate Chapter of Codepink, supporters of the measure. 

Papermaster continued, “It is past time these men were given their freedom and allowed to rebuild their lives. This is a humane gesture and the least we can do to lessen their suffering. Guantánamo detainees who cannot safely return home are really no different than other refugees whom Bay Area communities have welcomed in the past. And if the U.S. government, which has held the men for nearly nine years, can tell other governments it’s safe to take the men, then it should be perfectly safe for them to live here. I'm sure Berkeley citizens will offer support for them. I'm going to offer a room in my house to one of the men." Community coalitions in California, Colorado, Florida, Illinois, Iowa, Massachusetts, New York, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, and Vermont are supporting the closure of Guantánamo prison by welcoming detainees, sharing their stories, or both.