Sep. 28: EU Parliament Holds “Most Significant Gathering Ever Assembled on Guantánamo”, With Former Prisoners, Lawyers, Myself and Others


The flier for the “Close Guantánamo” event at the European Parliament on Thursday September 28, 2023.

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POSTSCRIPT: See here for my report about, and the video of the event, plus photos.

On Thursday September 28, a very special event, described by its organizers as “the most significant gathering ever assembled on Guantánamo in the European Parliament,” is taking place in Brussels.

Ten speakers will be taking part in the event, which runs from 9am until noon. Three are former prisoners — Mansoor Adayfi, a Yemeni held for 14 years, who was resettled in Serbia in 2016, and is the author of the devastating memoir, “Don’t Forget Us Here: Lost and Found at Guantánamo,” published in 2021, which manages, simultaneously, to be harrowing, hilarious and full of humanity; Moazzam Begg, the author of “Enemy Combatant,” published in 2006; and Lakhdar Boumediene, an Algerian resettled in France in 2009, who is the co-author, with Mustafa Art Idr, of “Witnesses of the Unseen: Seven Years in Guantánamo,” published in 2017.

Also attending is Fionnuala Ní Aoláin, the UN Special Rapporteur on the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms while Countering Terrorism, who was the first Rapporteur to visit Guantánamo, earlier this year, and whose devastating report, published in June, described an ongoing regime that, despite some tinkering by Presidents Obama and Biden, constitutes, as she described it, “ongoing cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment,” which “may also meet the legal threshold for torture.”

Three US lawyers will also be attending — Beth Jacob, a civilian attorney who represents four of the 16 men still held (out of 30 men still held in total) who have been unanimously approved for release by high-level US government review processes; Alka Pradhan, Human Rights Counsel as part of the legal team representing Ammar al-Baluchi, one of five “high-value detainees” charged in connection with the 9/11 attacks in Guantánamo’s broken military commission trial system; and Mark Denbeaux, a law professor at Seton Hall University School of Law in New Jersey, and one of several lawyers representing Abu Zubaydah, the first victim of the CIA’s post-9/11 “black site” torture program, who, despite grand claims made by the US authorities at the time, has never been charged with a crime, and is one of three men still held at Guantánamo without charge or trial, and without being approved for release, who have been accurately described as “forever prisoners.”

Also speaking, and visiting from the US, are: Valerie Lucznikowska of September Eleventh Families for Peaceful Tomorrows, an organization “founded by family members of those killed on September 11th who have united to turn our grief into action for peace”; and James Yee, the former Muslim Chaplain at Guantánamo, who was imprisoned for six months in 2003-04 on unsubstantiated charges of spying that were later dropped.

I will also be speaking, and I’m absolutely thrilled to see this event taking place, as it had its origins in February this year, when I first reached out to Clare Daly and Mick Wallace, the independent Irish MEPs who are hosting the event, and who I met on a visit in March, when I was able to brief some MEPs on the importance of governments in the EU supporting the Biden administration in its efforts to close the prison, especially by resettling some of the men approved for release who cannot be repatriated because of provisions inserted every year into the annual National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which prevent the repatriation of prisoners from proscribed countries including Yemen, Libya and Somalia.

I also recommended Mansoor’s book to Clare and Mick, helping to introduce them, and paving the way for Mansoor, appropriately, being the former prisoner in whose name this entire event is taking place. This is appropriate, for those who don’t know, because of Mansoor’s tireless advocacy on behalf of the men still held, and those (like Mansoor himself) who have been released, only to discover that Guantánamo still haunts them.

While the event will, I’m sure, either refresh memories or provide crucial new insights into quite how shameful the continued existence of Guantánamo still is, how torture fundamentally infects and discredits the military commissions, and how disgraceful it is that three men are still held indefinitely as “forever prisoners,” and while it will also, I hope, galvanize EU Parliamentarians to take a stand to call for Guantánamo’s closure, the main thrust of the event is to encourage EU countries to help with the resettlement of the men still held who have long been approved for release but who cannot be repatriated.

The 16 men still held at Guantánamo who have been approved for release. As of September 6, 13 of these men had, shamefully, been waiting for between 348 and 1,013 days since the US authorities first decided that they no longer wanted to hold them, and in three other cases had been waiting for 4,975 days.

As noted above, 16 of the 30 men still held have been approved for release, and in the majority of cases — involving eleven Yemenis, a Libyan and a Somali — are in need of third countries to offer to resettle them. As of September 6, these men had, shamefully, been waiting for between 348 and 1,013 days since the US authorities first decided that they no longer wanted to hold them, and in three other cases had been waiting for 4,975 days.

Everyone involved in the efforts to resettle these men knows that they are complicated by a much more hostile political climate in general than that which existed ten to 15 years ago, under the Obama administration, when many dozens of men were resettled in a variety of countries in Europe and elsewhere. We also know, and will hear at the event, how some of these resettlements didn’t deliver what the organizers describe as “decent living conditions” for the men in question.

However, with the 22nd anniversary of the opening of Guantánamo looming, it is no longer adequate for people of good conscience to sit on the fence when it comes to the unending limbo of these men, and I sincerely hope that EU Parliamentarians will recognize that there is a humanitarian imperative to get involved, and that history will judge them well if they offer not only to help these men, but also to help the United States out of a legal black hole of its own making.

The event is open to the public, and will also be streamed live, and the registration form is here. Once you have registered, you will be sent further information on access to the Parliament 24 hours before the event — or five days before for those outside the EU (in the UK, for example).

I hope to see some of you there!

* * * * *

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 (see the ongoing 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, in 2018, he was part of the occupation of the Old Tidemill Wildlife Garden in Deptford, to try to prevent its destruction — and that of 16 structurally sound council flats next door — by Lewisham Council and Peabody.

Since 2019, Andy has become increasingly involved in environmental activism, recognizing that climate change poses an unprecedented threat to life on earth, and that the window for change — requiring a severe reduction in the emission of all greenhouse gases, and the dismantling of our suicidal global capitalist system — is rapidly shrinking, as tipping points are reached that are occurring much quicker than even pessimistic climate scientists expected. You can read his articles about the climate crisis here.

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.

9 Responses

  1. Andy Worthington says...

    When I posted this on Facebook, I wrote:

    Here’s my latest article, announcing “the most significant gathering ever assembled on Guantanamo in the European Parliament,” on September 28, which I helped to initiate and organize, at which MEPs and members of the public will hear from ten speakers, including three former prisoners (Mansoor Adayfi, Moazzam Begg and Lakhdar Boumediene), Fionnuala Ní Aoláin, the UN Special Rapporteur on the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms while Countering Terrorism, three lawyers (Beth Jacob, Alka Pradhan and Mark Denbeaux), Valerie Lucznikowska of September Eleventh Families for Peaceful Tomorrows, former Muslim Chaplain James Yee, and myself.

    The main thrust of the event will be to encourage EU governments to help with the resettlement of men still held at Guantanamo who have long been approved for release but who cannot be repatriated (at least 13 of the 16 men approved for release), but we will be discussing the need for a clear message to be sent to the Biden administration that Guantanamo must be closed, the horrors of the torture regime that have thoroughly discredited the military commission trial system, the plight of the three men still held as “forever prisoners” without charge or trial, and the failures of the US government to ensure “decent living conditions” for some of the men released from the prison and resettled in third countries.

  2. Andy Worthington says...

    Kevin Hester wrote:

    Bravo, keep the pressure on, team.

  3. Andy Worthington says...

    Thanks, Kevin. Perhaps you’ll be able to join us online. It’s going to be quite a gathering of compelling voices calling for Guantanamo’s closure, and for new homes to be found for the men still held who have been approved for release but can’t be sent back to their home countries.

  4. Anna says...

    Oh Andy, this is fabulous !
    Bad luck has it that I have two (!) medical appointments on 29/09 early morning and the only flight from Brussels back home on 28th is at 08:30 hrs. …
    But I’ll try tomorrow to move those appointments by a week, although they usually take two months to get. But I’d hate to miss this. See you & Moazzam, but also Mark Denbeaux whose investigation of the triple ‘suicide’ I greatly admired and still remember.
    I’ll register anyway, just in case !

  5. Andy Worthington says...

    I’m so glad to hear that you’re going to try and make it to this wonderful event, Anna. I wish you all the best in moving your medical appointments! In the meantime, please do feel free to reach out to any Polish MEPs who might find it of interest. I’m pretty sure that some of these representatives outside of the ruling party should be there:,_2019–2024

  6. Anna says...

    One of the MEPs is Leszek Miller …
    But I’m afraid that #*$&%^ would require kidnapping and rendition to attend.

    I know one personally who certainly would attend if she will manage physically, but there are a few more who might be convinced.
    I’ll get onto it asap :-).

  7. Andy Worthington says...

    Hi Anna, Contacts are available via the European Parliament website here:

  8. anna says...

    Thanks. I’ve sent the info to senator Józef Pinior and the two lawyers.

  9. Andy Worthington says...

    For a Spanish version, on the World Can’t Wait’s Spanish website, see ’28 de septiembre: El Parlamento Europeo celebra “la reunión más importante jamás reunida sobre Guantánamo”, con ex presos, abogados, yo mismo y otras personas’:

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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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