Skip to main content

Sign up for our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values. Direct to your inbox.

Demonstrators demand the release of Guantanamo Bay prisoners

Demonstrators wearing orange jumpsuits and hoods over their heads rally to demand closure of the detention camp at the U.S. Naval Station in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, outside the White House on January 11, 2019. The Biden administration transferred one inmate on Monday.‬ (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

'39 Men Still Remain': After Prisoner Released, Biden Urged to Close Gitmo Completely

"Bringing an end to two decades of unjust and abusive military detention of Muslim men at Guantánamo is a human rights obligation and a national security necessity," said the ACLU.

Julia Conley

While relieved over the transfer of one Guantánamo Bay prisoner on Monday, human rights advocates pressed the Biden administration to speed up the pace of its efforts to release or move all other remaining detainees and shutter the offshore facility once and for all.

The White House announced that after 19 years in detention, 56-year-old Abdul Latif Nasser was repatriated to his home country of Morocco early Monday. Nasser has never been charged with a crime and was held as an indefinite detainee "in the armed conflict against Al Qaeda." He was cleared for release in 2016, but had remained at Guantánamo due to former President Donald Trump's halting of all transfers.

"The administration has much to do to fulfill President Biden's mandate to close the prison and show greater respect for human rights."
—Center for Constitutional Rights

Of the 39 people who remain in U.S. custody at Guantánamo Bay, 28 have never been charged with crimes over nearly two decades of imprisonment. Ten have been recommended for transfers like Nasser's, in which the Moroccan government is expected to monitor him, including five since President Joe Biden took office in January.

Daphne Eviatar, director of the Security With Human Rights program at Amnesty International, called Nasser's release a "welcome step" and urged the Biden administration to take further action to end the era of unlawful Guantánamo Bay imprisonments.

"Now we need to see the remaining ten detainees already cleared for release transferred quickly," said Eviatar in a statement. "And we need to see clear plans for shuttering this unlawful facility once and for all. The detention facility has been allowed to stay open for far too long, now holding 39 people for almost two decades, most without charge or trial."

Nasser's continued detention over the past five years since he was cleared for transfer compounded "years of injustice," said Hina Shamsi, director of the ACLU's National Security Project.

"Bringing an end to two decades of unjust and abusive military detention of Muslim men at Guantánamo is a human rights obligation and a national security necessity," said Shamsi.

Prisoners who remain at Guantánamo include Toffiq al-Bihani, who was tortured by the CIA after being sent to the prison in 2003 and has yet to be charged or put on trial. Al-Bihani was recommended for a transfer to Yemen or another country by U.S. authorities in January 2010. Amnesty International has been campaigning for his release.

The same interagency panel that recommended Nasser's transfer held a hearing on May 18 regarding the possible release of Mohammed al-Qatani, who was also tortured at the prison and has schizophrenia. Officials have not announced a decision in al-Qatani's case yet; a federal lawsuit is also pending over whether he should be repatriated to Saudi Arabia in order to receive adequate care for his condition.

The Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) called for the release of its clients, Sufyian Barhoumi and Sharqawi al Hajj, "without further delay," calling Nasser's transfer "a step in the right direction."

"The administration has much to do to fulfill President Biden's mandate to close the prison and show greater respect for human rights," said the organization in a statement. "In addition to increasing the pace of transfers, the government must purge torture from all detainee-related proceedings, afford detainees due process rights, and, as the U.S. formally withdraws from Afghanistan, finally abandon the already tenuous legal justification for indefinite 'preventative' detentions that have been premised on preventing a return to an imagined battlefield."

"As we approach the 20th anniversary of 9/11, it is long past time to close Guantánamo and reckon with 20 years of injustice and harm," said CCR.


Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.

We've had enough. The 1% own and operate the corporate media. They are doing everything they can to defend the status quo, squash dissent and protect the wealthy and the powerful. The Common Dreams media model is different. We cover the news that matters to the 99%. Our mission? To inform. To inspire. To ignite change for the common good. How? Nonprofit. Independent. Reader-supported. Free to read. Free to republish. Free to share. With no advertising. No paywalls. No selling of your data. Thousands of small donations fund our newsroom and allow us to continue publishing. Can you chip in? We can't do it without you. Thank you.

'Love Wins Again': Senate Passes Bill to Protect Same-Sex and Interracial Marriage

"While Congress has taken an important step," said the head of the National Center for Lesbian Rights, "it is incumbent on all of us to continue to push for passage of the comprehensive Equality Act."

Jessica Corbett ·


Groups Blast Biden for 'Siding With Billionaires Over Rail Workers'

As criticism of the president's position mounts, some members of Congress are speaking out in support of including at least seven days of paid sick leave in any measure they pass.

Jessica Corbett ·


'A Very Good Day for Our Republic' as Key Jan. 6 Insurrectionist Convicted of Seditious Conspiracy

"Now the only remaining question is how much higher did those plans go, and who else might be held criminally responsible," said one former federal prosecutor after Stewart Rhodes, founder of the Oath Keepers militia, was found guilty.

Brett Wilkins ·


Australian Report Advises 'Urgent Action' to Combat Slavery in Clean Energy Supply Chains

"We need to see industry, government, the financial sector, and civil society working together to provide access to competitively costed, slavery-free renewable energy."

Brett Wilkins ·


Progressives Mobilize in Georgia for Dec. 6 Senate Runoff

Advocacy groups backing Sen. Raphael Warnock call the Democrat a "reproductive rights champion" who is also "fighting to stop the climate crisis and create good jobs in the process."

Jessica Corbett ·

Common Dreams Logo