Held for 1,000 Days Since Being Approved for Release from Guantánamo: Uthman Abd Al-Rahim Muhammad Uthman

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In the first of a new series of profiles of men held at Guantánamo — specifically, the 16 men (out of the 30 still held) who have long been approved for release by high-level US government review processes — I’m focusing on Uthman Abd Al-Rahim Muhammad Uthman, a 43-year old Yemeni citizen, who, today, has been held for 1,000 days since the US authorities first decided that they no longer wanted to hold him.

Uthman arrived at Guantánamo on January 16, 2002, five days after the prison opened, when he was just 21 years old, and, as a result, he has been held for over half his life at Guantánamo. The photo is from his classified military file, released by WikiLeaks in April 2011, and dating from April 2008, meaning that he would have been 27 years old, or younger, when it was taken.

Since his arrival at Guantánamo — 8,058 days ago (that’s 22 years and 22 days) — Uthman has been held without charge or trial, and with no sign of when, if ever, he will eventually be freed, even though the high-level government review process that approved him for release concluded unanimously, on May 13, 2021, that “continued law of war detention is no longer necessary to protect against a continuing significant threat to the security of the United States.”

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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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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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Radio: I Discuss Guantánamo, Saifullah Paracha and the Plight of the Men Approved for Release on WSLR 96.5 in Florida

Andy Worthington, calling for the closure of Guantánamo outside the White House on January 11, 2020, and Saifullah Paracha, photographed after his release from the prison in November 2022.

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Many thanks to Bob Connors and Tom Walker of WSLR 96.5, a progressive community radio station in Sarasota, Florida, for having me on their show, “The Peace & Justice Report,” on Wednesday. As the hosts explain, the show “covers local, state, national and international social justice issues,” featuring “a wide variety of guests whose views are underrepresented in the mainstream media,” including “peace activists who are devoting their lives to creating a world free from war, violence and environmental destruction.”

I’ve spoken to Bob and Tom before — in 2018, 2019 and last year —and it was great to talk to them again, not only because they are such welcoming hosts, but also because far too few radio shows in the US — or around the world — devote any time at all to the ongoing injustice of Guantánamo.

Our 22-minute interview is embedded below, and I hope you have time to listen to it, and that you’ll share it if you find it useful.

Andy Worthington on the Peace & Justice Report with Bob Connors and Tom Walker on WSLR 96.5 in Sarasota, Florida, November 9, 2022.

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President Biden’s Decisive Moves Towards the Closure of the Prison at Guantánamo Bay

A collage of Joe Biden and the prison at Guantánamo Bay.

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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.

When President Biden was elected in November 2020, opponents of the continued existence of the prison at Guantánamo Bay were cautiously optimistic that there would be renewed movement towards the closure of the prison.

After four years of Donald Trump, it was hard not to have some semblance of hope that there would be progress towards finally ridding the US — and the world — of this lingering symbol of the brutal and lawless excesses of George W. Bush’s “war on terror,” where men have been subjected to torture and other forms of abuse, and where the majority of the 779 men held by the military since the prison opened on January 11, 2002 have been imprisoned without charge or trial, and with little effort made to ensure that the law extended to them in any meaningful sense.

Nearly two years into Biden’s presidency, our cautious optimism has been both rewarded and thwarted.

No doubt chastened by the Republican backlash that greeted President Obama’s stated intention, as soon as he took office, of closing Guantánamo within a year, Biden took a low-key approach instead — not speaking openly about Guantánamo at all, and only indicating, via his press secretary, that there would be a review of the prison’s operations, and that the administration hoped to close it by the end of his presidency.

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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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