Human rights activists demonstrated in front of the White House on Thursday demanding the government close the Guantanamo Bay, or Gitmo, detention center at the U.S. Naval Base in Cuba.
January 11 marks the 16th anniversary since the center was opened to detain those the U.S. alleges orchestrated the September 11 attacks on New York’s Twin Towers in 2001. Former President Barack Obama once campaigned to close the prison.
"Today, 16 years later, I am saddened about what I saw at Guantanamo, which is a symbol of torture and oppression," said Mark Fallon, a former Homeland Security consultant who is familiar with Gitmo operations.
The protesters - from the Center for Constitutional Rights, Witness Against Torture and Amnesty International USA - who dressed in orange jumpsuits and full black hoods had their hands tied behind their backs to represent the torture committed on the uncharged prisoners by U.S. military forces at the center.
"I command all of you, who came here and speak out loudly and proudly to defend that constitution and forgotten people in there," he said.
Fallon emphasized that Guantanamo Bay represents "the national policy of state-sponsored torture".
Aliya Hana, Advocacy Program Manager at Center for Constitutional Rights, CCR, says that the group is suing President Donald Trump’s administration over Gitmo saying the president is keeping Gitmo open because he despises Muslims.
She describes the controversial prison as a "cruel dark place” designed to isolate the detainees from the world.
"Guantanamo is the most dramatic and chilling symbol of what abuse this country can tolerate so long is the victims are Muslims," said Hana.
"CCR has filed the first major challenge to Trump’s Guantanamo policies," she added. "They cannot be detained forever in connection to the war that may never end."
The first suspected terrorist was taken to the prison Jan. 11, 2002, under the orders of then U.S. President George W. Bush.
Currently, 41 detainees remain at Guantanamo Bay.