Close Guantánamo: Our Achievements in 2023, Marking Guantánamo’s 22nd Anniversary on Jan. 11, and What We Can Do in 2024

Photos from the coordinated global vigils for the closure of Guantánamo on Wednesday June 7, 2023. Clockwise, from top L, London, Washington, D.C., Brussels and Detroit.

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I wrote the following article for the “Close Guantánamo” website, which I established in January 2012, on the 10th anniversary of the opening of Guantánamo, with the US attorney Tom Wilner. Please join us — just an email address is required to be counted amongst those opposed to the ongoing existence of Guantánamo, and to receive updates of our activities by email.

Thanks to everyone who took part in events marking the 22nd anniversary of the opening of the prison at Guantánamo Bay on January 11 — via the 20 vigils for the prison’s closure that took place across the US and around the world, via our ongoing photo campaign, for which over 120 people sent in photos of themselves with a poster marking 8,036 days of the prison’s existence on January 11, and calling for its closure, and via a number of online events.

One of these events was an online panel discussion, hosted by the New America think-tank in Washington, D.C., at which I was joined by the eloquent former prisoner Mohamedou Ould Slahi, and Fionnuala Ní Aoláin, who, until recently, was the UN Special Rapporteur on the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms while Countering Terrorism.

Last year, Fionnuala became the first UN Rapporteur to visit the prison, subsequently producing what I described at the time as “a devastatingly critical report about systemic, historic and ongoing human rights abuses at the prison,” in which she concluded that, despite some improvements to the regime under Presidents Obama and Biden, the totality of ongoing conditions at the prison amounts to “ongoing cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment,” which, in certain cases, “may also meet the legal threshold for torture.”

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Video: Guantánamo at 22 – Mohamedou Ould Slahi, Fionnuala Ní Aoláin and Andy Worthington at New America

A screenshot of “Guantánamo at Twenty-Two: What is the Future of the Prison Camp?”, hosted by New America on January 11, 2024.

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On January 11, the 22nd anniversary of the opening of the prison at Guantánamo Bay, I was delighted to take part in an online panel discussion, “Guantánamo at Twenty-Two: What is the Future of the Prison Camp?”, hosted by New America, the US think-tank located close to the White House in Washington, D.C.

I’ve been taking part in annual panel discussions about Guantánamo at New America since 2011, normally with Tom Wilner, the US attorney with whom I co-founded the Close Guantánamo campaign in 2012, but this year Tom wasn’t available, and I was pleased that my suggestions for two compelling replacements — former prisoner Mohamedou Ould Slahi, the author of the best-selling Guantánamo Diary, and Fionnuala Ní Aoláin, the UN Special Rapporteur on the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms while Countering Terrorism — were met with enthusiasm.

The moderator was Peter Bergen, New America’s Vice President, and the video, via YouTube, is posted below. It was a powerful event, and I hope that you have time to watch it, and that you’ll share it if you find it useful.

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Video: The Annual New America Panel Discussion About Guantánamo, Featuring Karen Greenberg, Tom Wilner and Myself

A screenshot of “Guantánamo at Twenty-One: What is the Future of the Prison Camp?”, an online panel discussion held by New America on Jan. 11, 2023, the 21st anniversary of the opening of the prison.

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Almost every year since 2011, the New America think-tank in Washington, D.C. has generously hosted panel discussions about Guantánamo with the attorney Tom Wilner and I, at which we have been joined by a number of other guests.

At the time of that first event, Barack Obama was the president, and 173 men were still held. In 2012 we marked the 10th anniversary of the prison’s opening, also launching the Close Guantánamo campaign, returning every year thereafter, except for 2014, when Tom and I were both too dispirited to summon up any enthusiasm. The 2016 event coincided with a “Countdown to Close Guantánamo” campaign, launched by Andy and Roger Waters on Democracy Now!, to put pressure on Obama to finally fulfill his promise to get the prison closed, but, when Obama left office, 41 men were still held, who then had endure four years of hostility from a president who had no interest in releasing any of them.

Having moved the events online in 2021, because of Covid, Tom and I and our by now regular companion, Karen Greenberg, the Director of the Center on National Security at Fordham Law School, met again online a year ago to discuss Guantánamo on its 20th anniversary, when we were, I think it’s fair to say, caught been hope and pessimism, but this year, sadly, hope is losing that battle.

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Free The Guantánamo 20: Events Marking the 21st Anniversary of the Opening of the Prison

The 20 men approved for release from Guantánamo but still held, an image put together by Andy Worthington for the Close Guantánamo campaign.

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I wrote the following article for the “Close Guantánamo” website, which I established in January 2012, on the 10th anniversary of the opening of Guantánamo, with the US attorney Tom Wilner. Please join us — just an email address is required to be counted amongst those opposed to the ongoing existence of Guantánamo, and to receive updates of our activities by email.

With a heavy heart, the small but dedicated group of human rights activists from across the United States and around the world who, on a daily basis, are appalled by the continued existence of the fundamentally lawless prison at Guantánamo Bay are preparing to mark the 21st anniversary of its opening this Wednesday, Jan. 11.

This anniversary I’ll be in London (not the US as I was every Jan. 11 from 2011 to 2020), but I’m hoping that I’ll still be able to make waves, along with my American friends and colleagues, and this year I’m particularly focusing on the 20 men, out of the 35 still held — who have been approved for release, but are still held.

Photos of these 20 men are in the composite image at the top of this article, which I made a few days ago, and when I posted it on Facebook, I explained, “16 of these men have been approved for release since President Biden took office, while three others were approved for release in 2010, but are still held, and one other man was approved for release in the dying days of the Trump presidency.”

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Video: I Discuss “Guantánamo at Twenty: What is the Future of the Prison Camp?” with Tom Wilner, Karen Greenberg and Peter Bergen at New America

A screenshot of Andy Worthington with Tom Wilner, Karen Greenberg and Peter Bergen at “Guantánamo at Twenty: What is the Future of the Prison Camp?”, an online discussion hosted by New America on Jan. 11, 2022, the 20th anniversary of the opening of the prison.

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.





 

The 20th anniversary of the opening of the prison at Guantánamo Bay was marked by a flurry of mainstream media activity, and, for those us who work on Guantánamo regularly (or even incessantly), it was extraordinarily busy.

I worked almost non-stop on Guantánamo from 8.30 in the morning until 3am the day after, in what was probably the busiest day of my life, starting with a brief but helpful interview with BBC Radio Scotland (about two hours and 45 minutes into the show), and proceeding with a half-hour Turkish TV show with other experts, an online panel discussion at New America in Washington, D.C., and a Virtual Vigil hosted by Amnesty International and other groups. In between these events, I wrote and published an article calling for action from President Biden, posted 50 photos of Close Guantánamo supporters holding up posters calling for its closure, and also uploaded and posted a video of my band The Four Fathers playing ‘Forever Prisoner’, a new song I wrote about Khaled Qassim, one of the men still held indefinitely at Guantánamo without charge or trial.

Over the next week or so, I’ll be posting articles linking to these events, doing what I’ve been doing for most of the last 16 years: trying to keep a focus on the injustices of Guantánamo, and the ever-urgent need for it to be closed, when the mainstream media moves on (as it has done already after briefly remembering the prison on Tuesday).

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Close Guantánamo Events to Mark the 20th Anniversary of the Opening of the Prison

Campaigners (and former prisoner Mansoor Adayfi) call for the closure of Guantánamo on Jan. 5, 2022, when it had been open for 7,300 days.

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I wrote the following article for the “Close Guantánamo” website, which I established in January 2012, on the 10th anniversary of the opening of Guantánamo, with the US attorney Tom Wilner. Please join us — just an email address is required to be counted amongst those opposed to the ongoing existence of Guantánamo, and to receive updates of our activities by email.

As we approach a grim anniversary that all decent people hoped would never arrive — the 20th anniversary of the opening of the prison at Guantánamo Bay — I’m taking part in a number of events to mark the anniversary — mostly online, although a few are carefully organized live events — along with Tom Wilner, with whom I co-founded the Close Guantánamo campaign ten years ago. We are also both available for interviews and media appearances.

Yesterday, the prison had been open for 7,300 days, and as I noted in a message to President Biden, to accompany his photo as part of our ongoing poster campaign, “How did this happen? It’s nearly a year since you took office, and yet you have only released one prisoner, even though 13 others — out of the 39 men still held — have been approved for release by high-level U.S. government review processes. Eight of these men have been approved for release since you took office, and yet none of them have been freed. Approving men for release means nothing unless they are actually freed.”

As I also explained, “In six days’ time, Guantánamo will have been open for 20 years. This is a truly shameful anniversary, and yet, despite making noises about wanting to close the prison, you and your administration have done nothing to demonstrate that you actually mean it. Please show some courage. Release the men approved for release, and announce how you intend to close the prison once and for all.”

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Video: “Guantánamo in 2020: What is the Future of the Prison Camp after Eighteen Years?” at New America, Jan. 13, 2020

A screenshot of New America’s page for the “Guantánamo in 2020” event that took place on January 13, 2020.

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





 

Today I’m delighted to be posting, via YouTube, the hour-long video of a panel discussion and Q&A session about the prison at Guantánamo Bay — and the need to close it — which I took part in at the New America think-tank in Washington, D.C. on January 13, two days after the 18th anniversary of the opening of the prison.

Also taking part was the attorney Tom Wilner, with whom I co-founded the Close Guantánamo campaign in 2012. Tom was Counsel of Record for the Guantánamo prisoners as they successfully sought habeas corpus rights before the Supreme Court in 2004 and 2008 — although those rights have since been gutted by ideologically malignant appeals court rulings — and we are grateful to New America for hosting a panel discussion about Guantánamo with us every year on or around the anniversary. The moderator for this year’s anniversary event was Melissa Salyk-Virk, Senior Policy Analyst in New America’s International Security Program.

As I hope readers have realized via my various articles about the anniversary, and my ten-day US visit to call for the prison’s closure — this year there was a real urgency, indignation and passion to the calls for the prison’s closure and of the need for urgent change in the political leadership in the US expressed by myself and other campaigners.

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My US Visit to Call for the Closure of Guantánamo on the 18th Anniversary of Its Opening, Jan. 10-20, 2020

The flier for the rally calling for the closure of the prison at Guantánamo Bay on the 18th anniversary of its opening, taking place outside the White House on January 11, 2020. The flier was designed for the campaigning group Witness Against Torture.

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 of the Trump administration, including my imminent visit to the US. If you can help, please click on the button below to donate via PayPal.





 

On Friday I fly into New York’s JFK Airport from London for what will be my tenth successive January visit to the US to call for the closure of the prison at Guantánamo Bay on the anniversary of its opening.

The main focus of my visits, from that first year onwards, has been a rally outside the White House of groups calling for the prison’s closure, including Amnesty International, the Center for Constitutional Rights, the National Religious Campaign Against Torture, Witness Against Torture, and the World Can’t Wait. and, most years, I have also taken part in a panel discussion about the future of Guantánamo at New America, a D.C.-based think-tank. For more, check out the archive for my visits in 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018 and 2019.

Even that first year (2011), the rally was an example of tenacity over hope, and it remains so today, something that has to be done, because the existence of Guantánamo is an abomination, but, sadly, with no expectation that it will fundamentally change anything.

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On My Annual US Visit to Call for the Closure of Guantánamo, Reporting Resistance in Trump’s Shutdown America

Andy Worthington with a Close Guantanamo poster marking 6,210 days of the prison's existence at New America in Washington, D.C. on January 11, 2019, the 17th anniversary of the prison's opening.

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




 

I’m six days into my annual trip to the US to call for the closure of the prison at Guantánamo Bay, on and around the 17th anniversary of its opening (on January 11), and while it would be foolish to suggest, in any sense, that there is going to be any sort of movement on Guantánamo from the execrable Donald Trump, it’s certainly noticeable that, for the first time for three years, there is a real energy in the movement to finally get Guantánamo closed.

Three years ago, there was an energy to the efforts to get Barack Obama to close Guantánamo before he left office (which didn’t work, but did lead to him reducing the prison’s population to just 41 men), but two years ago we were caught in a dreadful limbo between the end of Obama and the start of Trump, and last year everyone seemed pretty crushed by the grim realities of Trump’s first year in office.

In part, this is just one aspect of what looks to be a growing resistance to Donald Trump on numerous fronts, and of course it’s not insignificant that I arrived. on Monday evening, during Trump’s petulant government shutdown, in which, to pursue his vile racist obsession with a wildly expensive expansion of the wall between the US and Mexico, he has shut down the salaries of millions of Americans who work for the government. At the time of writing, I’m glad to note, the effects of the shutdown seem to be damaging him in terms of his popularity. Read the rest of this entry »

My Ninth Successive US Visit – for Events Marking the 17th Anniversary of the Opening of Guantánamo

Close Guantanamo co-founder Andy Worthington marks 6,200 days of Guantanamo's existence on January 1, 2019.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 of the Trump administration. If you can help, please click on the button below to donate via PayPal.




 

I wrote the following article (as “Close Guantánamo Events Marking the 17th Anniversary of the Opening of Guantánamo”) for the “Close Guantánamo” website, which I established in January 2012, on the 10th anniversary of the opening of Guantánamo, with the US attorney Tom Wilner. Please join us — just an email address is required to be counted amongst those opposed to the ongoing existence of Guantánamo, and to receive updates of our activities by email.

As 2019 began, the “war on terror” prison at Guantánamo Bay marked a shameful milestone. January 1 was the 6,200th day of operations at the prison, and we marked the occasion with the latest stage of our ongoing photo campaign, in which supporters take photos with posters showing how long Guantánamo has been open and urging Donald Trump to close it, based on our Gitmo Clock project, which counts in real time how long the prison has been open.

In seven days’ time, the prison will reach another appalling milestone: the 17th anniversary of its opening. This is on January 11, and to mark the occasion Close Guantánamo’s co-founders, the Washington, D.C.-based attorney Tom Wilner and the London-based journalist Andy Worthington (making his 9th annual visit for protest and events on and around the anniversary) will be taking part in a panel discussion at the New America think-tank, and will also be part of an annual vigil outside the White House organized by and attended by representatives of a dozen rights groups. Andy is also discussing Guantánamo in New York, two days after the anniversary, and both Andy and Tom are available for media interviews, and for further events, throughout the duration of Andy’s visit, from January 7-17.

Details of the events are below: Read the rest of this entry »

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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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