Photos and Report: The Close Guantánamo March and Rally in Central London, Jan. 20, 2024

Campaigners with the UK Guantánamo Network in Parliament Square during the march and rally for the closure of Guantánamo on January 20, 2024 (Photo: Sinai Noor).

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On Saturday (January 20), a colourful and inspiring march and rally for the closure of the prison at Guantánamo Bay took place in central London, organized by the UK Guantánamo Network, which consists of members of a number of local Amnesty International groups from across London and the south east, plus other campaigners, myself included.

The event was organized to mark the recent 22nd anniversary of the opening of Guantánamo, on January 11, when a handful of campaigners braved bitterly cold weather to stage a vigil outside the US Embassy in Nine Elms, as part of the monthly coordinated global vigils for Guantánamo’s closure that I initiated a year ago. See here for my report about, and photos from the 16 vigils that took place in the US and around the world to mark the anniversary.

Complementing that vigil, the march and rally took place on a Saturday for maximum visibility, and would have taken place on Saturday January 13 had it not been for the fact that a massive March for Palestine was scheduled for that particular date, which I posted photos of — and commentary about — here.

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A Glimpse of Light in the Darkness, As Former Guantánamo Prisoner Mansoor Adayfi is Welcomed to the UK Parliament

Mansoor Adayfi (R) and Yusuf Mingazov (L) in the Pugin Room in the Houses of Parliament on November 15, 2023 (Photo: Andy Worthington).

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Sometimes, when darkness is all around, just one small ray of light is sufficient to keep hope alive.

A week ago, on November 15, amidst the almost all-encompassing darkness of Israel’s genocide in Gaza, that small ray of light was provided when former Guantánamo prisoner Mansoor Adayfi was welcomed into the Palace of Westminster, the home of the British Parliament, by Chris Law, the SNP (Scottish National Party) MP for Dundee East, who is the co-chair of the recently established All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) for the Closure of the Guantánamo Detention Facility.

Mansoor — the very definition of human irrepressibility — was held for over 14 years at Guantánamo before being resettled in Serbia in July 2016, where his outspoken nature and complaints about his treatment (which included a ban on travelling outside Serbia) led, for many years, to harassment and intimidation from the Serbian authorities.

This is a situation that only slowly began to change when he started having articles published in the New York Times, related to his involvement in “Ode to the Sea: Art from Guantánamo Bay”, a significant exhibition of artwork by current and former prisoners at John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York, which ran from October 2017 to January 2018.

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Video and Report: The Incredibly Powerful “Close Guantánamo!” Event in the EU Parliament, September 28, 2023

A photo taken at the end of the “Close Guantánamo!” event in the EU Parliament on September 28, 2023. In the front row, from L to R, Alka Pradhan, Fionnuala Ní Aoláin, Lakhdar Boumediene, Belgian former Guantánamo prisoner Moussa Zemmouri, Moazzam Begg, Andy Worthington, Mansoor Adayfi, Clare Daly, James Yee, Valerie Lucznikowska, Mick Wallace and Beth Jacob.

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I’m just back from the most extraordinary three-day trip to Brussels, the centrepiece of which was “Close Guantánamo!,” an astonishing and deeply moving three-hour event in the EU Parliament featuring nine speakers.

Three of the speakers were former prisoners, including Mansoor Adayfi, held for over 14 years at Guantánamo and subsequently resettled in Serbia, where, after nearly seven years, he has only this year secured a passport and been able to travel outside the country. Also speaking were two lawyers, a UN Rapporteur and myself, as well as the former Muslim Chaplain at the prison, and the relative of a victim of the 9/11 attacks.

The full video is below, via YouTube, and I hope that you have time to watch it, and that you’ll share if if you find it as inspiring as those who attended it, and those who took part in it. An edited version will hopefully be available soon, including the contents of PowerPoint presentations that were made by some of the speakers, which are not visible in this recording of the event, and the removal of some of the dead time — for example, the general milling about between the first and second sessions.

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Radio: I Discuss Guantánamo’s Collapsing Trials and “Forever Prisoners” with Misty Winston on TNT Radio

A promotional image for my interview with Misty Winston on TNT Radio on September 17, 2023.

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On Monday, I was delighted to talk — for the first time in a while — with the US-based radio host Misty Winston, a fiercely independent thinker (and a massive supporter of Julian Assange) for her show on TNT Radio, an Australian-based online radio station that is more generally known for indulging conspiracy theorists. Misty is a great supporter of my work, and frequently amplifies my posts on Twitter — sorry, X — where she has over 70,000 followers, and I’m honoured that, on her Substack, she chose to describe me as a “legend”, a “fighter” and a “relentless champion.”

Our interview is available here, starting 19 minutes into the show, and I’ve also embedded it below (although in the embed you can’t fast forward as easily as in the link above).

We began by looking at the situation at Guantánamo right now, where 30 men are still held, 16 of whom have been unanimously approved for release by high-level government review processes, although, as I explained, despite being approved for release they continue to languish at Guantánamo with no sign of when, if ever, they will actually be freed. This is in spite of the fact that, as of September 6, they had been waiting to be freed for between 348 and 1,013 days, and, in three cases, 4,975 days.

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The Long Struggle To Save Former Prisoner Ravil Mingazov From A Fate Worse Than Guantánamo — Seven Years’ Arbitrary Imprisonment in the UAE

Yusuf Mingazov, the son of Ravil Mingazov, outside the Embassy of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) in London on September 16, 2023 (Photo: Andy Worthington).

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On Saturday, I was honoured to stand with the family of former Guantánamo prisoner Ravil Mingazov outside the Embassy of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) in London to call on the Emirati government to free him from the arbitrary detention to which he has been subjected for the last six years and eight months, following his transfer there, on the basis of grotesquely betrayed promises that he would be helped to rebuild his life and to be reunited with his family, after over 14 years’ imprisonment without charge or trial in Guantánamo.

Around 25 people gathered outside the publicly located but thoroughly inaccessible embassy in Belgravia, whose officials’ disdain for any complaints about the Emirati authorities is such that no one even deigned to answer the door when Ravil’s son Yusuf, his mother, his aunt and uncle and his cousin sought to hand in a letter urging his release. Nevertheless, we made our presence felt, and Yusuf and I both spoke (and you can see the video of my speech below), as did a representative of the UK Guantánamo Network (of which I’m also a member), which had organised the protest with the Muslim NGO CAGE.

It was an inspiring event — one of those where the solidarity of those present, and the charm and humanity of Ravil’s relatives came together to create exactly the kind of fortitude and determination that is required to prevail in circumstances of chronic injustice like that to which Ravil has been subjected for over 20 years, and I look forward to reconvening sometime soon outside the Home Office, where the home secretary Suella Braverman needs to be reminded of what mercy, kindness and generosity look like.

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Photos and Report: The Latest Parliamentary Meeting on Guantánamo and an Amnesty Event I Chaired with Mohamedou Ould Slahi and Mansoor Adayfi

Photos from the second meeting of the All-Party Parliamentary Group for the Closure of the Guantánamo Detention Facility, in the Houses of Parliament on June 26, 2023, and of ‘Life at Guantánamo: writing behind bars’, at Amnesty International’s London headquarters on June 28, 2023.

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Last week was another good week for Guantánamo activity in the UK — on the part of politicians, former prisoners, lawyers and activists — as the All-Party Parliamentary Group for the Closure of the Guantánamo Detention Facility held its second meeting, and Amnesty International hosted an event at its London HQ about former prisoners’ memoirs, and the power of writing.

On Monday June 26 — the 25th anniversary of the establishment of the UN International Day in Support of Victims of Torture — the second meeting of the APPG for Guantánamo’s closure took place in the Palace of Westminster (the Houses of Parliament), following the inaugural meeting in May, which I wrote about here.

That meeting featured former prisoners Mohamedou Ould Slahi, visiting from his home in the Netherlands, and his former guard Steve Wood, visiting from the US, and for this second meeting Mohamedou made a return visit, joined this time by another former prisoner, the British citizen Moazzam Begg, who introduced the members of the APPG to Yusuf Mingazov, the son of another former prisoner, Ravil Mingazov.

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URGENT ACTION REQUIRED for Six Former Guantánamo Prisoners Repatriated to Yemen from the UAE

The six men who have just been repatriated to Yemen, where their safety and liberty cannot be guaranteed, from the UAE, where they were imprisoned, rather than being integrated into Emirati society as promised, after their transfer from Guantánamo in November 2015 and August 2016. Top row, from L to R: Khalid al-Qadasi (ISN 163), Sulaiman al-Nahdi (ISN 511) and Saeed Jarabh (ISN 235). Bottom row, L to R: Jamil Nassir (ISN 728), Mohammed al-Adahi (ISN 033) and Mohammed Khusruf (ISN 509).

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In a shocking development, the government of the UAE (United Arab Emirates) has repatriated six former Guantánamo prisoners — out of 18 Yemenis in total who were sent to the UAE between November 2015 and January 2017 — even though the security situation in Yemen is horrendous, because of the ongoing civil war, and their safety cannot be guaranteed.

The six men, whose stories I reported here and here, when they were transferred in November 2015 and August 2016, are Khalid al-Qadasi (ISN 163), Sulaiman al-Nahdi (ISN 511), Saeed Jarabh (ISN 235), Jamil Nassir (ISN 728), Mohammed al-Adahi (ISN 033) and Mohammed Khusruf (ISN 509). Jarabh, the youngest, was born in 1976, and is now 44 or 45 years old, while the eldest are al-Adahi, born in 1962, who is 58 or 59 years old, and Khusruf, reportedly born in February 1950, which would make him 71.

When they were first sent to the UAE, the Yemenis — and four Afghans and a Russian who were also transferred with them — were told that they would be integrated into Emirati society after spending time in a rehabilitation center, but instead they found themselves indefinitely detained in abusive conditions in secret prisons, even though they had all been unanimously approved for release either by the Guantánamo Review Task Force, or by Periodic Review Boards, the two high-level US government review processes for the Guantánamo prisoners that were established under President Obama, which assessed that they did not pose a threat to the US.

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UN Experts Condemn UAE Plans to Forcibly Repatriate Former Guantánamo Prisoner Ravil Mingazov to Russia, Where He Faces “Substantial Risk of Torture”

Ravil Mingazov, photographed at Guantánamo before his transfer to the UAE in January 2017.

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Yesterday (July 2), UN human rights experts, including Nils Melzer, the Special Rapporteur on Torture, condemned the United Arab Emirates (UAE) for its proposals to repatriate Ravil Mingazov, a former Guantánamo prisoner who was sent to the UAE from Guantánamo in January 2017, just before President Obama left office.

Despite what the experts describe as “informal assurances guaranteeing his release into Emirati society after undergoing a short-term rehabilitation programme,” Mingazov — and 22 other former prisoners (18 Yemenis and four Afghans), who were sent to the UAE from Guantánamo between November 2015 and January 2017 — found that, on their arrival in the UAE, the assurances evaporated, and they have instead been “subjected to continuous arbitrary detention at an undisclosed location in the UAE, which amounts to enforced disappearance.”

The only exceptions to this continued pattern of “arbitrary detention” and “enforced disappearance” are three of the Afghans, who, after suffering the same disgraceful treatment, were repatriated as a result of peace negotiations in Afghanistan involving the Afghan government and Hezb-e Islami Gulbuddin (HIG), a militant group that had supported al-Qaeda at the time of the US-led invasion of 2001, but that reached a peace deal with the Afghan government in 2016.

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After Years in Secret Prisons, UAE Threatens Unsafe Repatriations to Yemen for Former Guantánamo Prisoners

Photos of 16 of the 18 Yemenis sent from Guantánamo to Yemen between 2015 and 2017, who were imprisoned instead of, as promised, being given new lives, and who are now being threatened with being sent back to Yemen, despite the dangers involved. The photos are taken from the classified military files from Guantánamo that were released by Wikileaks in 2011, and on which I worked as a media partner.

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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.

Depressing but important news about life after Guantánamo was published by the Associated Press on Wednesday, focusing on the appalling treatment that former Guantánamo prisoners have received since being resettled in the United Arab Emirates between November 2015 and January 2017, when President Obama left office; specifically, 18 Yemenis (out of 23 men in total sent to the UAE), who have now been told that the UAE is preparing to repatriate them, even though their lives may well be at risk in Yemen.

As reporter Maggie Michael described it, the prisoners “were promised they were being sent to a Muslim country for rehabilitation that would help integrate them into society, opening the way to jobs, money, and marriage, according to their lawyers and families. It was a lie.”

To anyone paying close attention, this wasn’t news. The Washington Post reported in May 2018 that former prisoners sent to the UAE after being unanimously approved for release by high-level US government review processes remain imprisoned, despite promises that their new host country would help them rebuild their lives. Missy Ryan’s story was entitled, “After over a decade at Guantanamo, these men were supposed to go free. Instead, they’re locked in a secretive center in the UAE.”

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Guantánamo’s Lost Diaspora: How Donald Trump’s Closure of the Office Monitoring Ex-Prisoners is Bad for Them – and US Security

Four prisoners released from Guantanamo who have ended up in very different circumstances following the closure by Donald Trump of the office of the Special Envoy for Guantanamo Closure. Clockwise from top left: Abu Wa'el Dhiab, Omar Mohammed Khalifh, Abd al-Malik al-Rahabi and Ravil Mingazov.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 “Guantánamo’s Lost Diaspora: How Donald Trump’s Closure of the Office Monitoring Ex-Prisoners Endangers U.S. National Security,” 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.

The presence of Donald Trump in the White House has been an unmitigated disaster for anyone concerned about the ongoing existence of the prison at Guantánamo Bay, and any notion of justice regarding those held there, or, indeed, those freed from the prison over the years.

For Trump, the notion that there might be anything wrong — or un-American — about imprisoning people forever without any meaningful form of due process clearly doesn’t exist. Since he took office nearly two years ago, only one prisoner has been released, out of the 41 men still held at the prison when Obama took office; and that man, Ahmed al-Darbi, a Saudi, was only released, and transferred to ongoing imprisonment in Saudi Arabia, because of a plea deal he agreed to in his military commission trial proceedings back in 2014.

Trump, clearly, has no desire to meaningfully continue the parole-type process — the Periodic Review Boards — that Barack Obama initiated to release lower-level prisoners who could demonstrate that they didn’t pose a threat to the U.S. Indeed, his contempt for the process is such that he has shut down any possibility of the two men whose release was approved by Obama’s PRBs, but who didn’t get released before Obama left office, being freed by shutting down the State Department office that dealt with resettlements — the office of the Special Envoy for Guantánamo Closure. 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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