Skip to content or view screen version

Guantánamo Prisoners Stage Peaceful Protest and Hunger Strike to mark 10 years

@GuantanamoAndy Andy Worthington | 10.01.2012 14:34 | Guantánamo | Anti-militarism | Anti-racism | Terror War | World

Today, prisoners at Guantánamo will embark on a peaceful protest, involving sit-ins and hunger strikes, to protest about their continued detention, and the continued existence of the prison at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, three years after President Obama came to office promising to close it within a year, and to show their appreciation of the protests being mounted on their behalf by US citizens, who are gathering in Washington D.C. on Wednesday to stage a rally and march to urge the President to fulfill his broken promise.

Ramzi Kassem, a law professor at the City University of New York, and one of the attorneys for Shaker Aamer, the last British resident in Guantánamo, said that his client, who is held in isolation in Camp 5, told him on his last visit that the prisoners would embark on a peaceful protest and hunger strike for three days, from Jan. 10 to 12, to protest about the President’s failure to close Guantánamo as promised.

He explained that the men intended to inform the Officer in Charge ahead of the protest, to let the authorities know why there would be protests, and added that the prisoners were encouraged by the “expression of solidarity” from US citizens planning protests on Jan. 11, the 10th anniversary of the opening of the prison.

Kassem also said that another of his clients, in Camp 6, where most of the prisoners are held, and where, unlike Camp 5, they are allowed to socialize, stated that prisoners throughout the blocks were “extremely encouraged” by reports of the protests in Washington D.C.

The prisoner, who does not wish to be identified, also said that banners and signs had been prepared, and that there would be peaceful sit-ins in the communal areas. He added that the prisoners were concerned to let the outside world know that they still reject the injustice of their imprisonment, and feel that it is particularly important to let everyone know this, when the US government, under President Obama, is trying to persuade the world that “everything is OK” at Guantánamo, and that the prison is a humane, state of the art facility.

He also explained that the prisoners invited the press to come to Guantánamo and to request interviews with the prisoners, to hear about “the toll of a decade” of detention without charge or trial, and said that they “would like nothing more” than to have an independent civilian and medical delegation, accompanied by the press, be allowed to come and talk to the 171 men still held.

In Camp 5, Shaker Aamer and the other men still held there will not be able to stage a sit-in, as they are unable to leave their cells, but they will participate in the protests by refusing meals.

No one knows how the authorities will respond to the protests, especially as the new commander of Guantánamo, Navy Rear Adm. David Woods, has gained a reputation for punishing even the most minor infractions of the rules with solitary confinement.

According to Kassem, prisoners have complained that the new regime harks back to the worst days of Guantánamo, between 2002 and 2004, when punishments for non-cooperation were widespread.

Of the 171 men still held at Guantánamo, 89 were “approved for transfer” out of Guantánamo by a Task Force of career officials and lawyers from the various government departments and the intelligence agencies, and yet they remain held because of Congressional opposition and President Obama’s unwillingness to tackle his critics. 36 others were recommended for trials, and 46 others were designated for indefinite detention without charge pr trial, on the basis that they are too dangerous to release, but that there is insufficient evidence against them to put them on trial.

That is a disgraceful position for the government to take, as indefinite detention on the basis of information that cannot be used as evidence indicates that the information is either tainted by torture, or is unreliable hearsay. It remains unacceptable that President Obama approved the indefinite detention of these men in an executive order last March, even though he also promised that their cases would be subject to periodic review.

Just as disgraceful, however, is the fact that all of the 171 prisoners still at Guantánamo face indefinite detention, as none of them can leave the prison given the current restrictions. That ought to trouble anyone who cares about justice and fairness, and the protests by the prisoners, on the 10th anniversary of the opening of Guantánamo, ought to convey, more eloquently than any other method, why the pressure to close the prison must be maintained.

Note: For further information, to sign up to a new movement to close G, and to sign a new White House petition on the “We the People” website calling for the closure of Guantánamo, visit the new website, “Close Guantánamo.”

@GuantanamoAndy Andy Worthington
- Homepage:


Guantánamo Bay 10 year anniversary events

10.01.2012 17:21

January 11th 2012 marks the ten year anniversary of the arrival of the first detainees at Guantánamo Bay, where 171 prisoners remain illegally detained. It will also signify that two years have elapsed since President Obama first promised to close down the notorious detention centre, a promise effectively written off by his refusal to veto the latest National Defense Authorization Bill. Reprieve will be supporting CagePrisoners in running some events during the anniversary week to raise awareness of the 171 forgotten men that remain.

The schedule

Tuesday 10th January - press conference at the Frontline Club from 10am-1pm. Clive Stafford Smith will reflect on the impact of a decade since Guantanamo's opening alongside former prisoners and family members of those still detained there. Details of LaaTansa: Never Forget, an major innovative online project showing Guantánamo in a new perspective, will also be unveiled.

Wednesday 11th January - panel discussion at Conway Hall entitled 'Guantanamo Remembered: 10 years' chaired by Victoria Brittain with speeches from lawyers, former prisoners and family members of current detainees. This will precede a photo exhibition by Ed Clark and a short film in which former detainees speak about their memories of some of those still imprisoned at Guantánamo. The event runs from 6-8:30pm. Click here for more details on speakers and booking information.

Thursday 12th January - film showing of 'Death in Camp Delta' at the Curzon Cinema. This focuses on Yasser al-Zahrani, a detainee who died at Guantánamo in 2006. A Q&A will follow the film. The panel includes the film director Erling Borgen, Yasser's father Colonel Talal al-Zahrani, CagePrisoners Director and former detainee Moazzam Begg, and Reprieve Legal Director Cori Crider. The event runs from 6:30-9pm. Click here for booking information.

For all enquiries, please contact CagePrisoners on (44) 203 167 4416, or email

Get the latest build-up to the anniversary by following us on twitter at ReprieveUK, via the hashtag #GTMO10yrs.

You can find out more about Guantanamo by visiting our timeline and statistics page. Click here to watch a BBC report about Obama's broken promise, featuring Clive Stafford Smith.

- Homepage: