Please Write to the Guantánamo Prisoners, Forgotten Under Donald Trump

Photos of some of the Guantanamo prisoners, included in the classified military files released by WikiLeaks in 2011.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.

 

Back in June 2010, prompted by two Muslim activist friends in the UK, who had initiated a project to get people to write to the prisoners still held in the prison at Guantánamo Bay, I followed their lead, publishing an article similarly urging people to write to the men still held — 186 at the time. I then repeated the process in June 2011, and then every six months or so until July 2015, with two further calls in 2016, the last being in the dying weeks of the Obama presidency.

Over a year later, and with just four days remaining until the 16th anniversary of the opening of Guantánamo, I thought this was a good time to call for the first time for a letter-writing campaign under Donald Trump, who, of course, will have been in office for a year on January 20. Trump started his presidency threatening to send new prisoners to Guantánamo, but although he has not made good on his unacceptable, belligerent threat, he has, nevertheless, effectively sealed Guantánamo shut, refusing to contemplate releasing any of the prisoners still held, even those previously approved for release but still held.

At the time of my last appeal, 59 men were still held, but another 18 were freed by Obama before he left office, leaving 41 men held under Donald Trump. Five of these men were approved for release by high-level government review processes during Obama’s presidency, and just ten of them are facing or have faced trials, with the other 26 continuing to be officially held indefinitely without charge or trial, subject to a review process, the Periodic Review Boards, that led to 38 of their fellow prisoners being approved for release (of whom 36 were released) in Obama’s last years on office, but which has, in their case, failed to remove them from the legal limbo in which they continue to languish. Read the rest of this entry »

Please Write to the Remaining Prisoners in Guantánamo in Obama’s Last Month in Office

Photos of some of the Guantanamo prisoners, made available when classified military files were released by WikiLeaks in 2011.Please support my work! I’m currently trying to raise $3000 (£2400) to support my writing and campaigning on Guantánamo into the new year.

 

Twice a year, since 2010, I’ve asked those who oppose the ongoing existence of Guantánamo to write to the prisoners still held there, to let them — and the US authorities — know that they have not been forgotten. For the last letter-writing campaign, in March, I expressed my hope that President Obama might fulfill the promise he made on his second day in office in January 2009, to close the prison for good, but that has not happened, of course, and now the specter of Donald Trump hovers over the wretched facility, with his promises to keep it open, and to send new prisoners there.

Whether the prisoners are worried is unclear. Eight years ago, they cheered President Obama’s victory, thinking that it meant Guantánamo would soon be closed, but eight years later many of them are still held, and presumably have every reason to believe that there is little to hope for. The day after the election, the Miami Herald reported that Army Lt. Col. John Parks, the spokesman for the prison, said that “[m]any detainees did stay up and watch the election results,” although they showed no reaction that he could discern. However, on December 1, on “CBS This Morning,” Margaret Brennan spoke to David Remes, the attorney for the Pakistani prisoner Saifullah Paracha, who “said that many detainees thought that it was the end of the world and felt terrible [and] asked for tranquilizers, sleeping pills, because they were so distraught.”

The letter-writing campaign was started six and a half years ago by two Facebook friends, Shahrina and Mahfuja Ahmed, and, as I mentioned above, it has been repeated every six months, more or less (see here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here and here for my other articles encouraging people to write to the prisoners). Read the rest of this entry »

Write to the Guantánamo Prisoners in President Obama’s Last Year in Office

Photos of some of the Guantanamo prisoners, made available when classified military files were released by WikiLeaks in 2011.

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Every six months or so, I ask people to write to the prisoners in Guantánamo, to let them — and the US authorities — know that they have not been forgotten. In President Obama’s last year in office, there seems to be some hope that — finally — he will fulfil the promise he made on his second day in office in January 2009, to close the prison for good, but as with all things to do with this wretched prison outside the law, any potential good news about Guantánamo can only be celebrated when it has actually happened, and there are, still, reasons to fear that it may not happen — obstruction from Congress, for example, or the president’s inability to act unilaterally if Congress refuses to cooperate with him.

The letter-writing campaign was started nearly six years ago by two Facebook friends, Shahrina J. Ahmed and Mahfuja Bint Ammu, and, as I mentioned above, it has been repeated every six months, more or less (see here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here and here for my articles encouraging people to write to the prisoners).

Since last July, when I last encouraged people to write to the prisoners, there has been significant progress in working towards the closure of the prison, as 25 men have been freed. The prison now holds 91 men, and 36 of these men have been approved for release — 24 in January 2010 by the high-level, inter-agency Guantánamo Review Task Force that President Obama established when he took office in 2009, and 12 others approved for release in the last two years by a new review process, the Periodic Review Boards, which started in 2013. Read the rest of this entry »

Write to the Guantánamo Prisoners, Don’t Let Them Be Forgotten

Photos of some of the Guantanamo prisoners, made available when classified military files from Guantanamo were released by WikiLeaks in 2011.Every six months, I ask people to write to the prisoners in Guantánamo, to let them — and the US authorities — know that they have not been forgotten.

The letter-writing campaign was started five years ago by two Facebook friends, Shahrina J. Ahmed and Mahfuja Bint Ammu, and it has been repeated every six months (see here, here, here, here, here, here, here and here for my articles encouraging opponents of Guantánamo to write to the prisoners). Their latest campaign coincided with the start of Ramadan, on June 12, and I’m following up in the hope that, as Ramadan continues, you too can send a letter to some or all of the men to let them know they’ve not been forgotten.

See the video here of former prisoner Omar Deghayes explaining how important it is to receive cards and letters from the outside world.

Since the start of February, when — slightly belatedly — I last encouraged opponents of Guantánamo to write to the prisoners, just six men have been released. 116 men are now held — 44 cleared for release in January 2010 by the high-level, inter-agency Guantánamo Review Task Force established by President Obama when he took office in 2009, and eight others cleared for release in the last year and a half by a new review process, the Periodic Review Boards, which started in 2013.

In the list below, I have divided the remaining 116 prisoners into those cleared for release (52), those listed as being eligible for Periodic Review Boards (54) and those charged or tried in the military commissions system (10). Please note that I have largely kept the spelling used by the US authorities in the “Final Dispositions” of the Guantánamo Review Task Force, which was released through FOIA legislation in June 2013. Even though these names are often inaccurate, they are the names by which the men are officially known in Guantánamo  — even though, in their everyday dealings with the US authorities, they are all still referred to, not as human beings with names, but as numbers. Read the rest of this entry »

Please Write to the Prisoners in Guantánamo, Let Them Know They Have Not Been Forgotten

Photos of prisoners in Guantanamo, taken from the classified military files released by WikiLeaks in April 2011.Every six months, I ask people to write to the prisoners in Guantánamo, to let them — and the US authorities — know that they have not been forgotten.

The letter-writing campaign was started four and a half years ago by two Facebook friends, Shahrina J. Ahmed and Mahfuja Bint Ammu, and it has been repeated every six months (see here, here, here, here, here, here and here). This latest campaign is a month late, for which I apologize, but I forgot over the Christmas and New Year period because I had been so busy with the We Stand With Shaker campaign, calling for the release from Guantánamo of Shaker Aamer, the last British resident in the prison.

Since last July, when I last encouraged opponents of Guantánamo to write to the prisoners, there has been significant progress, with 27 men released. 149 men were held at the time, and that number has now been reduced to 122. 25 of those freed in the last seven months were cleared for release in January 2010 by the high-level, inter-agency Guantánamo Review Task Force established by President Obama when he took office in 2009, and 50 of those still held were also cleared for release by the task force. Four others were cleared for release in recent months by a new review process, the Periodic Review Boards, which started in 2013, and which led to the release of the other two men freed since the last letter-writing appeal. Read the rest of this entry »

For Ramadan, Please Write to the Prisoners in Guantánamo, Forgotten Again

Every six months, I ask people to write to the prisoners in Guantánamo, to let them — and the US authorities — know that they have not been forgotten.

The letter-writing campaign was started four years ago by two Facebook friends, Shahrina J. Ahmed and Mahfuja Bint Ammu, and it has been repeated every six months (see here, here, here, here, here and here). This latest campaign also coincides with the holy month of Ramadan, which began on June 29.

Guantánamo remains a legal, moral and ethical abomination, a place where the men still held — 149 in total — are, for the most part, indefinitely imprisoned without charge or trial, even though over half of them — 75 men — were cleared for release in January 2010 by the high-level, inter-agency Guantánamo Review Task Force established by President Obama when he took office in 2009, and three others were cleared for release in recent months by a new review process, the Periodic Review Boards.

In 2010, the task force recommended who to release, who to prosecute, and who to continue holding without charge or trial, on the extremely dubious basis that they were “too dangerous to release,” even though insufficient evidence existed to put them on trial. What this means, of course, is that the supposed evidence is no such thing, and consists largely of extremely unreliable statements made either by the prisoners themselves, or their fellow prisoners, in circumstances that were not conducive to telling the truth — involving the use of torture, for example, or other forms of abuse, and in some cases, bribery, when prisoners told lies to secure favorable treatment. Read the rest of this entry »

On the 12th Anniversary of the Opening of Guantánamo, Please Write to the Prisoners

Every six months, I put out a call for people to write to the prisoners in Guantánamo, to let them know that they have not been forgotten, and to let the US authorities know that people are watching what they do at Guantánamo.

The letter-writing campaign was started three years ago by two Facebook friends, Shahrina J. Ahmed and Mahfuja Bint Ammu, and it has been repeated every six months (see here, here, here, here and here).

In previous calls for people to write letters, I specifically referred to the men still held as the “forgotten prisoners,” but I have not chosen to do so this time, because, last year, people began to wake up, in significant numbers, to the fact that Guantánamo is still open and to remember the men who had indeed been largely forgotten, at least since 2010, when the one-year deadline for President Obama’s promise to close the prison expired with a whimper.

Last year over a million people signed two petitions calling for the closure of Guantánamo (see here and here), and it was because of the prisoners themselves that their plight was brought back into the international spotlight. The prisoners did this through a prison-wide hunger strike, which reminded the world’s media that Guantánamo is a legal, moral and ethical abomination, a place where the men still held — 155 in total — are, for the most part, indefinitely detained without charge or trial, even though nearly half of them — 76 men — were cleared for release four years ago by the high-level, inter-agency Guantánamo Review Task Force. Read the rest of this entry »

For Ramadan, Please Write to the Hunger Striking Prisoners at Guantánamo

Every six months, I urge readers to send letters to the prisoners in Guantánamo, and, as this is the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, which began July 8, there is no better time to write to the 166 men still held, the majority of whom have been on a hunger strike for over five months, protesting about conditions at the prison, and the failure of all three branches of the US government to free them or put them on trial.

In the last three years, just ten prisoners have been released, even though 86 of the men still held were cleared for release by the sober and responsible inter-agency Guantánamo Review Task Force, consisting of around 60 members of the major government departments and the intelligence agencies. Established by President Obama when he took office in 2009, the task force spent a year reviewing the men’s cases before reaching their decisions about who to release, who to prosecute, and, disturbingly, who to hold indefinitely without charge or trial on the basis that they are “too dangerous to release,” even though insufficient evidence exists to put them on trial. In the real world, what this means is that the supposed evidence is no such thing, and is, instead, a collection of extremely unreliable statements made by the prisoners themselves, and, more particularly, their fellow prisoners, as well as other intelligence reports of a dubious nature.

The Guantánamo Review Task Force’s report was published in January 2010, but it was not until last month that a document explaining which prisoners had been placed into which categories was released through FOIA legislation. I analyzed that document here, and noted which prisoners had been placed in which categories in the prisoner list on the CloseGuantánamo.org website. Read the rest of this entry »

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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, co-director, We Stand With Shaker. Also, singer and songwriter (The Four Fathers) and photographer.
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