A short essay competition to select two Bard students to attend the Amnesty International General Meeting, March 30 – April 1st, in Denver, CO. 

January 11th 2012 marked the 10thanniversary of the first prisoners brought to Guantanamo Bay detention camp. Since then, the US government’s eschewing of the Geneva Conventions, and the widespread reports of torture have made Guantanamo an international symbol of America’s human rights hypocrisy, while the continued practice of indefinite detention and the political complications associated with resettling the detainees have made shutting down the facility ever more difficult. In light of this, Amnesty International USA launched a new campaign, titled “Security With Human Rights,” which aims to support victims of terrorism as well as hold states and individuals accountable for torture – but also to end the practice of indefinite detention at Guantanamo Bay.

“Security with Human Rights” is one of the four major campaign issues that Amnesty USA will be discussing at the General Meeting, and so we invite all interested Bard students to submit a short blog entry on the following topic:

To mark the 10 year anniversary of Guantanamo, Seton Hall Law Professor Jonathan Hafetz wrote an Op Ed for Al Jazeera on January 11, 2012, in which he stated: “The United States’ failure to close Guantanamo is the result of several factors, including lack of leadership by the executive, opposition by Congress, and acquiescence by the courts. Ultimately, all three branches of government bear responsibility, along with the American people themselves, who continue to tolerate Guantanamo’s existence.Three years later, Obama’s plan to close Guantanamo is in shambles. Not only does the prison remain open, but the United States is further from closing it now than at any time in the past.”

Indeed, a widely cited 2008 USA Today/Gallup poll showed that the majority of Americans supported keeping the facility open, despite the severe human rights violations that were occurring there at the time. Since then, and not helping matters, the issue of closing Guantanamo has ceased being a priority for the current administration.  Now, however, this grim anniversary has become a rallying point for renewed efforts, among them Amnesty USA’s campaign, to force the US administration to resolve the legal and political quagmire of the Guantanamo detention facility.  Changing the tide of public opinion is a critical part of this project, and so the question we are asking you to respond to is:   What do you think is the single strongest argument that can be made to persuade the American public – or a particular subset thereof – to reconsider their support for keeping Guantanamo open?

We ask that you post your short essay (no more than 250 words), and send the title of your entry via twitter to  @bard_civ_engage with #closing_guantanamo. We also strongly encourage entrants to respond to each other’s entries.

The submission deadline is March 6, 2012.

Thanks, and good luck.

Human Rights Project and the Center for Civic Engagement