Photos and Report: The Global Vigils for the Closure of Guantánamo on the 22nd Anniversary of the Prison’s Opening


Coordinated global vigils for the closure of Guantánamo on January 11, 2024. Clockwise from top left: New York, Washington, D.C., Mexico City and London.

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. If you can help, please click on the button below to donate via PayPal.


Campaigners in Washington, D.C., including representatives of Amnesty International, the National Religious Campaign Against Torture (NRCAT), Witness Against Torture and Dorothy Day Catholic Worker held a vigil outside the White House on January 11, 2024. (Photo: NRCAT).
Campaigners in New York City held a vigil on the steps of the New York Public Library on 5th Avenue on January 11, 2024. The event was organized by the World Can’t Wait, whose National Director, Debra Sweet, is on the mike. Other supporters included Brooklyn for Peace, Interfaith Communities United for Justice and Peace and NY War Resisters League. Around 60 people attended in total, and other speakers were Daphne Eviatar of Amnesty International USA, Jeremy Varon of Witness Against Torture, Jessica Murphy of September 11 Families for Peaceful Tomorrows, Imam Saffet Catovic, and Rosemarie Pace and Mary Yelenick of Pax Christi. A video by Joe Friendly is here. The event also raised money for the Guantánamo Survivors Fund. (Photo: Felton Davis).
Campaigners in San Francisco held a vigil outside the Ferry Building on January 11, 2024, organized by Gavrilah Wells of Amnesty International and Curt Wechsler of the World Can’t Wait. Gavrilah wrote, “Curt and I organized a small and poignant event at the SF Ferry Building today. We had a few speakers, a couple chalkers, a table with flyers, postcards and actions to take including donating to the Guantánamo Survivors Fund. Curt made a fantastic board with enlarged photos of 15 of the detainees cleared for release and Amnesty colleague Ron Malveaux read the names and their dates of incarceration and dates they were cleared for release, which was very moving. Faisal, another Amnesty colleague, told his personal story of leaving Afghanistan and spoke about human rights and the history of prisons through the centuries. We also read Mansoor Adayfi’s beautiful words about his dear brother Khalid Qasim — he sounds like such a beautiful and amazing person. I pray he gets safely released ASAP.”
Campaigners in Los Angeles held a vigil outside the Federal Building in Downtown L.A. on January 11, 2024, organized by Interfaith Communities United for Justice and Peace, with speakers including Mohammad Tajsar of the ACLU of Southern California, Jim Lafferty of the Lawyers Guild, Rev. Kelvin Sauls and Vincent DeStefano of the Assange Defense Network.
Campaigners in London, with the UK Guantánamo Network, held a vigil outside the US Embassy in Nine Elms, London on January 11, 2024. (Photo: Andy Worthington).
Campaigners in Mexico City (Natalia Rivera Scott, Alli McCracken and Mary) held a vigil outside the US Embassy on January 11, 2024.
Campaigners in Cobleskill, NY held a vigil on January 11, 2024, organized by the Peacemakers of Schoharie County.
Campaigners in Minneapolis held a vigil on January 11, 2024 outside the Federal Building on 3rd Avenue S, organized by the Minneapolis-St Paul chapter of Amnesty International. Amy Blumenshine took this photo of Aaron Tovo and Wilbur Ince.
Campaigners in Detroit held a vigil on January 11, 2024 outside the Federal Building on Michigan Avenue, organized by Detroit Amnesty. Geraldine Grunow wrote, “We’ll continue to protest the existence of Guantánamo and to lobby for the release of cleared detainees and ‘forever prisoners,’ as well as for adequate support for those already released.”
Campaigners in Raleigh, NC held a vigil on January 11, 2024, organized by NC Stop Torture Now. Christina Cowger wrote, “We had about 25 people outside Rep. Deborah Ross’ office; she’s a Democrat in a safe seat and her constituents have long called on her to speak out about rendition, torture, and Guantánamo, but so far she’s done zilch.” (Photo: Beth Brockman).
Campaigners in Greenfield, MA held a vigil on January 11, 2024, organized by No More Guantanamos, CODEPINK and the World Can’t Wait, and then held a second vigil in Northampton, MA. Around three dozen campaigners had photos taken with Close Guantánamo’s poster marking 8,036 days of the prison’s existence. Photo via the Witness Against Torture Facebook page.
Campaigners in Northampton, MA on January 11, 2024. Photo via the Witness Against Torture Facebook page.
Campaigners outside the State Armory in Augusta, Maine on January 11, 2024. Photo via the Witness Against Torture Facebook page.
Campaigners with the Northwest Ohio Peace Coalition, American Muslims for Palestine Toledo and other groups at Lucas County Courthouse in Toledo, Ohio on January 11, 2024. Photo via the Witness Against Torture Facebook page.
Campaigners in Berkeley, LA held a vigil at Berkeley Law School on January 10, 2024, organized by CODEPINK S.F. Bay Area, followed by a bake sale for the Guantánamo Survivors Fund, and, as Cynthia Papermaster explained, to “get signatures on a petition to 1) request that John Yoo [a law professor at UC Berkeley] donate a year’s salary, about $500,000, to the fund and 2) call for Yoo’s prosecution for complicity in torture.” As she asked, “Shouldn’t the author of the legal opinions giving the green light to torture ‘enemy combatants’ feel some responsibilty for the torture of Guantánamo prisoners, most of whom were never charged with crimes?”
Campaigners in Boston, MA (Susan McLucas and Christopher Spicer Hinkle) held a vigil on January 11, 2024 at Boston Common.
Kady Manneh sent this photo of “From Guantánamo to Gaza: War is Terror”, a vigil on January 11, 2024 outside the Celebrezze Federal Building in Cleveland, Ohio.
Campaigners with the Comité Free.Assange.Belgium in Brussels.
Campaigners with Amnesty Events Copenhagen.
In Dublin, former Guantánamo prisoner Mansoor Adayfi sent this photo for the vigils during his book tour in Ireland for his compelling memoir, Don’t Forget Us Here: Lost and Found at Guantánamo.

For those of us who care about quaint notions like the rule of law, due process, habeas corpus, the Geneva Conventions, the prohibition on the use of torture, the right to a fair trial, and the right not to be indefinitely imprisoned without charge or trial, the arrival, every year, of January 11 is always a difficult occasion.

January 11, 2002 was when the “war on terror” prison at Guantánamo Bay first opened, when all of the above were jettisoned by the Bush administration in a bonfire of all domestic and international laws and treaties regarding the imprisonment of individuals.

This year marked the 22nd anniversary of the opening of the prison, and yet, alarmingly, all of the violations outlined above are still largely in place, and, just as alarmingly, almost no one in the United States — in the government, the media and the population as a whole — even cares, even though, in the last seven years, just eleven men have been freed from the prison.

The violations of all domestic and international norms regarding the imprisonment of individuals at Guantánamo are so severe that last June, after Fionnuala Ní Aoláin, the UN Special Rapporteur on the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms while Countering Terrorism, became the first UN Rapporteur to be allowed to visit the prison, she wrote in a devastating report that the systemic legal and medical problems at Guantánamo, as well as the ongoing dehumanization of the men held, and the restrictions on contact with their families, were so severe that they amount to “ongoing cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment” that “may also meet the legal threshold for torture.”

30 men are still held at Guantánamo — out of the 779 men and boys held at the prison since it first opened — and yet all are still trapped in circumstances that would be intolerable if they were applied anywhere else in the US justice system, or, indeed, anywhere else in the world.

16 of these men have been unanimously approved for release by high-level US government review processes, and yet they have continued to be held for years since the US authorities first decided that they no longer wanted to hold them indefinitely without charge or trial. In the cases of 13 of these men, they had been held for between 475 and 1,169 days since these decisions were taken, as of January 11, and in the other three cases for an unforgivable 5,102 days.

There is is still no sign of when, if ever, they will be freed, because the decisions taken to release them were purely administrative, and therefore have no legal weight, meaning that there is no one they can appeal to if, as is clearly the case, the executive branch has demonstrably failed to regard the restoration of their freedom as any kind of priority.

Three others remain as “forever prisoners” — neither charged nor approved for release — and, although the remaining eleven have been charged with crimes, they are caught up in the broken military commission trial system, which has proven to be incapable of delivering justice — fundamentally because the men in question were brutally and extensively tortured in CIA “black sites,” and the use of torture is incompatible with any practical implementation of justice.

Last year, in other opinions by the UN Special Mandates, the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention issued a devastating opinion in the case of one of the “forever prisoners,” Abu Zubaydah, for whom the CIA’s post-9/11 torture program was first implemented, in which they condemned his ongoing imprisonment as arbitrary detention, ordered his release and compensation, and also expressed “grave concern” that the very basis of the detention system at Guantánamo “may constitute crimes against humanity.”

The Working Group also issued another devastating opinion in the case of one of the men charged, Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, also calling for his release and compensation, and quoting a medical expert, Dr. Sondra Crosby, who, after visiting him several years ago, described him as “one of the most severely traumatized individuals I have ever seen.” Al-Nashiri’s trial judge later condemned efforts by the government to erase the effects of his torture via testimony obtained “non-coercively” after his arrival at Guantánamo, and yet, although these stories (and Fionnuala’s report) caused brief ripples of interest in the media, the Biden administration’s response has been one of almost total indifference.

Although few people care about Guantánamo, those who do — and who recognize that last year’s reports have quite definitively portrayed the prison as an active crime scene — have persistently taken upon themselves the weight of everyone else’s abdication of responsibility, campaigning, petitioning and contacting their elected representatives, and persistently highlighting both the legal, moral and ethical abominations of Guantánamo, and its impact of the men held, who they have persistently sought to humanize.

Every year, on the anniversary, vigils take place across the US and around the world calling for the closure of Guantánamo. For ten years, from 2011 to 2020, I traveled to the US to take part in the annual vigil outside the White House, organized by numerous groups including Amnesty International USA, the Center for Constitutional Rights, the National Religious Campaign Against Torture, Witness Against Torture and the World Can’t Wait.

Covid brought those annual visits to an end, but by the time that crisis had passed the interest in Guantánamo had dwindled to such an extent that it didn’t seem worthwhile any longer for me to contribute to the pollution caused by air travel to visit the country that is responsible for Guantánamo, but where the opportunities to use my vast knowledge of the prison, and those held there, to express my indignation and to try and reach out to people has become almost non-existent.

A year ago, after the typical flurry of activity on and around the anniversary of the opening of Guantánamo, I decided to try to amplify the voices of activists on a more regular basis, following up on the monthly vigils that a group of activists, myself included, had recently started holding in London (largely involving activists with various local Amnesty International groups, coming together with other campaigners as the UK Guantánamo Network) by reaching out to friends and colleagues in the US and elsewhere around the world to encourage them to join us in holding monthly coordinated global vigils for Guantánamo’s closure.

With the support of Amnesty International USA and other groups (most noticeably Witness Against Torture and the World Can’t Wait), these have become a regular occurrence, typically involving coordinated protests in Washington, D.C., New York City, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Cobleskill, NY, Detroit and Minneapolis, as well as London, Mexico City, Copenhagen and Brussels, and on January 11 these protests were augmented by other protests in Raleigh, NC, in Greenfield and Northampton, MA, in Augusta, Maine, in Toledo, Ohio, in Cleveland, Ohio, in Boston and in Berkeley.

Please see below for more photos from these vigils, at which campaigners also took photos with the Close Guantánamo campaign’s poster marking 8,036 days of the prison’s existence on January 11, as part of an ongoing campaign that began six years ago, and that involves posters marking every 100 days of Guantánamo’s existence, as well as marking the anniversaries of its opening. We received over 100 photos for January 11, and in December, when we marked 8,000 days, we received 170 photos.

I hope that as many people as possible will join us in 2024, as we resume our monthly vigils in February, on Wednesday February 7, continuing on the first Wednesday of every month thereafter, and that you’ll also join us for the ongoing photo campaign, marking 8,100 days of Guantánamo’s existence on March 15, 8,200 days on June 23, 8,300 days on October 1, and, sadly, 8,400 days on January 9, 2025, just two days before the 23rd anniversary of the prison’s opening. Hopefully, by then, the population of Guantánamo will be significantly smaller than it is now.

The vigil outside the White House on January 11, 2024. (Photo: NRCAT).
A very appropriate banner at the vigil outside the White House on January 11, 2024. (Photo: NRCAT).
Another important banner at the vigil outside the White House on January 11, 2024. (Photo: NRCAT).
Campaigners at the vigil outside the White House on January 11, 2024. (Photo: NRCAT).
The vigil in New York City on January 11, 2024. (Photo: Felton Davis).
The vigil in New York City on January 11, 2024. (Photo: Felton Davis).
The vigil in New York City on January 11, 2024. (Photo: Felton Davis).
Curt Wechsler with the display showing 15 of the 16 men approved for release from Guantánamo at the vigil in San Francisco on January 11, 2024.
Andy Worthington with the poster showing the 16 men approved for release from Guantánamo at the vigil in London on January 11, 2024. As Andy said on the day, “It may be deeply unfashionable to focus on the animosity towards Muslims of all four presidents who have been in charge of Guantánamo, but it is undeniably true. In President Biden’s case, having facilitated the deaths of tens of thousands of Muslim civilians in Gaza over the last three months, it would be helpful if he not only called for an immediate ceasefire, but also tried to at least repair some of the damage by releasing the 16 Muslim men at Guantánamo who have long been approved for release but who are still held.”
Rosemary, at the vigil in London, holding up the poster showing how long the 16 men approved for release from Guantánamo have been held since the US authorities first decided that they no longer wanted to hold them. (Photo: Andy Worthington).
Ciaron O’Reilly, a long-standing campaigner for Julian Assange, with a poster he made for the 22nd anniversary of the opening of Guantánamo outside the US Embassy in London on January 11, 2024.
The vigil in Mexico City on January 11, 2024.
A great aerial shot of the vigil in Mexico City on January 11, 2024.
Another great aerial shot of the vigil in Mexico City on January 11, 2024.
A placard at the vigil in Detroit on January 11, 2024, adjusted over the last 12 years, since 2012, to reflect how long Guantánamo has been open.
The vigil in Raleigh, NC on January 11, 2024. (Photo: Beth Brockman).
The vigil at Boston Common on January 11, 2024.
A call to arrest UC Berkeley law professor John Yoo, the author of the notorious “torture memos” of August 2002, at the vigil in Berkeley on January 10, 2024.
The check for $500,000 for the Guantánamo Survivors Fund that campaigners in Berkeley sought to have signed by John Yoo at their vigil on January 10, 2024. As Cynthia Papermaster explained, “At the end of our action we went to Dean Chermerinsky’s office to ask him to get John Yoo’s signature on the check for $500,000. We left the check with Erwin’s assistant and she said she would give it to the Dean with our request. Significantly, in 2014, Dean Chemerinsky told the Nation that Yoo should be criminally prosecuted. “I think he [John Yoo] should be,” Chemerinsky said. “All who planned, all who implemented, all who carried out the torture should be criminally prosecuted. How else do we as a society express our outrage? How else do we deter it in the future, except by criminal prosecutions?”

* * * * *

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.

12 Responses

  1. Andy Worthington says...

    When I posted this on Facebook, I wrote:

    Here’s my latest article, featuring photos from and my report about the 16 vigils that took place across the US and around the world on January 11, 2024, marking the shameful 22nd anniversary of the opening of the “war on terror” prison at Guantanamo Bay.

    Vigils took place in the locations involved in the monthly coordinated global vigils over the last year, which I initiated last February — in Washington, D.C., New York City, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Cobleskill, NY, Detroit and Minneapolis, as well as London, Mexico City, Copenhagen and Brussels — and on January 11 these protests were augmented by other protests in Raleigh, NC, in Greenfield and Northampton, MA, in Boston and in Berkeley. Also included is a photo of former prisoner Mansoor Adayfi in Dublin, as part of his Irish book tour.

    Thanks to everyone who took part. The monthly vigils resume on the first Wednesday of the month next month, on February 7, and will continue every month thereafter, You’re welcome to join us, as we continue to try to put pressure on President Biden to release the 16 men long approved for release from Guantanamo, and to take steps towards the closure of the prison over the coming year.

  2. Andy Worthington says...

    Natalia Rivera Scott wrote:

    Thank you, Andy!

    I hope more people join us. I hope this is the last year of existence of Guantánamo.

  3. Andy Worthington says...

    The one thing we mustn’t let anyone take away from us is hope, Natalia. On Gaza, on Guantanamo, on the climate crisis, decent people – who also believe in laws and accountability – are being tested as never before by indifferent, hostile and/or corrupt politicians and the mainstream media, and we need as much solidarity as possible.

    Guantanamo has so often seemed like a largely forgotten backwater in a world full of human rights abuses, but it remains central to all efforts to hold the powerful to account. If anyone can be imprisoned indefinitely without charge or trial, no one is safe.

  4. Andy Worthington says...

    Natalia Rivera Scott wrote:

    I must say, Andy, that your campaign, articles and efforts, the photos of other activists in this cause and the others I’m involved with are the source of hope for me. I’m a pessimist person, but a strong and stubborn one. I don’t think the climate crisis is going to be solved, I think we’ve done so much damage … but I know we’ll close Guantánamo and I know Julian will be free and Israel will be held to account. I see a lot of solidarity and people with big hearts, a lot of compassion and empathy. That gives me so much hope.

  5. Andy Worthington says...

    I’m so glad to hear that, Natalia. It’s so important, I think, not only for us to constantly raise our voices, but also for us to build as much solidarity as we can between as many different social movements as possible. I would suggest that the genocide in Gaza is showing us that, around the world, over half of the world’s population of eight billion people are not on the side of Israel, nor on the side of the increasingly discredited western countries who, via Zionist genocide, are so enthusiastically reviving their brutal colonialist attitudes.

  6. Andy Worthington says...

    Dan Shea wrote:

    Andy, I was going to join a gathering here in Portland, Oregon to remind people of the continuing plight of prisoners in Guantanamo but it got canceled because of snow and freezing cold storm weather.

    Keep up your advocacy, we cannot allow those remaining in isolation to be abandoned.

  7. Andy Worthington says...

    Great to hear from you, Dan, and thanks for the supportive words. Sorry to hear that the Portland event didn’t take place, but perhaps principled Portlanders can be persuaded to join the monthly coordinated global vigils for Guantanamo, which take place on the first Wednesday of every month. The next date of Wednesday February 7, then Wednesday March 6, and so on.

    Given that this is Biden’s last year, we really need to be making as much noise as possible to highlight the plight of the 16 men approved for release who have still not been freed. I think it’s genuinely quite shocking for people to realize quite how long these men have been waiting for their freedom.

  8. Andy Worthington says...

    David Barrows wrote:

    Thanks for doing this, Andy!

  9. Andy Worthington says...

    And thanks for your appreciation and involvement, David. It’s important to maintain our presence in this election year, to remind Biden that we haven’t forgotten Guantanamo and the men held there, however much he and Blinken wish we had amnesia like most of the US population.

  10. Andy Worthington says...

    Lizzy Arizona wrote:

    Thank you very much, Andy.

  11. Andy Worthington says...

    You’re welcome, Lizzy. Thanks for your interest.

  12. Andy Worthington says...

    For a Spanish version, on the World Can’t Wait’s Spanish website, see ‘Fotos y reportaje: Las Vigilias Mundiales por el Cierre de Guantánamo en el 22º Aniversario de la Apertura de la Prisión’:

Leave a Reply

Back to the top

Back to home page

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).
Email Andy Worthington

CD: Love and War

The Four Fathers on Bandcamp

The Guantánamo Files book cover

The Guantánamo Files

The Battle of the Beanfield book cover

The Battle of the Beanfield

Stonehenge: Celebration & Subversion book cover

Stonehenge: Celebration & Subversion

Outside The Law DVD cover

Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo


Posts & Comments

World Wide Web Consortium



Powered by WordPress

Designed by Josh King-Farlow

Please support Andy Worthington, independent journalist:


In Touch

Follow me on Facebook

Become a fan on Facebook

Subscribe to me on YouTubeSubscribe to me on YouTube

The State of London

The State of London. 16 photos of London

Andy's Flickr photos



Tag Cloud

Abu Zubaydah Al-Qaeda Andy Worthington British prisoners Center for Constitutional Rights CIA torture prisons Close Guantanamo Donald Trump Four Fathers Guantanamo Housing crisis Hunger strikes London Military Commission NHS NHS privatisation Periodic Review Boards Photos President Obama Reprieve Shaker Aamer The Four Fathers Torture UK austerity UK protest US courts Video We Stand With Shaker WikiLeaks Yemenis in Guantanamo