Guantánamo In Its 22nd Year: “The US Created a Category of Prisoners With No Rights Whatsoever”

Witness Against Torture campaigners outside the US Congress in Washington, D.C. on January 11, 2023, the 21st anniversary of the opening of the prison.

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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.

For more years than we care to remember, campaigners for the closure of the prison at Guantánamo Bay have met in Washington, D.C., on and around January 11, the anniversary of its opening (in 2002), to call for its closure.

Although a coalition of groups have been involved in these annual protests — including Amnesty International USA, the Center for Constitutional Rights and the National Religious Campaign Against Torture — the protests’ beating heart has always been Witness Against Torture, founded in 2005 by 25 Catholic Workers. The Catholic Worker Movement was founded in 1933 by Dorothy Day and Peter Maurin, whose Christian anarchism, as it has been described, is focused on “liv[ing] in accordance with the justice and charity of Jesus Christ,” with “no place for economic exploitation or war,” and no “racial, gender or religious discrimination.”

The 25 founding members of Witness Against Torture, including Frida Berrigan, Matt Daloisio and Art Laffin, who are still involved today, visited Cuba in December 2005, raising publicity as they bravely attempted to visit Guantánamo, and on their return they began organizing with other groups, including CCR, protesting at the White House, and other key locations — the Capitol, the Supreme Court, the Justice Department — and sometimes getting arrested.

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Radio: I Discuss Guantánamo’s Shameful 21st Anniversary on the Scott Horton Show

Andy Worthington with the Close Guantánamo campaign’s poster marking 7,671 days of Guantánamo’s existence on Jan. 11, 2023, the 21st anniversary of its opening, and the logo of the Scott Horton Show.

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.


Last week, as part of my concerted efforts to publicize the ongoing and unjustifiable existence of the prison at Guantánamo Bay on the 21st anniversary of its opening, I was delighted to be asked by the indefatigable radio host Scott Horton to appear on his show, in an episode that he gave the appropriate heading, “The US is Still Running an Illegal Prison at Guantánamo Bay.”

Scott and I have been dissecting the iniquities of Guantánamo and the “war on terror” on a regular basis for over 15 years, and I’m impressed by his astonishing dedication to amplifying critical voices that are generally ignored by the mainstream media. This was his 5,831st interview, in a career as a radio host spanning 20 years, and he has somehow also found the time to write and publish two books about US militarism and the “war on terror” — “Fool’s Errand: Time to End the War in Afghanistan,” and “Enough Already: Time to End the War on Terrorism.”

As Scott explained in his introduction to the show on his website, where you can listen to our half-hour interview, and also download it as an MP3, “Andy Worthington returns to talk about the 35 men who remain imprisoned at Guantánamo Bay as we pass the 21st anniversary of the prison. Of those 35 men, 20 have already been cleared for release, yet they remain in custody with no release date. Scott and Worthington talk about the shameful history of the prison, consider all the reasons it’s stayed open so long and discuss what must happen for this disgraceful chapter of America’s history to finally be brought to an end.”

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Guantánamo’s Difficult Diaspora: Former Prisoner Hussein Al-Merfedy, in Slovakia, Still Feels in a Cage

Hussein al-Merfedy, a Yemeni and a former Guantanamo prisoner, photographed in Zvolen, Slovakia, where he was released in November 2014 (Photo: Alex Potter for Newsweek).Please support my work! 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.


Over the last few months, I’ve been catching up on some stories I missed, about former Guantánamo prisoners seeking — and often struggling — to adjust to life in third countries, which took them in when the US government refused or was unable to repatriate them after they had been approved for release by high-level US government review processes.

Since 2006, dozens of countries have offered new homes to Guantánamo prisoners, and the examples I have looked at have mostly focused on men resettled in various European countries — see Life After Guantánamo: Yemeni Released in Serbia Struggles to Cope with Loneliness and Harassment (about Mansoor al-Dayfi, released in July 2016), Life After Guantánamo: Egyptian in Bosnia, Stranded in Legal Limbo, Seeks Clarification of His Rights (about Tariq al-Sawah, released in January 2016), and Life After Guantánamo: Yemeni Freed in Estonia Says, “Part of Me is Still at Guantánamo” (about Ahmed Abdul Qader, released in January 2015). In The Anguish of Hedi Hammami, A Tunisian Released from Guantánamo in 2010, But Persecuted in His Homeland, I also wrote about the difficulties faced by Hammami, a Tunisian first released in Georgia, who returned to his home country after the Arab Spring, only to find that he faces “a constant regimen of police surveillance.”

One day, I hope, all the men released from Guantánamo will have lawyers successfully negotiate an acceptable basis for their existence with the US government. As it currently stands, they are regarded as “illegal enemy combatants” or “unprivileged enemy belligerents,” even though almost all were never charged with any sort of crime, and their status, compared to every other human being on earth, remains frustratingly and unacceptably unclear. This is especially true, I believe, for those settled in third countries, as no internationally accepted rulebook exists to codify their rights, and the obligations of those taking them in. Read the rest of this entry »

Who Are the Five Guantánamo Prisoners Given New Homes in Kazakhstan?

Three of the five prisoners released from Guantanamo and given new homes in Kazakhstan in December 2014. From L to R: Adel al-Hakeemy, a Tunisian, and two Yemenis, Mohammed Ali Hussain Khenaina and Sabri Mohammad Ibrahim al-Qurashi, in photos included in the classified US military files released by WikILeaks in 2011. No public photos exist of the other two men freed.On December 30, five men were released from Guantánamo, bringing to 28 the number of men released from the prison in 2014, and reducing the prison’s population to 127. The five men were approved for release in 2009 by the high-level, inter-agency Guantánamo Review Task Force that President Obama appointed shortly after taking office in January 2009, and three of them had previously been approved for release under President Bush.

The released prisoners — two Tunisians and three Yemenis — were not returned to their home countries, but were given new homes in Kazakhstan. As the New York Times described it, “Officials declined to disclose the security assurances reached between the United States and Kazakhstan,” but a senior Obama administration official stated that the five “are ‘free men’ for all intents and purposes after the transfer.”

The Obama administration is to be commended for its efforts, although, of the 127 men still held, 59 were also approved for release in 2009 by President Obama’s Guantánamo Review Task Force, and there can be no rest for campaigners until these men are also freed. 52 of them are Yemenis, whose release was prohibited by President Obama and by Congress in 2010 after it was revealed that a failed airline bomb plot in December 2009 had been hatched in Yemen. 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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