Saudi Engineer Ghassan Al-Sharbi Sent Home From Guantánamo; 31 Men Remain, 17 Approved For Release

Barbed wire at Guantánamo. No known photo exists of Ghassan Al-Sharbi.

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I’m pleased to report more good news from Guantánamo as Ghassan Al-Sharbi, a Saudi prisoner held for nearly 21 years, has been repatriated. 48 years old, he was just 28 when he arrived at the prison on June 19, 2002.

Al-Sharbi was seized on March 28, 2002, during a number of house raids in Faisalabad, Pakistan, which also led to the capture of Abu Zubaydah, for whom the CIA’s post-9/11 torture program was first developed, in the mistaken — one might even, more appropriately, say deluded — belief that he was a high-ranking member of Al-Qaeda.

Al-Sharbi’s classified military file, released by WikiLeaks in 2011, suggests that he was seized in a guesthouse known as the Aldafa guesthouse, which analysts alleged to be “one of two guesthouses that was ran [sic] by Abu Zubaydah in Faisalabad,” although Al-Sharbi stated that a man named Ahmed “was in charge of the day-to-day operations of the house, not Abu Zubaydah as is sometimes reported.”

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Sufyian Barhoumi Sent Home From Guantánamo to Algeria Nearly Five and a Half Years After Being Approved for Release; 19 Other Cleared Prisoners Remain

Sufyian Barhoumi, in a photo taken at Guantánamo in recent years by representatives of the International Committee of the Red Cross.

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Great news from Guantánamo, as Sufyian Barhoumi, an Algerian who was approved for release in August 2016 by a Periodic Review Board, a parole-type process established under President Obama, has finally been freed, sent back home to be reunited with his family

Barhoumi narrowly missed being released under Obama, was then stuck at Guantánamo for four years under Donald Trump — whose enthusiasm for Guantánamo was such that he released only one man during his four depressing years in office — and then had to wait another 14 months for President Biden to finally bring to an end his outrageous predicament — being approved for release but not actually being freed.

His release leaves just 37 men still held at Guantánamo, although it must be noted that over half of these men —19 in total — have also been approved for release: 14 since President Biden took office, one approved for release in October 2020, and three others who have been waiting for over 12 years, having been told that the US had no interest in continuing to hold them endlessly without charge or trial back in January 2010, when President Obama’s first review process, the Guantánamo Review Task Force, approved them for release. The other man awaiting release, as I wrote about two days ago, is Majid Khan, sentenced after a plea deal in the military commissions, whose sentence ended on March 1, but who is still held, despite the authorities having had ten years to arrange his release.

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Video: The “Disrupt, Confront, and Close Guantánamo” 20th Anniversary Virtual Rally on Jan. 11, 2022

A screenshot of participants in “Disrupt, Confront, and Close Guantánamo,” a “Virtual Rally” for the closure of the prison at Guantánamo Bay on January 11, 2022.

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In the second of a series of articles linking to and promoting the videos of events held to mark the 20th anniversary of the opening of the prison at Guantánamo Bay on January 11, 2022, I’m posting below the video of “Disrupt, Confront, and Close Guantánamo,” a powerful “Virtual Rally” organized by a number of groups, including Amnesty International USA, the Center for Constitutional Rights and Witness Against Torture, which, for the second year running, because of Covid concerns, formally replaced the live rally outside the White House that has been taking place for many years, and which I took part in every year from 2011 to 2020 — although I do want to point out that, this year, local activists from the Washington, D.C. area held an actual physical vigil outside the White House, which you can watch here.

Here’s the video of the “Virtual Rally”:

The “Virtual Rally” was compered by Lu Aya of the Peace Poets, and the speakers began with Aliya Hussain, Advocacy Program Manager at the Center for Constitutional Rights, followed by Erika Guevara Rosas, the Americas Director at Amnesty International, and two remarkably eloquent young women, Jessica Murphy and Leila Murphy of September 11th Families for Peaceful Tomorrows, whose father, Brian Joseph Murphy, was killed on 9/11.

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On the 20th Anniversary of the 9/11 Attacks, the US Needs to Close Guantánamo and Bring to an End the Broken Military Commission Trials

The 9/11 attacks and Camp 6 at Guantánamo, photographed in 2016.

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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.

On the 20th anniversary of the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, the United States’ response to those attacks, both militarily and in terms of the law, couldn’t, in all honesty, have ended up more broken, unjust and embarrassing.

Having invaded Afghanistan a month after the attacks, the last US troops withdrew last month, effectively conceding defeat to the Taliban, whose overthrow had been one of the two justifications for the invasion, the other being the destruction of Al-Qaeda, the organization allegedly responsible for the attacks.

In fact, the Taliban were quite swiftly defeated after the US-led invasion, but, instead of withdrawing, US forces stayed on, blundering around the country, largely unable to identify allies from enemies, and definitively losing “heart and minds” through repeated bombing raids, often based on poor intelligence, that killed an enormous number of Afghan civilians, and through imprisoning many thousands of Afghans in lawless and often brutal conditions at Bagram and Guantánamo.

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The Shameful Human Cost of Inertia at Joe Biden’s Guantánamo

Lutfi bin Ali, a Tunisian held at Guantánamo, who recently died in Mauritania, having been unable to secure the medical treatment he needed, which he had also been unable to secure in Kazakhstan, the country to which he was first released in 2014.

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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.

Today, the prison at Guantánamo Bay has been open for 7,033 days — that’s 19 years and three months — and Joe Biden has been president for 84 days, and yet, apart from some hopeful murmurings from a handful of administration officials regarding a “robust” inter-agency review of the prison, and aspirations for its closure, no concrete proposals have been issued to indicate that any movement is imminent that will break the inertia of Donald Trump’s four lamentable years as commander in chief, when just one prisoner was released, leaving 40 men still held when Biden took office, mostly held indefinitely without charge or trial.

It may be that President Biden is unwilling to discuss Guantánamo in any detail until he has firm plans for dealing with all of the men still held, and if this is the case, then it is, sadly, understandable, because the merest mention of Guantánamo tends to provoke cynical and unbridled opposition from Republicans in Congress — although if this is the case then it only shows the extent to which, as under Barack Obama, political pragmatism — and fear of unprincipled opposition from those who cynically use Guantánamo for cheap political advantage — are considered much more important than telling Americans the truth about the prison:, that every day it remains open, holding men indefinitely without charge or trial, ought to be a source of profound national shame.

Beyond political maneuvering, however, Biden’s inertia also prolongs the grinding injustice experienced on a daily basis by the men still held at Guantánamo — as well as having dangerous, and sometimes life-threatening repercussions for some of the men already released.

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President Elect Biden, It’s Time to Close Guantánamo

Eight of the 40 remaining Guantánamo prisoners, who, along with other men still held, should be released by Joe Biden as soon as possible after he becomes president in January 2021. Top row, from L to R: Abdul Latif Nasser, Sufyian Barhoumi and Tawfiq al-Bihani, all approved for release by high-level government review processes under President Obama, and Saifullah Paracha, Guantánamo’s oldest prisoner. Bottom row, from L to R: Khaled Qassim, Asadullah Haroon Gul, Ahmed Rabbani and Omar al-Rammah. Paracha and the four others in the bottom row haven’t been approved for release, but they should be, as none of them pose a threat to the US.

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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.

Congratulations to President Elect Joe Biden and Vice President Elect Kamala Harris for persuading enough people to vote Democrat to end the dangerous presidency of Donald Trump.

Trump was a nightmare on so many fronts, and had been particularly dangerous on race, with his vile Muslim travel ban at the start of his presidency, nearly four long years ago, his prisons for children on the Mexican border, and, this last year, in his efforts to inflame a race war, after the murder of George Floyd by a policeman sparked huge protests across the country.

At Guantánamo, Trump’s racism manifested itself via indifference to the fate of the 40 Muslim men, mostly imprisoned without charge or trial and held for up to 15 years when he took office. To him they were terrorists, and he had no interest in knowing that very few of the men held at Guantánamo have ever been accused of involvement with terrorism, and that, of the 40 men still held, only nine of them have been charged with crimes, and five of them were unanimously approved for release by high-level government review processes under President Obama.

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Inter-American Commission on Human Rights’ Ground-Breaking Decision in the Case of Former Guantánamo Prisoner Djamel Ameziane

Former Guantánamo Prisoner Djamel Ameziane and his response to a a recent and important decision taken by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR), criticizing the US for his treatment during 12 years in US custody (Image by the Center for Justice and International Law).

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I’ve had a busy few weeks, and haven’t been able, until now, to address a recent and important decision taken by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) in the case of Djamel Ameziane, an ethnic Berber from Algeria who was imprisoned at Guantánamo for nearly 12 years, from February 2002 to December 2013, after an initial two month’s imprisonment at Kandahar air base in Afghanistan. The IACHR is a key part of the Organization of American States (OAS), whose mission is “to promote and protect human rights in the American hemisphere,” and whose resolutions are supposed to be binding on the US, which is a member state.

As his lawyers at the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) explained in a press release on May 28, the IACHR’s decision (available here) determined that the United States was “responsible for Mr. Ameziane’s torture, abuse, and decade-long confinement without charge,” and issued a series of recommendations — namely, that “the United States should provide ‘adequate material and moral reparations’ for the human rights violations suffered by Mr. Ameziane for his 12 years of confinement.”

As CCR added, “Some of these measures include the continuance of criminal investigations for the torture of Mr. Ameziane at Kandahar Airbase and Guantánamo Bay detention center; compensation for his years spent in arbitrary detention to address any lasting physical and psychological effects; medical and psychological care for his rehabilitation; and the issuance of a public apology by the United States president or any other high-ranking official to establish Mr. Ameziane’s innocence.”

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Trump’s Personal Prisoners at Guantánamo: The Five Men Cleared for Release But Still Held

Guantánamo prisoners Abdul Latif Nasir, Sufyian Barhoumi and Tawfiq al-Bihani, three of the five men still held under Donald Trump who were approved for release by high-level government review processes under President Obama.

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 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 nearly three-year long presidency of Donald Trump is so strewn with scandals and cruel policies that some lingering injustices are being forgotten. A case in point is the prison at Guantánamo Bay, which is rarely reported in the mainstream media, with the valiant exception of Carol Rosenberg at the New York Times, who continues to visit the prison regularly, often being the only reporter in the whole of the US to subject the working of the facility to outside scrutiny.

And yet the longer Guantánamo remains open, the more cruel and unacceptable is its fundamentally unjust premise: that men seized nearly two decades ago can be held indefinitely without charge or trial. This was grotesque under George W. Bush, who responded by releasing nearly two-thirds of the 779 men held since the prison opened on January 11, 2002, and it remained so under Barack Obama, who, shamefully, promised to close it but never did, although he did release nearly 200 more men, via two review processes that he established.

However, a new low point has been reached under Donald Trump, who has no interest in releasing any prisoners under any circumstances, and, with one exception, has been true to his word. For the 40 men still held, the prison has become a tomb.

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Abdul Latif Nasser’s Story: Imagine Being Told You Were Leaving Guantánamo, But Then Donald Trump Became President

A recent photo of Guantanamo prisoner Abdul Latif Nasser, as taken by representatives of the International Committee of the Red Cross, and made available to his family.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.




 

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.

“Close Guantánamo” has recently been on vacation, a short break punctured only by the latest episode in our ongoing photo campaign — 6,050 days of the prison’s existence, on August 4, and photos marking this latest bleak anniversary, featuring opponents of the prison’s continued existence.

Donald Trump doesn’t care, of course. While the president who set up Guantánamo (George W. Bush) eventually conceded it had been a mistake, and while his successor (Barack Obama) said he would close it but didn’t, Trump is an enthusiast for keeping it open, seems to care nothing about the law, would reintroduce torture and send new prisoners to Guantánamo if he could, and clearly has no intention of releasing anyone from the prison at all, even though five of the 40 men still held were approved for release by high-level government review processes under President Obama.

Three of the five had their release approved by the Guantánamo Review Task Force that Obama set up shortly after first taking office in 2009 to advise him on what to do with the 240 men he had inherited from George W. Bush (he was recommended to release 156 men, to try 36 and to continue to hold 48 without charge or trial), and two had their release approved by the Periodic Review Boards that subsequently reviewed the cases of 64 prisoners from the latter two categories from 2013 to 2016 on a parole-type basis. Read the rest of this entry »

Guantánamo Lawyer: It is “Entirely Unprecedented” for Trump to “Take the Position That There Will Be No Transfers out of Guantánamo Without Regard to the Facts”

Abdul Latif Nasser and Sufyian Barhoumi, two of the five prisoners still held at Guantanamo who were approved for release by high-level government review processes under President Obama.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.





 

Just before Christmas, in an article entitled, “Men due to leave Gitmo under Obama seem stuck under Trump,” the Associated Press shone a light on the plight of five men approved for release from Guantánamo by high-level US government review processes under President Obama, but who were not released before Donald Trump took office. I wrote about these men for Al-Jazeera in June, in an article entitled, “Abdul Latif Nasser: Facing life in Guantánamo,” but it was excellent to see an update from the AP, because there has been no progress from Trump, who, while not following up on his ill-considered urges to expand the use of the prison, has effectively sealed it shut, showing no sign that he has any desire to follow up on the decisions to release these five men by freeing them.

In my article in June, I focused in particular on the case of Abdul Latif Nasser, a Moroccan prisoner who was approved for release in July 2016 by a Periodic Review Board, a parole-type process set up in 2013 by President Obama to assess the cases of men previously regarded as legitimate candidates for indefinite detention without charge or trial. They had been regarded as “too dangerous to release” by a previous review process, the Guantánamo Review Task Force, which met once a week throughout 2009, although the officials responsible for the PRBs also conceded that insufficient evidence existed to put them on trial, a tacit admission that the evidence itself was profoundly untrustworthy. This was definitively established by the PRB process between 2013 and 2016, when 64 men had their cases reviewed, 38 were approved for release, and all but Nasser, and an Algerian, Sufyian Barhoumi, were freed.

As I explained in my article in June, Nasser missed being released by just eight days, because the Moroccan government only notified the US that it would accept his repatriation on December 28, 2006, 22 days before Obama left office, but 30 days’ notification is required by Congress before any prisoner can be freed. 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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