Guantánamo: 20 Years After

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Online Conference
12th to 13th November 2021

11th January 2022 will mark the 20th anniversary of the opening of the prison at Guantánamo Bay.

779 men (and boys) have been held at the prison by the U.S. military since it opened, and 39 are still held, mostly without charge or trial. Those who have been charged face trials in the much-criticized military commission trial system.

The conference asks: How did the prison at Guantánamo Bay come to exist, and why is it still open? Why aren't those responsible for violating prisoners' fundamental human rights being held accountable for their actions? What part did the UK government play in enabling US rendition programmes to the CIA's notorious "black sites", where prisoners were tortured?

The conference brings together academics, researchers, activists, practitioners and students. By scheduling the conference to take place over two days the organisers aim to create an international forum for all those active in discussing Guantánamo's origins and its history over the last 20 years, demanding accountability for the human rights abuses inflicted there, and proposing legal and political paths towards its final closure.

From Guantanamo:

Two extraordinary developments happened days ago inside the US torture camp at Guantanamo.

One: For the first time ever, a prisoner testified in military court, with reporters present, on his torture at the hands of the C.I.A. in "black sites." Carol Rosenberg of The New York Times reported that, at his sentencing hearing October 28, Majid Khan spoke of the violence that C.I.A. agents and operatives inflicted on him in dungeonlike conditions in prisons in Pakistan, Afghanistan and a third country, including sexual abuse and mind-numbing isolation, often in the dark while he was nude and shackled. He read his statement aloud for two hours.

The U.S. has never acknowledged its cooperation with third countries in "black sites," and for two decades has refused prisoners to be tried, or even charged, lest they reveal details of torture by the U.S. or military. No prisoners have been allowed to get their stories heard from inside the prison. The military prosecutors declined to comment specifically other than conceding that Khan suffered "extremely rough treatment."

Two: After hearing Khan's testimony, including his admission of joining AlQaeda as a teenager, the military jury sentenced him to 26 years, the least he could have received. Then "In a stark rebuke of the torture carried out by the C.I.A. after the Sept. 11 attacks, seven senior military officers who heard graphic descriptions last week of the brutal treatment of a terrorist while in the agency's custody wrote a letter calling it 'a stain on the moral fiber of America.'"The military jurors' public opposition to actions by the C.I.A. and military is notable because it stands out from the actions of millions -- yes millions -- of those activated during the so-called "war on terror." It's good they wrote their letter; and more should follow their example. But this stain on the "moral fiber" of the empire is never going to be washed out.

Khan is represented by the Center for Constitutional Rights; under a previously secret agreement, he could be released in 2025.  More on his case.

The US supreme court is set to hear arguments about the government's ability to keep what it says are "state secrets" from a Palestinian man who endured brutal torture at Guantánamo Bay...  

Dean Chemerinsky flaked out on firing The Torture Professor,, but here is another chance to hold his feet to the fire; it's time for our student mentors to walk the talk:
Comment to: New York Times GUEST ESSAY
"There Is a Problem With California's Recall. It's Unconstitutional."
Aug. 12, 2021
By: Curt Wechsler

Is anyone challenging the legitimacy of the recall provision itself? Because I think this is what we should be campaigning against. NOW, before the election. The Berkeley Law school dean's voice carries a lot of weight, and would be a good source to solicit for inspiration and approach. He's probably around for the start of fall classes. Better yet, make this a school project, for credit.

Transfer of Abdullatif Nasser suggests Biden is making efforts to reduce population, which now stands at 39

The Camp VI detention facility in Guantánamo Bay Naval Base, Cuba.
The Camp VI detention facility in Guantánamo Bay Naval Base, Cuba. Photograph: Alex Brandon/AP
Associated Press in Washington
Mon 19 Jul 2021 08.07 EDT

The Biden administration has transferred a detainee out of the Guantánamo Bay detention facility for the first time, sending a Moroccan man home years after he was recommended for discharge.  

Former US defense secretary Donald Rumsfeld, who has died at the age of 88, and a grimly iconic photo of prisoner abuse in Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq.

If there was any justice in this world, Donald Rumsfeld, the former US defense secretary from 2001 to 2006 under George W. Bush, who has died at the age of 88, would have been held accountable for his crimes against humanity at Guantánamo, in Afghanistan and in Iraq; instead, he apparently passed away peacefully surrounded by his family in Taos, New Mexico.

In response to the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, Rumsfeld directed the US-led invasion of Afghanistan in October 2001, when the Geneva Conventions regarding the treatment of prisoners in wartime were shamefully jettisoned, and he was also responsible for the establishment of the prison at Guantánamo Bay, which opened on January 11, 2002.

At Kandahar and Bagram -- and at numerous other prisons across Afghanistan -- all those who came into US custody were regarded as "enemy combatants," who could be held without any rights whatsoever. The torture and abuse of prisoners was widespread, and numerous prisoners were killed in US custody, as I reported in When Torture Kills: Ten Murders In US Prisons In Afghanistan, an article I published 12 years ago today.

In addition, the military under Rumsfeld were told not to hold competent tribunals under Article 5 of the Geneva Conventions, which were designed to assess, close to the time and place of capture, whether those detained had been civilians caught by mistake. Competent tribunals had been held in previous US wars, and in the First Iraq War of 1991, to provide just one example, the military held 1,196 of these tribunals, and in 886 cases (74%) concluded that the men in question had been seized by mistake, and sent them home.

In Afghanistan, however, an interrogator at the time noted that every Arab who came into US custody had to be sent to Guantánamo, and that most Afghan prisoners were also sent to Guantánamo too, until the interrogators worked out a way to keep men who were evidently innocent and seized by mistake off the record books so that they could be freed. The result, as Gregg Miller explained for the Los Angeles Times in December 2002, was that "Maj. Gen. Michael E. Dunlavey, the operational commander at Guantánamo Bay until October [2002], traveled to Afghanistan in the spring [of 2002] to complain that too many "Mickey Mouse" detainees were being sent to the already crowded facility."

In a press conference shortly after Guantánamo opened, Rumsfeld coyly described it as the "least worst place" for a prison, evading his responsibility for establishing a prison in a location that was specifically chosen to be beyond the reach of the US courts. In December 2002, ignoring the complaints about "Mickey Mouse" prisoners, he specifically approved the use of torture techniques at Guantánamo, which included forced standing, in painful short-shackled stress positions, for a period of four hours, adding a hand-written note that read, "However, I stand for 8-10 hours a day. Why is standing limited to 4 hours?"

Rumsfeld's approval of torture techniques justified a program that was applied to a significant proportion of the prison's population (at least a hundred men), and also fed into the specific torture of a prisoner mistakenly regarded as being of particular significance -- Mohammed al-Qahtani, who was reportedly intended to be the 20th hijacker on 9/11, and who was subjected to seven weeks of sleep deprivation and horribly abusive interrogations from November 2002 (two weeks before Rumsfeld's approval) until January 2003.

In August 2003, Rumsfeld followed up by approving a specific torture program for another prisoner regarded as particularly significant -- Mohamedou Ould Slahi, wrongly suspected of having aided the 9/11 hijackers, who, after weeks of brutal interrogations, ended up being taken out in a boat, violently beaten and threatened with death. Slahi's extraordinary account of his experiences, Guantánamo Diary, was written while he was still held at the prison, and was published in 2015, although Slahi himself had to wait nearly two more years for his eventual release.

Rumsfeld is also notorious for his extreme reluctance to acknowledge that, amongst the 779 prisoners held by the US military at Guantánamo, some were children or juveniles -- those under the age of 18 when their alleged crimes took place -- who, according to the Optional Protocol to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child on the Involvement of Children in Armed Conflict, which came into force on February 12, 2002, a month after Guantánamo opened, and was subsequently ratified by the US, "require special protection" -- to be rehabilitated rather than punished, and, if imprisoned, to be held separately from adult prisoners.

"This constant refrain of 'the juveniles,' as though there's a hundred children in there -- these are not children," Rumsfeld said at a press conference in May 2003, after the story first broke that juveniles were being held at Guantánamo. In the end, three Afghan boys were held separately prior to their release, but as I have established over the years, at least another 20 prisoners were also juveniles when they were seized -- including the Canadian citizen Omar Khadr -- and yet none of them received treatment that was any different from the abuse that was endemic in the prison.


In terms of the sheer loss of life, however, nothing can compare to Rumsfeld's responsibility for the Iraq War, in which at least 200,000 civilians died. Rumsfeld, Vice President Dick Cheney and Rumsfeld's deputy, Paul Wolfowitz, had been pushing for regime change in Iraq since the end of the First Iraq War in 1991, and their aims were promoted via the Project for the New American Century (PNAC), a neocon think-tank established in 1997, in which they, and other subsequent members of the administration of George W. Bush, were all members.

On the day of the 9/11 attacks, both Rumsfeld and Cheney sought to use the attacks to invade not just Afghanistan, but Iraq as well, and while I hold Dick Cheney responsible for using the lie, tortured out of CIA "black site" prisoner Ibn al-Shaykh al-Libi, that Saddam Hussein had been providing training to al-Qaeda in the use of chemical and biological weapons, which was subsequently used to justify the illegal invasion of Iraq in March 2003, Rumsfeld was in charge of the military occupation, and its disastrously simplistic notion that the US would be welcomed as conquering heroes for overthrowing Saddam Hussein.

Rumsfeld was also in charge of the US military's treatment of prisoners in Iraq, including the torture and abuse of prisoners at Abu Ghraib that surfaced via photos in April 2004. He later claimed that the Abu Ghraib scandal was his darkest hour as defense secretary, but that is obviously nonsensical, as the torture of prisoners was specifically encouraged by Maj. Gen. Geoffrey Miller, the commander of Guantánamo from November 2002, when the widespread program of torture and abuse mentioned above was implemented, leading to Miller's visit to Abu Ghraib in August 2003 to provide advice about how to secure "more productive" interrogations of prisoners. He subsequently produced a report in which he recommended "GTMO-izing" their approach, and using prison guards to "soften up" prisoners for interrogation.

Rumsfeld was also in charge of Camp Bucca, where many Abu Ghraib prisoners were sent after the scandal was exposed. However, torture, abuse and unexplained prisoner deaths were widespread at Camp Bucca, and it played a crucial role in the development of Daesh (Islamic State), which subsequently emerged as a brutal successor to al-Qaeda, and one which, it seems pretty clear, might not have taken off at all had it not been for the US war on Muslims in Afghanistan and Iraq.

As I mark Donald Rumsfeld's death today, I certainly don't mean to have focused attention on his mistakes, and his crimes, to the exclusion of all the other senior officials in the Bush administration, and their lawyers, who still deserve to be held accountable -- a list that includes George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, their lawyers Alberto Gonzales and David Addington, Rumsfeld's lawyer William J. Haynes III, and many, many others.

However, to the best of my knowledge, Rumsfeld is the first who we can no longer even dream will one day be called upon to try and justify his actions in a court empowered to punish those responsible for crimes against humanity; those crimes that the US government and its representatives have inflicted on Afghanistan, Iraq, in Guantánamo and in numerous other prisons since the "war on terror" began nearly 20 years ago.

"So now there are 9 prisoners cleared for release from Guantanamo, and the Biden administration has made no plans for letting any of them go," tweets Daphne Eviatar @deviatar. 

"The Guantánamo story may finally be coming to an end,"
notes Linda Greenhouse, "and as the 20th anniversary of the
9/11 attacks approaches, the question is who will write the
last chapter, the White House or the Supreme Court?

"..there is every reason to suppose that the reargued case will
come out differently."

"This is one of the best news I have received after my release from Guantanamo," posts Mansoor Adayfi. "The book is coming. A journey of almost 20 years with Guantánamo and my book."
May be an image of 1 person, book and text that says 'Sam Raim @sam_raim 23m Such a thrill to hold a galley of what's undoubtedly the most important book I've ever published. have a few extra if you're interested in reviewing or spreading the word in any way! The closing of Guantánamo is within reach and for you all to read this. can't wait LOST AND FOUND AT GUANTÁNAMO DON'T FORGET US HERE UNDERWORLD MANSOOR ADAYFI GMAST2021 NOTFORSALE You and 3 others'

The Emergency Appeal: The Lives of Iran's Political Prisoners Hang in the Balance--We Must ACT Now, sounds an alarm about the grave danger facing Iran's political and prisoners of conscience, warning:

A brutal campaign of arrests, torture and executions is now taking place in Iran. This is an emergency. The lives and dignity of hundreds of political prisoners are in imminent, mortal danger. 

Executions, including of political prisoners, are often carried out in secret. It heightens the Emergency Appeal's challenge that:

All those who stand for justice and yearn for a better world [to] rally to the cause of freeing Iran's political prisoners NOW.

Amnesty International (AI) has warned of an "alarming rise in executions," with 49 prisoners executed from December 1, 2020 to February 4. 2021. Now, the UN reports that in recent months, more than 20 members of the Baluch minority have been executed, over 100 Kurdish activists have been detained, and members of the Bahá'í faith have been targeted. And recently the Kurdistan Human Rights Association, Iran Human Rights, and other sources report that the Islamic Republic of Iran (IRI) has carried out a wave of at least 13 executions so far this month alone (mainly for alleged drug charges).

Photos of political prisoners from @burn_the_cage Instagram 

  • Endorse and spread this Emergency Appeal. Share your ideas and/or work with the Emergency Campaign to Free Iran's Political Prisoners to publish this Emergency Appeal to shine a light on this dire situation and amplify the campaign to free ALL Iran's political prisoners NOW. In the U.S., we are acting in solidarity with the burn_the_cage movement in Europe to free Iran's political prisoners.
  • Speak out and issue messages of support for Iran's political prisoners. Join with AI's call to send appeals urging the immediate and unconditional release of prisoners of conscience who are dual national citizens. Write: Head of Judiciary, Ebrahim Raisi c/o Embassy of Iran to the European Union, Avenue Franklin Roosevelt No 15, 1050 Brussels, Belgium. (Copy Amnesty International at and our campaign.
  • Organize meetings, forums and protests in solidarity with Iran's political prisoners.  Watch and spread or screen the film Nasrin.
  • Watch for alerts, updates, and information on the website, the YouTube channel and Twitter feed of the Emergency Campaign to Free Iran's Political Prisoners.

?Write to the Emergency Campaign to Free Iran's Political Prisoners at
Follow us on Twitter: @IranPrisonEmerg
Subscribe to our YouTube Channel

A front page headline in The New York Times caught our attention Sunday: "Guantanamo Prisoners Move." What? That would be the first time in 19 years prisoners were free to move. But of course they weren't.  Despite the misleading headline, reporter Carol Rosenberg's piece was clear: prisoners had been moved from the notorious secret Camp 7 to camps in the prison where all 40 remaining prisoners are now held.
A Google Earth image of the secretive Camp 7 at Guantánamo Bay.
Camp 7 was built in 2004 to house so-called "high value detainees" after they were held around the globe in "black sites" and tortured. Anything about it has been highly classified. The new film "The Mauritanian," the story of Mohamedou ould Slahi, brought Camp 7 into public consciousness. Only terrible things happened there, and now its physical edifice was collapsing, long after its fake moral edifice crumbled.

Andy Worthington writes this week, "Moving the 'high-value detainees' solves the immediate problem of the broken prison block in which they were living, but it does nothing to solve the bigger problem of the broken prison itself. In the review of the prison's future that Biden administration officials have promised, with the suggestion that the prison's closure is Biden's aim, the six men cleared for release need to be freed, and the administration needs to accept that it cannot continue holding indefinitely men it has no intention of putting on trial, and must charge or release the 22 'forever prisoners,' including the six who are also so-called 'high-value detainees'." Continue reading...

You remember that Obama issued an order to close Guantanamo more than 12 years ago? Biden seems, maybe, to have said he might close the torture camp, if Congress allows it. Which it won't.  For better or worse, each as commander in chief, could order it closed, forcing the issue.

Let the demand be amplified by the people: Close ALL of Guantanamo now!

Next month, Mohammed Slahi's story, Guantanamo Diary, will debut as the film The Mauritanian with Jodie Foster as Slahi's attorney Nancy Hollander. Other cast members are Tahar Rahim, Shailene Woodley and Benedict Cumberbatch.

Here is information on writing to the prisoners provided by

If you are an Arabic speaker, or speak any other languages spoken by the prisoners besides English, feel free to write in those languages. Do please note that any messages that can be construed as political should be avoided, as they may lead to the letters not making it past the Pentagon's censors. Be aware, though, that your messages may not get through anyway -- but please don't let that put you off.

When writing to the prisoners please ensure you include their full name and ISN (internment serial number) below (these are the numbers before their names):

>> List of Current Prisoners. 40 men are still held, and five of these men were recommended for release by high-level governmental review processes under President Obama, decisions that Donald Trump chose to ignore after taking office in January 2017. A sixth man was approved for release towards the end of the Trump presidency.

Please address all letters to:
Detainee Name
Detainee ISN
U.S. Naval Station
Guantánamo Bay
Washington, D.C. 20355
United States of America
Please also include a return address on the envelope.

Psychologists Should Now Lead the Call to Close Guantánamo
Roy Eidelson


Last week, Mansoor Adayfi, Moazzam Begg, Lakhdar Boumediane, Sami Al Hajj, Ahmed Errachidi, Mohammed Ould Slahi, and Moussa Zemmouri published an open letter in the New York Review of Books. Noting that many Guantánamo detainees had been abducted from their homes, sold to the United States for bounties, and subjected to physical and psychological torture, these seven former prisoners--all held without charge or trial before their eventual release--called upon President Biden to close the detention facility. Their letter, which merits reading in its entirety, includes this plea:


Considering the violence that has happened at Guantánamo, we are sure that after more than nineteen years, you agree that imprisoning people indefinitely without trial while subjecting them to torture, cruelty and degrading treatment, with no meaningful access to families or proper legal systems, is the height of injustice. That is why imprisonment at Guantánamo must end.


These accusations are neither isolated nor unsubstantiated. Indeed, the week before Biden's inauguration, a group of United Nations experts--including Nils Melzer, the Special Rapporteur on torture--described Guantánamo as a "disgrace" and as "a place of arbitrariness and abuse, a site where torture and ill-treatment was rampant and remains institutionalised, where the rule of law is effectively suspended, and where justice is denied." They too called for its closure and reaffirmed that "The prolonged and indefinite detention of individuals, who have not been convicted of any crime by a competent and independent judicial authority operating under due process of law, is arbitrary and constitutes a form of cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment or even torture."
As an American psychologist, I recognize that my profession should be among the most vocal in supporting this humanitarian call. There are three compelling reasons why. First, the ugly, unwelcome truth is that psychologists--and other healthcare professionals--were key participants in designing and implementing the brutal "war on terror" detention and interrogation operations that have caused so much grievous harm. According to a Senate report, for example, a military psychologist and psychiatrist stationed at Guantánamo during its first year of operation recommended that "all aspects of the environment should enhance capture shock, dislocate expectations, foster dependence, and support exploitation to the fullest extent possible." Likewise, according to a memo from the Department of Justice, "close observation" by psychologists and physicians was required whenever waterboarding and other torturous "enhanced interrogation techniques" were employed at the CIA's infamous black sites. In short, Guantánamo is a potent symbol of a shameful catalog of abuses and torture from which psychologists cannot hide, one that includes sleep deprivation, extended isolation, stress positions, sensory bombardment, forced nudity, freezing temperatures, sexual and cultural humiliation, and confinement in coffin-like boxes.


Second, the American Psychological Association (APA)--the world's largest organization of psychologists--failed to adequately resist these unfolding horrors or defend the profession's fundamental do-no-harm principles. In the days immediately after the 9/11 attacks, Vice President Dick Cheney told a national television audience that those deemed to be our enemies would face the "full wrath" of the United States and that our operatives would "spend time in the shadows" working "the dark side" and using "any means at our disposal." Early reports from Guantánamo also raised concerns about psychologists' involvement in detainee mistreatment. The International Committee of the Red Cross even characterized the regime there as "tantamount to torture." Yet for years the APA's stance was to deny any wrongdoing by psychologists, instead insisting that their participation helped to keep these operations "safe, legal, ethical, and effective." Eventually, an independent review documented that key APA leaders had engaged in years-long covert collaboration with Department of Defense psychologists to ensure that the APA's ethics policies would not constrain the continuing participation of psychologists in Guantánamo's detention and interrogation activities.


Third, given our training, psychologists understand better than most how profoundly devastating trauma can be. Those who work with survivors of abuse and torture have witnessed the ongoing anguish that results from deep psychic wounds and from the feelings of brokenness and helplessness that persist long after being subjected to intentional pain and humiliation at the hands of another human being. For many victims, nightmares and flashbacks are recurrent experiences, making any lasting sense of safety seemingly unimaginable. Despite examples of remarkable resilience, many who were once imprisoned at Guantánamo will undoubtedly carry psychological scars for the rest of their lives. The familial and transgenerational effects of trauma are significant as well. As for those who are still detained indefinitely, they are understandably very distrustful of U.S. military healthcare personnelExperts from the Center for Victims of Torture and Physicians for Human Rights also warn that they suffer from deprivation and despair, along with the adverse consequences of inaccurate and misleading health records, subordination of their medical needs to security functions, and outright neglect.


Over the past several years, the APA has made headway in acknowledging its past failures and in resetting its moral compass. Of particular note, in 2015 the association's leadership overwhelmingly approved a policy that now prohibits military psychologists from involvement with detainees at Guantánamo or other sites that United Nations authorities have determined to be in violation of international human rights law. But for the APA, its members, and the profession at large, these and related steps face ongoing resistance from influential actors with ties to the military-intelligence establishment and defense contractors.


It would therefore represent an important milestone on this fraught journey forward for the APA to now call for the permanent closure of Guantánamo and the just resolution of the legal cases of the forty prisoners who are still there. Other organizations committed to human rights--ACLUAmnesty International, Center for Constitutional RightsHuman Rights FirstHuman Rights WatchNational Religious Campaign Against TortureTorture Abolition and Survivors Support Coalitionand Witness Against Torture, among others--have already done so. To join these groups would signal loudly that respect for human dignity and professional ethics had successfully overcome considerations of political and economic expediency at the APA.


In his book Life Lines, the late minister and theologian Forrest Church wrote, "When cast into the depths, to survive we must first let go of things that will not save us. Then we must reach out for things that can." That insight applies here: The United States should let go of Guantánamo, and the APA should help Americans understand why.
Roy J. Eidelson, Ph.D.
Member, Coalition for an Ethical Psychology
Past President, Psychologists for Social Responsibility

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