The men illegally detained at Guantanamo have suffered immeasurably, held without trial or hope, subjected to torture, indefinite detention, and isolation, many are not even charged with a crime.
Now, a powerful exhibition of art created by some of these men has provoked the Pentagon and Department of Defense to suddenly declare that all art created by detainees will henceforth become the property of the US government and may no longer be removed from the prison, even upon a detainee’s clearance and release. It has been suggested that the art will be destroyed.
DRAD vehemently objects to this new policy on three grounds: it violates the public’s right to access this work and thus fully participate in the political conversation around Guantanamo; and, the new directive also violates the human rights of the detainees under international norms; and destruction of the work would impermissibly suppress documents of historical importance.
Since all art that leaves Guantanamo is subject to intense scrutiny by military officials, the new directive serves no legitimate national security purpose. The only purpose it appears to serve is to block the American public’s access to detainees’ artistic expression and stifle the public’s full participation in a national conversation about the US government’s policies in Guantanamo. Recognizing that the detainees at Guantanamo Bay, most of whom remain held without charge, possess human imagination may inspire an uncomfortable empathy, but Americans have a right to fully examine their government’s policies and their effects. The American public now and in the future deserves access to such documents.
DRAD joined with the National Coalition Against Censorship and free expression groups to condemn the policy.
Read the full statement below.