A Guantánamo Insider’s Detailed Proposal for How Joe Biden Can Finally Close the Prison

A composite image of President Elect Joe Biden and Camp 6 at Guantánamo.

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I wrote the following article for the “Close Guantánamo” website, which I established in January 2012, on the 10th anniversary of the opening of Guantánamo, with the US attorney Tom Wilner. Please join us — just an email address is required to be counted amongst those opposed to the ongoing existence of Guantánamo, and to receive updates of our activities by email.

With Joe Biden’s victory in the Presidential Election, it’s reassuring that Guantánamo is back on the radar, after four long years under Donald Trump in which time may as well have stood still.

The Just Security website has just published a powerful article, “A Path for Renewing Guantánamo Closure,” which we’re cross-posting below. It was written by Benjamin R. Farley, who served as Senior Adviser to the Special Envoy for Guantánamo Closure at the U.S. Department of State from 2013-17, and is currently a Trial Attorney and Law-of-War Counsel at the U.S. Department of Defense, Military Commissions Defense Organization, assigned to the team representing Ammar al-Baluchi, one of the five co-defendants in the 9/11 trial.

Farley explains how, of the 40 men still held, 30 can be released “simply by restoring, with slight modification, the successful GTMO closure policy process developed during the Obama administration,” although he concedes that, “[t]o finish the remaining 25 percent of the project, [he] will likely need the historically elusive support of Congress.”

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Radio: I Discuss The Future of Guantánamo Under Joe Biden with Andy Bungay and Colin Crilly in South London

A screenshot from Mixcloud of Andy Bungay’s show ‘The Chiminea’ on Riverside Radio in Battersea on November 22, 2020, also featuring Colin Crilly.

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On Saturday, I was delighted to take part in a remotely recorded radio show for Riverside Radio, a community station in Battersea, with Andy Bungay, who hosts ‘The Chiminea’, the 11pm to 2am slot on Friday, Saturday and Sunday, and his colleague Colin Crilly.

Our interview starts about 27 minutes into the two-hour show, which is available on Mixcloud here, and Andy began by playing ‘This Time We Win’, a recently released eco-anthem by my band The Four Fathers, recorded with and featuring the great Charlie Hart on keyboards.

I then introduced myself, particularly mentioning my Guantánamo work, which I’ve been undertaking for the last 15 years, and my photo-journalism project ‘The State of London.’ We talked about the successful campaign to secure the release from Guantánamo of Shaker Aamer, the last British resident in the prison, who was held for 14 years without charge or trial, but was eventually released five years ago, on October 30, 2015, as I noted on Facebook, following up with a photo from a Parliamentary reception for Shaker, hosted by Jeremy Corbyn, which took place on November 17, 2015.

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As You Read This, Guantánamo Prisoner Ahmed Rabbani Has Been On A Hunger Strike for 2,846 Days

An image from the website, “Gitmo Hunger Strikes,” set up by Reprieve to highlight the plight of their client, Ahmed Rabbani.

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With the media spotlight hopefully being shone anew on the prison at Guantánamo Bay, now that Joe Biden has been elected as the US president, it is to be hoped that, as I explained in my recent article, President Elect Biden, It’s Time to Close Guantánamo, arrangements will be made to release the five men still held who were unanimously approved for release by high-level government review processes under President Obama, and that there will be an acceptance within the Biden administration that holding 26 other men indefinitely without charge or trial is unacceptable.

These 26 men — accurately described as “forever prisoners” by the media — were recommended either or for prosecution, or for ongoing imprisonment without charge or trial, on the basis that they were “too dangerous to release,” even though it was acknowledged that insufficient evidence — or insufficient untainted evidence — existed for them to be charged, by the first of Obama’s two review processes, the Guantánamo Review Task Force, in 2009.

Four years later, the 26 — along with 38 others — were deemed eligible for a second review process, the Periodic Review Boards. Unlike the first process, which involved officials assessing whether prisoners should be freed, charged or held on an ongoing basis without charge or trial, the PRBs were a parole-type process, in which the men were encouraged to express contrition for the activities in which they were alleged to have been involved (whether those allegations were accurate or not), and to present credible proposals for a peaceful and constructive life if released.

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President Elect Biden, It’s Time to Close Guantánamo

Eight of the 40 remaining Guantánamo prisoners, who, along with other men still held, should be released by Joe Biden as soon as possible after he becomes president in January 2021. Top row, from L to R: Abdul Latif Nasser, Sufyian Barhoumi and Tawfiq al-Bihani, all approved for release by high-level government review processes under President Obama, and Saifullah Paracha, Guantánamo’s oldest prisoner. Bottom row, from L to R: Khaled Qassim, Asadullah Haroon Gul, Ahmed Rabbani and Omar al-Rammah. Paracha and the four others in the bottom row haven’t been approved for release, but they should be, as none of them pose a threat to the US.

Please support my work as a reader-funded journalist! I’m currently trying to raise $2500 (£2000) to support my writing and campaigning on Guantánamo and related issues over the next three months. If you can help, please click on the button below to donate via PayPal.





 

I wrote the following article for the “Close Guantánamo” website, which I established in January 2012, on the 10th anniversary of the opening of Guantánamo, with the US attorney Tom Wilner. Please join us — just an email address is required to be counted amongst those opposed to the ongoing existence of Guantánamo, and to receive updates of our activities by email.

Congratulations to President Elect Joe Biden and Vice President Elect Kamala Harris for persuading enough people to vote Democrat to end the dangerous presidency of Donald Trump.

Trump was a nightmare on so many fronts, and had been particularly dangerous on race, with his vile Muslim travel ban at the start of his presidency, nearly four long years ago, his prisons for children on the Mexican border, and, this last year, in his efforts to inflame a race war, after the murder of George Floyd by a policeman sparked huge protests across the country.

At Guantánamo, Trump’s racism manifested itself via indifference to the fate of the 40 Muslim men, mostly imprisoned without charge or trial and held for up to 15 years when he took office. To him they were terrorists, and he had no interest in knowing that very few of the men held at Guantánamo have ever been accused of involvement with terrorism, and that, of the 40 men still held, only nine of them have been charged with crimes, and five of them were unanimously approved for release by high-level government review processes under President Obama.

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Radio: I Discuss “Will Joe Biden Close Guantánamo?” on South Africa’s Radio Islam International

A screenshot from the podcast of Andy Worthington discussing “Will Joe Biden Close Guantánamo?” with Ebrahim Moosa on South Africa’s Radio Islam International on Nov. 8, 2020.

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Yesterday evening, I was delighted to speak for half an hour to Ebraham Moosa on South Africa’s Radio Islam International about US President Elect Joe Biden — and, specifically, what to expect from the new president regarding a long-standing travesty of justice: the continued existence of the “war on terror” prison at Guantánamo Bay.

In a thorough and wide-ranging discussion of the issues, I talked about what a disgrace Donald Trump has been when it comes to Guantánamo, entombing the 40 men still held, and how we can be hopeful that there will be change under Joe Biden, even if it also reasonable to expect that it will have to be fought for.

Unlike eleven years ago, when Barack Obama first took office promising to close Guantánamo within a year (but left eight years later having failed to do so), Guantánamo is, nowadays, America’s largely forgotten shame, and raising it as an issue — as Obama found — only tends to play into the hands of Republicans and the right-wing media.

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Video: I Discuss the Guantánamo Files Released by WikiLeaks and Julian Assange’s Extradition Hearing with Action4Assange and Juan Passarelli

A screenshot of the Action4Assange show on October 17, 2020, featuring guests Andy Worthington and Juan Passarelli.

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On Saturday, I was delighted to take part in a wide-ranging discussion about my role as a witness in the hearings regarding WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange’s proposed extradition to the US, and the classified military files from Guantánamo that were released in 2011, on which I worked as a media partner.

The show — for the campaigning organization Action4Assange — was hosted by Steve Poikonen and Kendra Christian, and my fellow guest was Juan Passarelli, the filmmaker whose recent, 38-minute film about Assange, The War on Journalism: The Case of Julian Assange, I promoted in an article last week.

The show was streamed live, and recorded for YouTube. It starts around 12 and a half minutes in, and runs for nearly two hours, and you can check it out below.

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After Years in Secret Prisons, UAE Threatens Unsafe Repatriations to Yemen for Former Guantánamo Prisoners

Photos of 16 of the 18 Yemenis sent from Guantánamo to Yemen between 2015 and 2017, who were imprisoned instead of, as promised, being given new lives, and who are now being threatened with being sent back to Yemen, despite the dangers involved. The photos are taken from the classified military files from Guantánamo that were released by Wikileaks in 2011, and on which I worked as a media partner.

Please support my work as a reader-funded journalist! I’m currently trying to raise $2500 (£2000) to support my writing and campaigning on Guantánamo and related issues over the next three months of the Trump administration. If you can help, please click on the button below to donate via PayPal.




 

I wrote the following article for the “Close Guantánamo” website, which I established in January 2012, on the 10th anniversary of the opening of Guantánamo, with the US attorney Tom Wilner. Please join us — just an email address is required to be counted amongst those opposed to the ongoing existence of Guantánamo, and to receive updates of our activities by email.

Depressing but important news about life after Guantánamo was published by the Associated Press on Wednesday, focusing on the appalling treatment that former Guantánamo prisoners have received since being resettled in the United Arab Emirates between November 2015 and January 2017, when President Obama left office; specifically, 18 Yemenis (out of 23 men in total sent to the UAE), who have now been told that the UAE is preparing to repatriate them, even though their lives may well be at risk in Yemen.

As reporter Maggie Michael described it, the prisoners “were promised they were being sent to a Muslim country for rehabilitation that would help integrate them into society, opening the way to jobs, money, and marriage, according to their lawyers and families. It was a lie.”

To anyone paying close attention, this wasn’t news. The Washington Post reported in May 2018 that former prisoners sent to the UAE after being unanimously approved for release by high-level US government review processes remain imprisoned, despite promises that their new host country would help them rebuild their lives. Missy Ryan’s story was entitled, “After over a decade at Guantanamo, these men were supposed to go free. Instead, they’re locked in a secretive center in the UAE.”

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Asadullah Haroon Gul: The Hunger Striking Afghan Forgotten at Guantánamo

Sehar Bibi, the mother of Guantánamo prisoner Asadullah Haroon Gul, at the refugee camp in Peshawar where she lives with her son’s wife and daughter, and other family members. Gul has been held at Guantánamo without charge or trial since 2007. (Photo: AFP/Abdul Majeed).

Please support my work as a reader-funded journalist! I’m currently trying to raise $2500 (£2000) to support my writing and campaigning on Guantánamo and related issues over the next three months of the Trump administration. If you can help, please click on the button below to donate via PayPal.





 

Regular readers will recall the sad story of Asadullah Haroon Gul, one of the last two Afghans amongst the 40 men still held in the prison at Guantánamo Bay. In correspondence from Guantánamo this year, Gul has written about the coronavirus, about being a “no value detainee”, and about the murder by police of George Floyd and the resurgent Black Lives Matter movement.

As seems abundantly clear — to everyone except his captors — Gul, one of the last prisoners to arrive at Guantánamo, in June 2007, is a fundamentally insignificant prisoner whose ongoing imprisonment makes no sense. The US has quite nebulously alleged that he was involved with Hezb-e-Islami Gulbuddin (HIG), led by the warlord Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, who had supported Al-Qaeda at the time of the US-led invasion. However, as I explained in July, “Gul very clearly had no meaningful connection with HIG, his involvement extending only to having lived, with his wife and family, in a refugee camp that HIG ran, but, as in so many cases of mistaken identity at Guantánamo, the US authorities didn’t care.”

To add insult to injury, Hekmatyar’s status has now changed. He reached a peace agreement with the Afghan president, Ashraf Ghani, and at the start of this year a former Guantánamo prisoner with HIG associations, Hamidullah, was repatriated from the United Arab Emirates, where he had been sent with other Afghans in 2016, because of this agreement, surely undermining any efforts by the US to claim that Gul should still be held.

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Video: The War on Journalism – The Case of Julian Assange

The poster for ‘The War on Journalism: The Case of Julian Assange’, directed by Juan Passarelli, and released in August 2020, and a screenshot of Andy Worthington, one of the WikiLeaks experts interviewed for the film.

Please support my work as a reader-funded journalist! I’m currently trying to raise $2500 (£2000) to support my writing and campaigning on Guantánamo and related issues over the next three months of the Trump administration. If you can help, please click on the button below to donate via PayPal.





 

In a prison cell in HMP Belmarsh, in south east London, which is supposedly reserved for the most violent convicted criminals in the UK, Julian Assange, the founder of WikiLeaks and a non-violent individual who has not been convicted of a crime, awaits a ruling regarding his proposed extradition to the United States, to face disgracefully inappropriate espionage charges related to his work as a publisher of classified US documents that were leaked by US soldier Chelsea Manning.

The first stage of hearings regarding Julian’s extradition took place in February, and were supposed to continue in May, but were derailed by the arrival of Covid-19. In February, I had submitted as evidence a statement in support of Julian, based on having worked with him as a media partner on the release of classified military files from Guantánamo in 2011. I expected to be questioned about my evidence in May, but, in the end, it wasn’t until September that the hearings resumed.

To coincide with the resumption of the hearings, a 38-minute film was released, “The War on Journalism: The Case of Julian Assange,” directed by filmmaker Juan Passarelli, for which I was interviewed, in the esteemed company of of John Pilger, UN torture rapporteur Nils Melzer, lawyers Jennifer Robinson and Renata Avila, Julian’s wife Stella Moris, journalists Barton Gellman, Margaret Sullivan, Iain Overton, Max Blumenthal and Matt Kennard, WikiLeaks’ editor in chief Kristin Hrafnsson, and Conservative MP David Davies.

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Guantánamo Voices: An Amazing Comic Book Version of the Guantánamo Story

The front cover of “Guantánamo Voices: True Accounts from the World’s Most Infamous Prison,” and a page from the chapter based on an interview with attorney Shelby Sullivan-Bennis, featuring the campaign to secure the release of Shaker Aamer, the last British resident in the prison, drawn by Kasia Babis, a Polish cartoonist and political activist.

Please support my work as a reader-funded journalist! I’m currently trying to raise $2500 (£2000) to support my writing and campaigning on Guantánamo and related issues over the next three months of the Trump administration. If you can help, please click on the button below to donate via PayPal.





 

I wrote the following article for the “Close Guantánamo” website, which I established in January 2012, on the 10th anniversary of the opening of Guantánamo, with the US attorney Tom Wilner. Please join us — just an email address is required to be counted amongst those opposed to the ongoing existence of Guantánamo, and to receive updates of our activities by email.

I have nothing but praise for “Guantánamo Voices: True Accounts from the World’s Most Infamous Prison,” a brand-new book, just published by Abrams, which was written by Portland-based multi-media journalist Sarah Mirk, and illustrated by a number of talented graphic artists.

I should say upfront that I was the fact checker for the book, having been in contact with Sarah for many years. In 2018, I appeared, in comic book form, illustrated by the Australian artist Jess Parker, in Guantánamo Bay is Still Open. Still. STILL!, a story in the comics anthology magazine The Nib, for which Sarah is an editor, based on an interview she had conducted with me in October 2017.

Previously, I had met Sarah in London in January 2009, when she came to the UK with former Guantánamo guard Chris Arendt for an extraordinary tour of the UK, also featuring former prisoner and British citizen Moazzam Begg (released in 2005) and other ex-prisoners, called “Two Sides, One Story,” which was organized by the advocacy group Cageprisoners (now CAGE).

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Andy Worthington

Investigative journalist, author, campaigner, commentator and public speaker. Recognized as an authority on Guantánamo and the “war on terror.” Co-founder, Close Guantánamo and We Stand With Shaker. Also, photo-journalist (The State of London), and singer and songwriter (The Four Fathers).
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