End 21 Years Of Injustice

Wednesday April 5: The Next Global Coordinated Protests for the Closure of Guantánamo

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By Andy Worthington, March 26, 2023

With the release from Guantánamo three weeks ago of the Saudi citizen Ghassan al-Sharbi, the prison now holds just 31 men, out of the 779 held by the U.S. military since it first opened over 21 years ago.

17 of these 31 men have been approved for release, and yet there is no way of knowing when, if ever, they will be released, because they did not have their release ordered by a court, but recommended by administrative review processes, and, as a result, they cannot appeal to a judge to order their release if, as is the case, the government shows no sense of urgency when it comes to freeing them.

Complicating matters, however, we acknowledge that, in the cases of 13 of these men, the U.S. government must find third countries prepared to offer them new homes, because provisions inserted by Republicans into the annual National Defense Authorization Act since the early years of the Obama presidency prevent any repatriations from Guantánamo to countries including Yemen, Libya and Somalia, and eleven of these men are Yemeni, one is a Libyan, and another is a Somali. An additional complication is that none of these men can be resettled in the U.S., because another provision in the NDAA prevents any Guantánamo prisoner from being brought to the U.S. mainland for any reason.

In January, for the 21st anniversary of the opening of Guantánamo, when there were 20 men approved for release but still held (with al-Sharbi and two Pakistani brothers subsequently freed), I made a poster showing the 20 men and calling for their release, which subsequently had over 21,000 views on Twitter, and followed up with an infographic showing how long these men had been waiting to be freed since they were first told that the US government no longer wanted to hold them (between 153 days and 4,780 days), which had over 77,000 views on Twitter.

The updated poster showing the 17 men is at the top of this article, and an updated infographic, showing how long they will have been held on April 5, is below.

Since last September, with other campaigners in the U.K. (the U.K. Guantánamo Network, also comprising various Amnesty International groups, the Guantánamo Justice Campaign and the London Guantánamo Campaign), I have been taking part in monthly vigils calling for Guantánamo’s closure outside the Houses of Parliament in London, and after numerous organizations across the U.S. and elsewhere held protests on the anniversary of the opening of Guantánamo (on January 11), I thought it would make sense to try and keep awareness of Guantánamo alive — and to keep up pressure on the Biden administration — by asking campaigners around the world to join us in holding monthly coordinated global vigils.

In February, campaigners in Washington, D.C. joined us, and last month campaigners in New York and Mexico City also joined in. I’m glad to announce that for the next vigils, on Wednesday April 5, we’re also being joined by campaigners in Los Angeles, North Carolina and Cobleskill, NY.

Supporting organizations now involved in the vigils are: the UK Guantánamo Network, Amnesty International, Close Guantánamo, Witness Against Torture, World Can’t Wait, CAIR (the Council on American-Islamic Relations), NRCAT (the National Religious Campaign Against Torture), September Eleventh Families for Peaceful Tomorrows, ICUJP (Interfaith Communities United for Justice and Peace), NYC Veterans For Peace, NC Stop Torture Now and Schoharie Peacemakers.

If you’d also like to get involved, the details of all these vigils are below, although please also feel free to set up your own, and, if you do, please get in touch to let us know, and also to send us photos. Everyone involved is also invited to print off and use the poster and the infographic above.

April 5 vigils for the closure of Guantánamo

London, 1-3pm GMT: In Parliament Square, opposite the Houses of Parliament, London SW1. U.K. Guantánamo Network campaigners have orange jumpsuits and hoods for supporters to wear. For further information, please contact Sara Birch, the convenor of the UK Guantánamo Network on 07710 789616, or email Andy Worthington.

Washington, D.C., Noon-1pm, ET: On the corner of Independence Avenue and New Jersey Avenue, SE. Witness Against Torture and Close Guantánamo campaigners have orange jumpsuits and hoods for supporters to wear. For further information, please contact Steve Lane, Close Guantánamo’s Washington, D.C. coordinator, on 571-221-4120 or via email.

New York City, 5-6pm, ET: On the steps of the New York Public Library, 5th Avenue & 42nd Street, New York, NY 10018. Organized by the World Can’t Wait, who have orange jumpsuits for supporters to wear. For further information, please contact Debra Sweet on 646-807-3259 or via email.

Mexico City, 10-11am, CST: Plancha del Zócalo (P.za de la Constitución), 06010 Ciudad de México (Mexico City). Amnesty International and Close Guantánamo campaigners have orange jumpsuits and hoods for supporters to wear. For further information, please contact Natalia on 55 3993 1730.

Los Angeles, Noon-1pm, PT: Downtown LA Federal Building, 300 N Los Angeles Street, Los Angeles, CA 90012. For further information, please contact Jon Krampner on 323-661-7428 — or, on the day, 323-697-7769.

Raleigh, North Carolina, Noon-1pm, ET: Federal Building, 300 Fayetteville Street, Raleigh, NC 27602. Campaigners with NC Stop Torture Now will be with other peace protestors for this vigil. For further information, please contact Christina Cowger via email.

Cobleskill, New York State, 7-7.30pm, ET: 514 W Main Street, Cobleskill, NY 12043. For further information, please contact Elliott Adams on 518-441-2697 or via email.