End 22 Years Of Injustice

Global Events Marking the 22nd Anniversary of the Opening of Guantánamo on Jan. 11

Campaigners calling for the closure of Guantánamo outside the White House on January 11, 2023 (Photo: Maria Oswalt for Witness Against Torture).

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By Andy Worthington, January 5, 2024

Next Thursday, January 11, the U.S. government’s shameful and disgraceful "war on terror" prison at Guantánamo Bay will have been open for 22 years, and a number of online events, as well as in-person vigils and rallies, are taking place across the U.S. and around the world, which are listed below.

This is an unforgivable anniversary for a prison that should never have existed, where men continue to be held indefinitely without charge or trial, or mired in a broken trial system, the military commissions, that is incapable of delivering justice.

Guantánamo’s continued existence ought to be a source of profound shame for the three branches of the U.S. government — the executive, Congress and the judiciary — who have all failed to close it, for the mainstream U.S. media, who have largely failed to recognize the gravity of the crimes committed there over the last 22 years, and for the majority of the American people, who have failed to take an interest in what is being done in their name in this secretive prison on the grounds of a U.S. naval base on the shore of Cuba’s easternmost bay.

Although just 30 men are still held at Guantánamo, out of the 779 men held there by the U.S. military since the prison first opened, the majority of them are as fundamentally without any rights whatsoever as human beings as they were when the prison first opened, on January 11, 2002, its location specifically chosen to be beyond the reach of the law and the U.S. courts.

16 of these 30 men have been unanimously approved for release by high-level U.S. government review processes, and yet, on January 11, they will have been waiting for between 475 and 1,169 days since the U.S. authorities first decided that they no longer wanted to hold them — and in three cases for a staggering 5,102 days.

The poster showing how long, on Jan. 11, 2024, the 16 men approved for release from Guantánamo have been held since the U.S. authorities first decided that they no longer wanted to hold them.

The unconscionable delays in freeing them are an indictment of Guantánamo’s fundamental and ongoing lawlessness, whereby the decisions to release them were purely administrative, and the men cannot appeal to the U.S. courts to help them if, as is increasingly evident, the Biden administration feels no sense of urgency when it comes to actually freeing them.

I recognize that there are difficulties. Most, if not all of these men — unlike the ten men freed since President Biden took office — cannot be sent back to their home countries, because of provisions inserted by Republicans into the annual National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which prevent repatriation from Guantánamo to a number of proscribed countries, including Yemen, where most of these men are from. These provisions also prevent resettlement in the U.S. (or, indeed, setting foot on U.S. soil for any reason), and, as a result, third countries must be found that are prepared to offer these men new homes.

In a world chilled by widespread and often virulent anti-immigrant sentiment, it is obviously an uphill struggle to find countries prepared to offer new homes to these men, but it is important to note that, last February, the U.S. government undertook considerable diplomatic exertion — and expense — to resettle former prisoner Majid Khan in the central American country of Belize.

This was because Khan, a Pakistani national, had been convicted of providing support to Al-Qaeda as a courier, and had agreed to a plea deal that stipulated that, in exchange for his cooperation, he would be freed. Khan, who was always thoroughly remorseful about his involvement with Al-Qaeda, completely deserved his freedom, of course, but, for the 16 men still languishing at Guantánamo who have been approved for release, it is shamefully apparent that they, in contrast, remain at Guantánamo not because of their significance, but, ironically, because of their insignificance.

Three other men, including Abu Zubaydah, for whom the U.S.’s post-9/11 torture program was first developed, continue to be held as "forever prisoners" — never charged, but not approved for release either — while ten others are caught up in the broken military commission trial system, and one is serving a life sentence — in almost total isolation — after a one-sided trial in October 2008, in which he refused to mount a defense.

Building on campaigning in 2023

Over the last year, as the co-founder of Close Guantánamo — and also via my own campaigning website — I’ve been doing everything I can to keep the plight of these men in the public eye, to demand the release of the 16 men approved for release, and to continue to call for the prison’s closure.

In February, I initiated monthly coordinated global vigils on the first Wednesday of every month, which have typically involved campaigners in around ten locations across the U.S., and in London and Mexico City. I’ve also continued to promote and coordinate our ongoing photo campaign, via our Gitmo Clock website, which counts in real time how long Guantánamo has been open. This involves supporters taking photos with posters marking every 100 days of Guantánamo’s continued existence, and calling for its closure, and it culminated in an extraordinary response on December 6, marking 8,000 days, when we received around 170 photos.

The poster marking 8,036 days of Guantánamo’s existence, on January 11, 2024.

For the anniversary on January 11, I very much hope that you can help us build on the extraordinary response for 8,000 days by taking a photo with our poster marking 8,036 days and sending it to us. You can see all the 8,000 days photos here and here, and I hope they provide you with some inspiration. If you’re holding a vigil, please do print off posters and take photos.

I have also been working on resettlement issues, helping to convene an All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) for the closure of Guantánamo in the U.K. Parliament, and initiating an extraordinary meeting in the European Parliament at the end of September, hosted by the independent Irish MEPs Clare Daly and Mick Wallace, which brought together three former prisoners, lawyers and other experts (myself included), as well as Fionnuala Ní Aoláin, the U.N. Special Rapporteur on the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms while Countering Terrorism, who was the first U.N. Rapporteur to visit the prison, last February, and whose subsequent and devastating report found that conditions at the prison amount to "ongoing cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment," and "may also meet the legal threshold for torture."

January 11 events

For the 22nd anniversary of the opening of Guantánamo, I’m delighted to note that 20 vigils are taking place — 17 in the U.S., two in London (on Jan. 11 and Jan. 20) and one in Mexico City — which are listed below.

Image from the New America website.

I’m also delighted to confirm that, on January 11, from 12 noon to 1pm Eastern time, an online panel discussion, "Guantánamo at Twenty-Two: What is the Future of the Prison Camp?," is taking place, hosted by New America, the U.S. think-tank located close to the White House in Washington, D.C. I’ve been taking part in annual panel discussions about Guantánamo at New America since 2011, and I’m very pleased that, this year, I will be joined by former prisoner Mohamedou Ould Slahi, the author of the acclaimed "Guantánamo Diary," and by Fionnuala Ní Aoláin. Registration here.

Because New America is so involved in the politics of Washington, D.C., I’m very much hoping that well-connected people will attend, not only to hear Fionnuala’s devastating analysis of the historic and ongoing crimes at Guantánamo, but also to hear directly from Mohamedou, not only because he is uniquely playful, clever, funny and perceptive, despite the long years of torture and isolation to which he was subjected by the U.S., but also because, although Mohamedou and some other former prisoners have been able to travel in Europe and speak to politicians directly, the U.S.’s decision makers have, to the best of my knowledge, rarely if ever engaged with any of the victims of their profoundly misguided "war on terror."

In addition, on January 10, from 1 to 2:30pm ET, the Center for Constitutional Rights is holding an online event, "From Guantánamo to Gaza: Resisting State Violence and Occupation," featuring CCR Staff Attorney Katherine Gallagher, former prisoner Mansoor Adayfi, and Sahar Francis, Director, Addameer Prisoner Support and Human Rights Association. Registration here.

Also on January 11, from 6.30 to 8.30pm GMT (just after the New America event), CAGE International (formerly CAGE) is holding an online event, "Guantánamo at 22: Imprisonment Without End," featuring Moazzam Begg, Mansoor, Fionnuala and Clive Stafford Smith, and including testimony from former prisoners Asadullah Haroon and Sufyan Barhoumi. Registration here.

And on January 12, from 5 to 6:30pm ET, Massachusetts Peace Action is hosting an online event, "Guantánamo: Where Do We Go From Here?," featuring Mansoor, Fionnuala, Daphne Eviatar of Amnesty International USA, and Aliya Hussain of CCR. Registration here.

In addition, Witness Against Torture is holding a number of Community Zoom circles — on Monday January 8, at 7pm ET with Frida Berrigan, on Tuesday January 9, at 3pm ET with Mansoor Adayfi, and on Thursday January 11 at 7pm ET. Please email WAT to take part in any of these events, with "Send WAT Community Zoom link" as the subject line.

January 11 vigils and rallies

Below is the list of vigils and rallies taking place to mark the anniversary — mostly on January 11, but with a few events on nearby dates. The list is also available on the WAT website here. The umbrella sponsors for the U.S. events are: Amnesty International U.S., Center for Constitutional Rights, Center for Victims of Torture, CloseGuantanamo.org, CODEPINK, Muslim Counterpublics Lab, National Religious Campaign Against Torture, No More Guantanamos, September 11th Families for Peaceful Tomorrows, Witness Against Torture, and World Can’t Wait.

Wednesday January 10

Berkeley, CA, Guantánamo 22nd Anniversary: Bake Sale for Guantánamo Survivors Fund, Noon PT
UC Berkeley Law School, 2763-2719 Bancroft Way, Berkeley, CA 94704
Sponsor: CODEPINK S.F. Bay Area
Contact: Cynthia Papermaster on 510-365-1500

Fremont, Ohio, Vigil to Shut Down Guantánamo, 4 to 5pm ET
Corner of Front and W State St
Sponsor: People for Peace & Justice Sandusky County
Contact: Josie Setzler

Thursday January 11

Buffalo, NY, Noon to 1pm ET
Federal Building, Delaware Ave at City Hall Circle
Sponsors: Pax Christi NY, WNY Peace Center, VFP Chapter 128
Contact: Tom Casey 716-491-9172

Cleveland, Ohio, From Guantánamo to Gaza: War is Terror, 11:30am to 1:30pm ET
Celebrezze Federal Building at East 9th and Lakeside
Sponsor: Cleveland Catholic Worker
Contact: Brian or Mike Fiala

Cobleskill, NY, Global Close Gitmo Vigil, 4 to 5pm ET
Veterans Park, Grand and Main Streets
Sponsor: Peacemakers of Schoharie County
Contact: Sue Spivak or Elliott Adams

Detroit, Global Close Guantánamo Vigil, 4 to 4:30pm
Federal Building, 477 Michigan Avenue, Detroit, MI 48226
Sponsor: Detroit Amnesty
Contact: Ken and Geraldine Grunow

Greenfield, MA, Vigil and March, 10 to 11am ET
Greenfield Town Common, Main Street
Sponsors: No More Guantanamos, CODEPINK, World Can’t Wait
Contact: Nancy Talanian

London, Close Guantánamo Vigil, 1 to 3pm
Across the road from the U.S. Embassy, 33 Nine Elms Lane, Nine Elms, London SW11 7US
Sponsor: UK Guantánamo Network
Contact: Andy Worthington

Los Angeles, CA, Rally to Close Guantánamo Now, 12 to 1:30pm PT
Downtown Los Angeles Federal Bldg (300 N. Los Angeles St. 90012)
Sponsor: Shane Que Hee. Endorsers: ACLU of S California, Addicted to War, Courage to Resist, John Kiriakou, Out Against War, Clive Stafford Smith
Contact: Jon Krampner 323- 661-7428 (landline)

A flyer for the Mexico City vigil.

Mexico City, Global Close Guantánamo Vigil, 10am
Palacio de Bellas Artes, Av. Juarez S/N, Centro histórico, Mexico City
Sponsor: Amnistía Internacional México
Contact: Natalia on 55 3993 1730

Minneapolis, Global Close Guantánamo Vigil, Noon
Federal Building, 212 3rd Ave S, Minneapolis, MN 55415
Sponsor: Minneapolis-St Paul chapter of Amnesty International
Contact: Aaron Tovo

New York City, Rally to Close Guantánamo Now, 4 to 5:30 pm
NY Public Library steps (5th Avenue @41st Street)
Sponsors: The World Can’t Wait, Brooklyn for Peace, Interfaith Communities United for Justice and Peace, NY War Resisters League
Contact: Debra Sweet 718-809-3803

Northampton, MA Vigil and March, 12 to 1pm ET
Main Street, in front of Hampshire County Courthouse
Sponsors: No More Guantanamos, CodePink
Contact: Nancy Talanian

Raleigh, NC, Anniversary vigil to mourn the opening of Guantánamo prison, 12pm ET
300 Fayetteville St, Raleigh, NC
Sponsor: North Carolina Stop Torture Now
Contact: Joan Walsh 919-384-2290

San Francisco, Global Close Guantánamo Vigil, 4pm
San Francisco Ferry Building, 1 Ferry Building, San Francisco, CA 94105
Sponsors: Amnesty International Group 30, The World Can’t Wait
Contact: Gavrilah Wells

Toledo, Ohio, Noon to 2pm
Lucas County Courthouse
Sponsor: Northwest Ohio Peace Coalition
Contact: Susan Kuehn

Washington, D.C. Vigil to Close Guantánamo, 12 to 1pm ET
Pennsylvania Ave, north side of White House
Local Sponsors: Dorothy Day Catholic Worker, Baltimore Phil Berrigan Memorial VFP, Pax Christi Metro DC-Baltimore
Contact: Steve Lane or T. C. Morrow

Friday January 12

Tiffin, Ohio, 4pm ET
Seneca County Courthouse
Sponsor: Tiffin Area Pax Christi, Project Peace
Contact: Sister Paulette Schroeder

Saturday January 13

Augusta, Maine, 1pm ET
The Armory at 177 Western Ave
Sponsors: Pax Christi-Maine, Peace Action-Maine, and Maine Veterans For Peace
Contact: Mary Kate Small 207-236-2794 (home)

Saturday January 20

London, March and Rally for the Closure of Guantánamo, 12 noon to 2pm
Meet at Old Palace Yard, opposite the Houses of Parliament at 12 noon, procession up Whitehall to Trafalgar Square at 12.45, speeches in Trafalgar Square at 2pm
Sponsor: UK Guantánamo Network
Contact: Sara Birch on 07710 789616