Video: Mansoor Adayfi, Shelby Sullivan-Bennis and I Discuss Guantánamo’s 20th Anniversary and Its Chronic and Persistent Lawlessness at Revolution Books

1.2.22

A screenshot of “America’s Torture Chamber: 20 Years of Guantánamo … It Must Be Closed NOW!”, an event hosted by Revolution Books in Harlem, featuring Mansoor Adayfi, Andy Worthington and Shelby Sullivan-Bennis, and moderated by Raymond Lotta.

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On Sunday (January 30), I was delighted to take part in a powerful online discussion, hosted by Revolution Books in Harlem, about the prison at Guantánamo Bay, marking the 20th anniversary of its opening, on January 11, with former prisoner and author Mansoor Adayfi, in Serbia, and Shelby Sullivan-Bennis, an attorney who represents a number of the men still held.

Until Covid hit, I visited the US every January, to campaign for the closure of Guantánamo on and around the anniversary of its opening, and one of my regular events was a discussion at Revolution Books — in 2016, for example, discussing the successful campaign for the release of Shaker Aamer, in 2017, with the attorney Ramzi Kassem, in 2018, with Carl Dix, and in 2020, with Shelby.

Last year, as a resurgence of Covid shut down foreign travel, the event took place online, and I was again joined by Shelby, and so this year, as another Covid variant again shut down foreign travel, we again turned to Zoom to facilitate an online event. And while I miss my friends and colleagues in the US, and the thrill of a live event, Covid — and Zoom — have enabled us to hear directly from former prisoners, in a way that was not previously possible. This is particularly powerful when it comes to Guantánamo, as former prisoners are prevented from setting foot on US soil, and yet Zoom has now effortlessly dissolved that prohibition.

The video of the event is posted below, via YouTube, where it was live-streamed, and it was also live-steamed on Facebook, where the video is also available to watch.

The event was introduced by Raymond Lotta of Revolution Books who handed over to me at 8:20. I spoke until 20:20, providing a short history of Guantánamo past and present, and summarizing why it is such a lawless disgrace, and Shelby then spoke until 32:35, providing a powerful explanation of why it is appropriate to regard the men held at Guantánamo as political prisoners, because, as she explained, legally there is no mechanism whereby a court, in habeas corpus cases, or the Periodic Review Boards, an administrative, parole-type process, can actually secure the release of men who have “won their freedom.”

Shelby described this as the “unique political prisoner element” of Guantánamo, pointing out that the lack of any mechanism to secure release was particularly pronounced under Donald Trump — although, crucially, as he is now gone, it remains just as true under Joe Biden, as is apparent from the ever-growing number of men who have been approved for release (now 18 of the remaining 39 prisoners). These men have had their release approved, but there is no legal requirement for their release to actually take place. As Shelby described it, “they don’t have access to any meaningful rights.”

There then followed a musical interlude — a very modern classical piano piece, inspired by the torture of Abu Zubaydah, composed by Luis McDougal and played by a talented pianist friend of his — and then Mansoor brought Guantánamo to Harlem from 47:25 to 1:01:00, particularly thanking the lawyers, and those activists and campaigners who have fought for so long to get Guantánamo closed. The event ended with a lively Q&A session, which lasted for about three-quarters of an hour.

It was a great event, and I hope you have time to watch it, and that you’ll share it if you find it useful.

* * * * *

Andy Worthington is a freelance investigative journalist, activist, author, photographer (of an ongoing photo-journalism project, ‘The State of London’), film-maker and singer-songwriter (the lead singer and main songwriter for the London-based band The Four Fathers, whose music is available via Bandcamp). He is the co-founder of the Close Guantánamo campaign (and see the latest photo campaign here) and the successful We Stand With Shaker campaign of 2014-15, and the author of The Guantánamo Files: The Stories of the 774 Detainees in America’s Illegal Prison and of two other books: Stonehenge: Celebration and Subversion and The Battle of the Beanfield. He is also the co-director (with Polly Nash) of the documentary film, “Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo” (available on DVD here, or you can watch it online here, via the production company Spectacle, for £2.50).

In 2017, Andy became very involved in housing issues. He is the narrator of the documentary film, ‘Concrete Soldiers UK’, about the destruction of council estates, and the inspiring resistance of residents, he wrote a song ‘Grenfell’, in the aftermath of the entirely preventable fire in June 2017 that killed over 70 people, and he also set up ‘No Social Cleansing in Lewisham’ as a focal point for resistance to estate destruction and the loss of community space in his home borough in south east London. For two months, from August to October 2018, he was part of the occupation of the Old Tidemill Wildlife Garden in Deptford, to prevent its destruction — and that of 16 structurally sound council flats next door — by Lewisham Council and Peabody. Although the garden was violently evicted by bailiffs on October 29, 2018, and the trees were cut down on February 27, 2019, the struggle for housing justice — and against environmental destruction — continues.

To receive new articles in your inbox, please subscribe to Andy’s RSS feed — and he can also be found on Facebook (and here), Twitter, Flickr and YouTube. Also see the six-part definitive Guantánamo prisoner list, The Complete Guantánamo Files, the definitive Guantánamo habeas list, the full military commissions list, and the chronological list of all Andy’s articles.

Please also consider joining the Close Guantánamo campaign, and, if you appreciate Andy’s work, feel free to make a donation.

One Response

  1. Andy Worthington says...

    When I posted this on Facebook, I wrote:

    Here’s my latest article, linking to, and discussing the video of a powerful online Guantanamo event hosted by Revolution Books in Harlem on Sunday, featuring myself, former prisoner Mansoor Adayfi, and attorney Shelby Sullivan-Bennis, who represents a number of the men still held.

    It was great to have Mansoor with us, and for a US audience to be able to hear directly from a former prisoner, and it was also significant that Shelby spoke of the men held at Guantanamo as political prisoners, because, as she explained, legally there is no mechanism whereby a court, in habeas corpus cases, or the Periodic Review Boards, an administrative, parole-type process, can actually secure the release of men who have “won their freedom.”

    I hope you have time to watch the video, and that you’ll share it if you find it useful.

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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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