Free The Guantánamo 20: Events Marking the 21st Anniversary of the Opening of the Prison


The 20 men approved for release from Guantánamo but still held, an image put together by Andy Worthington for the Close Guantánamo campaign.

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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 a heavy heart, the small but dedicated group of human rights activists from across the United States and around the world who, on a daily basis, are appalled by the continued existence of the fundamentally lawless prison at Guantánamo Bay are preparing to mark the 21st anniversary of its opening this Wednesday, Jan. 11.

This anniversary I’ll be in London (not the US as I was every Jan. 11 from 2011 to 2020), but I’m hoping that I’ll still be able to make waves, along with my American friends and colleagues, and this year I’m particularly focusing on the 20 men, out of the 35 still held — who have been approved for release, but are still held.

Photos of these 20 men are in the composite image at the top of this article, which I made a few days ago, and when I posted it on Facebook, I explained, “16 of these men have been approved for release since President Biden took office, while three others were approved for release in 2010, but are still held, and one other man was approved for release in the dying days of the Trump presidency.”

I added, “Shamefully, the men are still held because the Biden administration has not sufficiently prioritized their release (or, in the case of some of these men, their transfer to third countries, because laws passed by Congress prevent their repatriation), and this delay, in part, is because there is no legal obligation for them to be freed, as they were approved for release through administrative review processes.”

As I also explained, “Of the 15 other men still held, three are still held without charge or trial as ‘forever prisoners,’ nine are facing trials, one accepted a plea deal last year, one is serving a life sentence after a one-sided trial in which he refused to mount a defense (in 2008), and one other man is also awaiting release, after his sentence, agreed at a plea deal in 2012, came to an end on March 1 last year.”

I very much hope that President Biden will take on board how shameful it is that men approved for release (most under Biden himself) have still not been freed, and urge him to act as swiftly as possible to get them freed, and not, as has so often been the case with US Democratic leadership on Guantánamo, to not do enough, and to avoid attracting the attention of Republicans.

It is time for these men to be allowed to resume their lives after their shamefully long and lawless ordeal, just as it is time for Guantánamo itself to be closed, which will be much a much easier prospect if over half of the men still held are released, and just over a dozen men are still held — at a cost, let us not forget, of half a billion dollars a year.

Jan. 11, 2023

12 noon-1pm Eastern time: Guantánamo at Twenty-One – What is the Future of the Prison Camp? With Thomas Wilner, Karen Greenberg and Andy Worthington
An online panel discussion hosted by New America in Washington, D.C. Thomas Wilner was Counsel of Record to the Guantánamo prisoners in their Supreme Court cases in 2004 and 2008, and Karen Greenberg is the Director of the Center on National Security at Fordham Law School.
Register here.

1pm Eastern time: Close Guantánamo Rally at the White House
Organized by Witness Against Torture and the National Religious Campaign Against Torture.
The Facebook page is here.

7-8pm GMT: Close Gitmo Twitter Storm
Initiated by CAGE. Details here.

8-9pm GMT: Guantánamo at 21: Mansoor Adayfi and Andy Worthington Discuss the Prison’s Closure
An online panel put together for the UK Guantánamo Network, which consists of members of a number of Amnesty International groups, Close Guantánamo, the Guantánamo Justice Campaign, the London Guantánamo Campaign and Freedom From Torture. Former prisoner Mansoor Adayfi is the author of the acclaimed memoir “Don’t Forget Us Here: Lost and Found at Guantánamo.”
The Zoom link for the event is here.

4-5.30pm Eastern time: Building our Power to Close Guantánamo
A virtual rally organised by the Center for Constitutional Rights, Amnesty International USA, the Center for Victims of Torture and the Muslim Counterpublics Lab.
Details here.

4-6pm Eastern time: Close Guantanamo NOW Rally, New York Public Library, 5th Avenue at 42nd Street, New York NY 10018
Organized by the World Can’t Wait and World Beyond War with Witness Against Torture and other groups. There will be numerous speakers in New York, and Andy Worthington will be speaking live by video link from London.
The Facebook page is here.

There are other rallies, in Los Angeles, in Northampton, MA., in Raleigh, North Carolina, in Berkeley, CA., in Augusta, Maine, in Cleveland, OH. and in Honolulu. Details are on the Witness Against Torture page here.

There is also a vigil at the U.S. Embassy in Mexico City. Details here.

Jan. 14, 2023

11.30am-2.30pm, Guantánamo 21st Anniversary March and Vigil, London SW1
A march and rally organized by the UK Guantánamo Network, beginning at Old Palace Yard from 11.30am, followed by a march up Whitehall to the North Terrace of Trafalgar Square, by the National Gallery, where there will be speakers including Andy Worthington and others tbc at 2pm.

6pm: Guantánamo at 21 – Torture Comes of Age, London SW12
A CAGE event featuring former prisoner Moazzam Begg, and, by Zoom link from Morocco, former prisoners Ahmed Errachidi and Abdul Latif Nasser (released in July 2021).
Register here.

For further actions, if you’re in the U.S., please consider writing to President Biden and to your elected representatives. You can send a message to the White House here, and you can find your Senators here, and your Representatives here.

You can also, wherever you are in the world, take a photo with our poster marking 7,671 days of Guantánamo’s existence on Wednesday (Jan. 11), and send it to us. We’ll be posting the photos on a new page on our website, and also sharing them on social media.

* * * * *

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.

5 Responses

  1. Andy Worthington says...

    When I posted this on Facebook, I wrote:

    Here’s my latest article, linking to events marking the 21st anniversary of the opening of #Guantanamo, on Jan. 11, including online events that I’m taking part in in the US and the UK (a New America panel discussion with Thomas Wilner and Karen Greenberg, and a discussion with former prisoner Mansoor Adayfi), and a march and rally in London on Jan. 14.

    A particular focus this year is the shameful situation faced by the 20 men (out of 35 in total) who have been approved for release but are still held, hence the hashtag that I’m using and that I encourage you to share: #FreeTheGuantanamo20.

    Please also feel free to take a photo with the Close Guantanamo campaign’s poster marking 7,671 days of the prison’s existence on the anniversary, and send it to us at

    The poster is here:

    And all last year’s photos are here:

  2. Anniversary Faults – The Talking Dog says...

    […] Andy gives us a list of events commemmorating the 21st (Jesus) anniversary of the opening of the pri… As I said, I will be present (and perhaps participating) at the NYC event to commemorate this dark moment in American history. If you are able, please partake in one of these events near you. […]

  3. Anna says...

    Hi Andy, I was about to ask you to say hello for me to our mutual friends on the other side of the ocean, but you’re not there either. As I do not have Zoom and cannot follow any of the discussions live, I hope that it will be possible to see them later ?
    Here’s at least one mainstream medium which paid attention (yes, I learned Latin and still find it difficult to stomach plural media/data presented as singular – amazing that plural phenomena somehow managed to escape that phenomenon 🙂

  4. Andy Worthington says...

    Good to hear from you, Anna. Yes, very few media outlets paid any attention – a story in the New York Times, and Mansoor Adayfi for the Guardian:

  5. Andy Worthington says...

    For a Spanish version of my opening paragraphs, on the World Can’t Wait’s Spanish website, see ‘Liberen a los 20 de Guantánamo’:

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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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Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo


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