Photos and Report: Eight Global Vigils for the Closure of Guantánamo on February 7, 2024

10.2.24

Photos from the coordinated global vigils for the closure of Guantánamo on February 7, 2024. Clockwise, from top L, Washington, D.C., London, Mexico City and Cobleskill, NY.

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As the prison at Guantánamo Bay continues its miserable existence, now in its 23rd year of denying justice to the men held, and betraying every legal principle that is supposed to distinguish the US from dictatorships, I’m grateful to the campaigners across the US, and around the world, who, following the annual protests for Guantánamo’s closure on January 11, the 22nd anniversary of its opening, have resumed the monthly vigils that I initiated a year ago to try to keep a light shining on Guantánamo once a month rather than just once a year.

Via organizations including numerous Amnesty International groups, the UK Guantánamo Network, Witness Against Torture and The World Can’t Wait, vigils took place on Wednesday (February 7) in Washington, D.C., Cobleskill, NY, Detroit and San Francisco, as well as in Mexico City and London, where I joined fellow campaigners outside the Houses of Parliament, and in Brussels and Copenhagen, where campaigners held their vigils on the preceding days.

Campaigners outside the White House in Washington, D.C. on February 7, 2024.
Campaigners in Parliament Square in London on February 7, 2024 (Photo: Andy Worthington).
Campaigners at the Palacio de Bellas Artes in Mexico City on February 7, 2024.
Campaigners in San Francisco, at United Nations Plaza, San Francisco Civic Center, on February 7, 2024.
Campaigners in Veterans Park, in Cobleskill, NY, on February 7, 2024.
Campaigners with Detroit Amnesty outside the Federal Building on Michigan Avenue in Detroit on February 7, 2024.
Campaigners in Brussels with the Comité Free.Assange.Belgium.
Campaigners in Copenhagen, with Amnesty Events Copenhagen.

My friends in Mexico City, Natalia Rivera Scott and Alli McCracken, describe these monthly events as “Small vigils, big hearts,” and I’ve recently taken the liberty of paraphrasing that particular motto as “Our numbers may be small, but our hearts are big, and our message is still so very important.”

Yesterday, in London, for example, I spent some time talking with Mark, a campaigner who had traveled from Reading for the vigil, in which we spoke about the importance of coming together in person, and in public, to challenge injustice; in part as an antidote to the increasingly atomized world we live in, in which it has become all too easy to live a life online without actually meeting up with like-minded people.

This year, as last year, the most notable injustice at Guantánamo is the plight of the 16 men who have long been approved for release by high-level US government review processes, and yet who are still held because the decisions taken to recommend their release were administrative, and not, therefore, legally binding. With no one to force the Biden administration to free them, they have been languishing, as of Wednesday, for between 502 and 1,196 days since they were approved for release — and in three cases for a truly shocking 5,129 days.

Last year, I created a poster showing how long these men have been held since the decision to approved them for release were taken, which I’ve updated every month, and for this month’s vigils I was delighted to see the posters on display at a number of the vigils.

A less visible injustice — but one of huge significance — concerns the conditions at Guantánamo, powerfully exposed last June by Fionnuala Ní Aoláin, the Special Rapporteur on the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms while Countering Terrorism, who visited the prison a year ago, and who concluded that conditions at the prison, despite some improvements over the years, amount to “ongoing cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment,” and “may also meet the legal threshold for torture.” For the anniversary, Fionnuala wrote an article for Just Security in which she presented “a list of positive steps that would meet some of the immediate rights and needs of the men still detained,” which is well worth reading, and which I wrote about here.

As Fionnula has discussed, and as I’ve also repeatedly made clear, the 14 other men still held at Guantánamo are no less deprived of justice than the 16 men endlessly awaiting release. Three are “forever prisoners” — never charged but not approved for release either — while the eleven others, the only ones actually charged with crimes, are caught up in the military commission trial system, and are mostly in a seemingly unending legal limbo, because the torture to which they were subjected in CIA “black sites” is so fundamentally incompatible with justice.

As we continue to campaign for these men throughout 2024, I hope you’ll join our vigils, and if there isn’t one near you, feel free to start your own, but do let me know if you do so, and don’t forget to take photos!

Campaigners in Parliament Square in London on February 7, 2024.
Rosemary, in London, holds up a poster showing the 16 men approved for release but still held (Photo: Andy Worthington).
Mark, in London, holds up a poster showing how long the 16 men approved for release have been held since high-level US government review processes unanimously decided that they no longer wanted to hold them (Photo: Andy Worthington).
Campaigners at the Palacio de Bellas Artes in Mexico City on February 7, 2024.
Mary and Noemi in Mexico City on February 7, 2024.
Campaigners in United Nations Plaza in San Francisco on February 7, 2024.
Campaigners in San Francisco with the posters showing the 16 men approved for release but still held, and how long these men have been waiting to be freed since those decisions were taken.
Curt Wechsler of The World Can’t Wait in San Francisco with a banner decrying the US’s embrace of torture in the wake of the 9/11 attacks.
This photo, and the five below, are of campaigners in Brussels with the posters showing how long the 16 men approved for release have been held since high-level US government review processes unanimously decided that they no longer wanted to hold them. This first photo shows campaigner Luk Vervaet on the left.

* * * * *

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.

3 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 eight vigils for the closure of Guantanamo that took place across the US and around the world on February 7 – in Washington, D.C., San Francisco, Cobleskill, NY, Detroit, London, Mexico City, Brussels and Copenhagen.

    The vigils were the latest in an ongoing series of monthly coordinated global vigils that began a year ago. They take place on the first Wednesday of every month, and the next date is March 6.

    Thanks to everyone taking part, helping to send a message to President Biden that, with a Presidential Election approaching in November, he is running out of time to find new homes for the 16 men long approved for release, and to improve conditions at the prison for all of the 30 men still held, following recommendations made by Fionnuala Ní Aoláin, the UN Special Rapporteur on the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms while Countering Terrorism, who visited the prison a year ago, and who concluded that conditions there, despite some improvements over the years, amount to “ongoing cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment,” and “may also meet the legal threshold for torture.”

  2. Andy Worthington says...

    David Barrows wrote:

    So many human rights abuses continue sponsored by nations that claim to be modern and supportive of justice.

  3. Andy Worthington says...

    Absolutely, David. It’s been shameful, ever since the start of the “war on terror,” having to watch the State Department condemning other countries for their human rights abuses while persistently ignoring the US’s own crimes.

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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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