Video: Andy Worthington Calls for the Closure of Guantánamo at London Rally on Jan. 20, 2024


A screenshot of the video of Andy Worthington calling for the closure of the prison at Guantánamo Bay at the London rally for the prison’s closure on January 20, 2024.

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Two weeks ago, on Saturday January 20, a march and rally for the closure of the prison at Guantánamo Bay was held in London, marking the 22nd anniversary of the the prison’s opening on January 11. The event was organized by the UK Guantánamo Network, a coalition of campaigning groups including numerous Amnesty International members from across London and the south east.

I posted a detailed report about that event, illustrated with photos by myself and by photographer Sinai Noor, two weeks ago, and I’m now following up with the video of the speech I gave at the rally, following the procession of campaigners in orange jumpsuits from Old Palace Yard, by the Houses of Parliament, through Parliament Square, and up Whitehall to Trafalgar Square.

My speech followed a brave and principled speech by Apsana Begum MP, which is available on X here, where, I’m glad to note, it has had nearly 20,000 views, and I was followed by a number of UK Guantánamo Network campaigners — Aaron Humphrey-May, Harry McWhirter, Lise Rossi and Dave Esbester, whose speeches are available on Canva and filmed by Melissa Schweizer, as well as a poem read out by another campaigner.

My speech is below, via YouTube, and I hope that you have time to watch it, and that you’ll share it if you find it helpful. Making a public speech on the anniversary of the opening of Guantánamo has become something of annual tradition for me. From 2011 to 2020, I visited the US every year for the anniversary, making a fiery speech outside the White House and, since Covid I’ve been doing the same every year in the UK.

This year, I pointed out in particular how 16 of the 30 men still held have been unanimously approved for release by high-level US government review processes, and yet, shamefully, they remain as fundamentally without rights now as they were when the prison first opened on January 11, 2002, deliberately located on the US’s naval base in Cuba to be outside the law, a place where human beings could be held without any fundamental rights whatsoever.

The reason for the persistent of this fundamental lawlessness, despite the best efforts of attorneys and human rights organisations to bring the law to Guantánamo, is because the decisions taken to approve these men for release were purely administrative, meaning that they have no legal weight, and that the men in question cannot appeal to a judge or a court to order their release if, as is the case, the Biden administration is uninterested in freeing them with any kind of urgency whatsoever.

That lack of urgency is most alarmingly spelt out by the amount of time that these men have been waiting to be freed. On February 7, when the next monthly coordinated global vigils for the closure of Guantánamo are taking place, these 16 men will have been waiting to be freed, as the poster below shows, for between 502 and 1,196 days since the US authorities first decided that they no longer wanted to continue holding them indefinitely without charge or trial, and in three cases for 5,129 days.

The poster showing how long, on February 7, 2024, the men approved for release from Guantánamo have been held since the US authorities first decided that they no longer wanted to hold them.

There is a complication — most, if not all of these men cannot be repatriated, because of US laws preventing their return to their home countries (Yemen, in most cases, but also Somalia and Libya), and, as a result, third countries must be found that are prepared to offer them new homes. However, although President Biden eventually (in the summer of 2021) appointed an official in the State Department — former ambassador Tina Kaidanow — to oversee resettlement issues relating to Guantánamo, the resettlement of these men is clearly not being prioritized by those in the chain of command above her; very specifically, President Biden himself, and Antony Blinken, the Secretary of State.

This is an unforgivable situation that everyone appalled by the continued existence of Guantánamo must make every effort to get President Biden to address in the last year of his presidency — or, if he is fortunate, in the last year of the first term of his presidency.

I hope that you can join us in our vigils!

* * * * *

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.

One Response

  1. Andy Worthington says...

    When I posted this on Facebook, I wrote:

    Here’s my latest article, featuring the video of my speech calling for the closure of Guantanamo at the rally for the prison’s closure in London on January 20, which followed a march from the Houses of Parliament to Trafalgar Square.

    In under five minutes, I explained why it is so shameful that Guantanamo is still open, why the men still held are as fundamentally without rights as they were on the day it opened, and how the focus on our campaigning this year needs to be on the 16 men long approved for release, but still held because no legal pressure can be exerted on the Biden administration to compel them to spend time, money and effort in actually freeing them.

    I hope you have time to watch it, 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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The Battle of the Beanfield

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Stonehenge: Celebration & Subversion

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Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo


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