Shocking Statistics From Guantánamo: How Long Prisoners Approved for Release Have Been Waiting to Be Freed


An infographic created by Andy Worthington showing how long men at Guantánamo approved for release by administrative review processes have been waiting to be freed (as of February 10, 2023), compared to the 337 days that Majid Khan had to wait to be freed after the end of his sentence last year.

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Last week, when Majid Khan was freed from Guantánamo, it had taken 337 days for the US government to secure his release after his terrorism-related military commission sentence ended, on March 1, 2022.

The US government worked hard to secure Majid Khan’s resettlement in Belize because it was legally required to do so, and also because officials in various branches of the government wanted to ensure the continuing viability of plea deals for Guantánamo prisoners accused of acts of terrorism.

In contrast, however, as the infographic above shows, 20 other men approved for release through high-level government review processes have, for the most part, been waiting far longer than the 337 days that Majid Khan had to wait for his freedom.

This is because the review processes that approved them for release — the Guantánamo Review Task Force of 2009-10, and, since 2013, the Periodic Review Boards — were purely administrative, and have no legal weight, and, as a result, the government has not had to act with the urgency that was required for Majid Khan, even though none of these 20 men has ever even been charged with a crime.

I — and other campaigners — have no doubt that the process of repatriating some these 20 men, and resettling others in third countries, as with Majid Khan, because they can’t be repatriated, is fraught with problems, but it also seems clear from Majid Khan’s case that results can be achieved when a prisoner’s release is sufficiently prioritized.

As a result, we call on the US government to do more to prioritize the release of these 20 men. It is unforgivable that three of them (approved for release via the Guantánamo Review Task Force) have been waiting over 13 years (4,767 days) to be freed, and that one other man has been waiting 805 days, since he was approved for release by a Periodic Review Board towards the end of the Trump presidency.

However, even under Biden, when 16 of these 20 men have also been approved for release by Periodic Review Boards, the lack of action is starting to seriously undermine any notion that the administration takes their release seriously. The first of these men to be approved for release have now been waiting for their freedom for 638 days, and almost all of the others have also been waiting for longer than Majid Khan’s 337 days.

If the administration wants to avoid claims that it is holding these men arbitrarily, or that its review processes are so meaningless that these men are in fact political prisoners, officials need to act as strenuously as they did to get Majid Khan resettled in Belize.

We are watching, and we will continue to highlight the plight of these men until they, like Majid Khan, are finally freed.

* * * * *

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.

10 Responses

  1. Andy Worthington says...

    When I posted this on Facebook, I wrote:

    Here’s my latest article, promoting a new infographic that I created last night, showing how long the 20 men approved for release from Guantanamo have been held since they were approved for release.

    In contrast to the 377 days that recently released prisoner Majid Khan had to wait to be freed after the end of his terrorism-related sentence last year, most of these 20 men have been waiting for far longer, and still have no idea when, if ever they will be freed, because their approval for release came through purely administrative processes, which have no legal weight.

    As I explain in my article, “If the administration wants to avoid claims that it is holding these men arbitrarily, or that its review processes are so meaningless that these men are in fact political prisoners, officials need to act as strenuously as they did to get Majid Khan resettled in Belize. We are watching, and we will continue to highlight the plight of these men until they, like Majid Khan, are finally freed.”

  2. Andy Worthington says...

    Antony R Owen wrote:

    I think infographics fit this scrolling generation as the visual intervenes for some. Hopefully enough. I am glad the world has you in it. We are few.

  3. Andy Worthington says...

    Thanks, Antony, for the kind and supportive words. I think you’re right about images and the “scrolling generation” – it’s a difficult adjustment for those of us who love the written word!

  4. Andy Worthington says...

    Kevin Hester wrote:

    No other journalist on the Imperialist war ravaged planet has done more to expose the plight of the Guantanamo detainees than Andy.
    If anyone can support his work, please do as I have.
    In light of the imprisonment of Julian Assange, Andy doing this work for us puts him in danger.

  5. Andy Worthington says...

    Thanks, Kevin. I really appreciate your support!

  6. Andy Worthington says...

    Meagan Murphy wrote:

    I am almost sure holding someone 4.500+ days after telling them they are approved for release is an aggressive form of psychological torture, and sadly he is most likely innocent without charge, and so this is the capitalist bureaucracy.

  7. Andy Worthington says...

    It’s a slightly complicated story in that two of three men have refused to meet with lawyers and have refused to cooperate with the authorities when it comes to securing their release, Meagan, which rather suggests to me that they might have some unaddressed mental health issues. The third man, however, was told he would be leaving about ten years ago, but was never put on the plane, and has never received any explanation of why.

  8. Andy Worthington says...

    Meagan Murphy wrote:

    Andy, they most definitely are not getting fair mental health treatment, I read in Mansoor’s book after they were tortured they were asked if they wanted to hurt themselves or others, and also that they put one man on a plane telling him he would be going home and his hopes got up very high, and then they flew him right back to Guantanamo and he felt worse than ever.

  9. Andy Worthington says...

    It’s a particularly depressing state of affairs, Meagan, for men like these two who are profoundly isolated because they don’t have legal representation. At least most of the men get visits from lawyers, where they can receive news from their families, and interact with someone who doesn’t represent the US military, and who, if they see signs of particular mental anguish, can at least raise that with the authorities, or even petition a court for some sort of intervention.

  10. Andy Worthington says...

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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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