Torture and Detention

Frequently Asked Questions (scroll down for article archives and further resources)

"If anyone acts like they don't know their government is torturing people on a widespread and systematic scale, they are choosing NOT to know. We have to continue to lead people to act against this -- going out to people, into classes, to institutions, and on Too many people have learned to accept this, there is not nearly enough opposition to the revelations about these top level torture meetings -- but this is something that can change quickly if a beginning core acts with moral clarity..." -Debra Sweet, Director of World Can't Wait

Indefinite Detention and Torture Under ObamaDownload this flier

Torture + Silence = Complicity!

Act Now to Stop Torture!

Has Obama put an end to torture, rendition, and indefinite detention? Facts you need to know:

1. Obama admits Bush officials tortured, but refuses to prosecute them.

Cheney has bragged about authorizing water boarding of detainees. In January 2009, Obama told ABC’s George Stephanopoulos, that he believed water boarding was torture. Torture is a violation of Geneva Conventions. The Obama administration is, therefore, not only morally, but legally, required to prosecute Bush Regime officials for torture.

2. Under Obama, the U.S. is still holding detainees without charges or trial.

During the campaign Obama declared habeas corpus to be “the foundation of Anglo-American law.”Habeas corpus is your right to challenge your detention. It is a 900-year- old right. Without habeas corpus there are no restraints on a government’s powers to detain and punish.

Contrary to his rhetoric, the Obama administration is continuing the Bush Regime’s policies of denying prisoners habeas corpus rights and has even adopted the same arguments made by Bush. In February 2009, the Obama administration declared in Federal Court that it would not grant habeas corpus rights to detainees in U.S. custody in Bagram, Afghanistan.

In March 2009 Obama’s Justice Department claimed that Guantanamo prisoners who were detained before June 2008 had no habeas corpus rights. On May 21, 2010 the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia ruled in favor of the Obama administration, holding that three prisoners who are being held by the U. S. at Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan cannot challenge their detention in U.S. courts.

3. Don’t be fooled just because Obama isn’t using the term “enemy combatant”

The Obama administration will no longer use the term “enemy combatant,” but it’s a change in name only: in the same court filing in which it made this announcement, Obama’s Justice Department made clear that it would continue to detain prisoners at Guantanamo without charge. As the NY Times put it:

[T]he [Obama] Justice Department argued that the president has the authority to detain terrorism suspects there without criminal charges, much as the Bush administration had asserted. It provided a broad definition of those who can be held, which was not significantly different from the one used by the Bush administration.

Meanwhile, Obama’s executive orders do not ban indefinite detention. In addition, at his confirmation hearing, Obama’s Attorney General Eric Holder said: “There are possibly many other people who are not going to be able to be tried but who nevertheless are dangerous to this country… We’re going to have to try to figure out what we do with them.” Holder suggested prisoners could be detained for the length of their war of terror which, as we know, has no set end point.

4. Guantanamo is still open. The prison at Bagram is growing and torture is being committed.

According to Reuters, abuse of prisoners worsened shortly after the election of Obama:

Abuses began to pick up in December 2008 after Obama was elected, human rights lawyer Ahmed Ghappour told Reuters. He cited beatings, the dislocation of limbs, spraying of pepper spray into closed cells, applying pepper spray to toilet paper and over-forcefeeding detainees who are on hunger strike.”

Earlier this year Scott Horton reported in Harper’s Magazine on three murders of detainees in 2006 at Guantanamo that the military tried to cover up as suicides. More is coming out about torture at Bagram Detention Center in Afghanistan. Recently Andy Worthington reported on the detention and torture of three teenagers in his article, “Torture and the ‘Black’Prison,” or What Obama is Doing at Bagram (Part One).”

On June 7, 2010 Chris Floyd of Empire Burlesque wrote that under the Bush Regime medical personnel experimented on detainees to prove that the techniques used did not constitute torture. The chilling history of Nazi medical experimentation on those in concentration camps lurks in this revelation. ( echoes-of-mengele-medical-experiments-torture-and- continuity-in-the-american-gulag.html)

This is a violation of Geneva Conventions and there is evidence that these experiments are going on under Obama.

5. Obama is continuing rendition.

During his confirmation hearing, new CIA director Leon Panetta made it clear the Obama administration will continue rendition. Rendition is the practice of kidnapping somebody in one country and shipping them to another country for detention. Michael Ratner, president of the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR), said “Rendition is a violation of sovereignty. It’s a kidnapping. It’s force and violence…Once you open the door to rendition, you’re opening the door, essentially, to a lawless world.”

Obama supporters have attempted to draw the distinction between this practice and “extraordinary rendition,” defined as the practice of transferring somebody to another country knowing that they will be tortured. During his confirmation hearing, Leon Panetta said that under the Bush administration, “There were efforts by the CIA to seek and to receive assurances that those individuals would not be mistreated.” So Panetta is embracing the practices of the Bush Regime by continuing rendition!

Panetta then added, “I will seek the same kind of assurances that those individuals will not be mistreated.” (emphasis added)

Articles on Torture and Detention:

Join the Guantanamo conference next weekend - and write to your lawmakers about the NDAA

Close Guantanamo | November 8, 2021

20yearsafterWe’re delighted to invite you to take part in an international conference about Guantánamo — "Guantánamo: 20 Years After" — taking place on Friday Nov. 12 and Saturday Nov. 13. The conference is hosted by the University of Brighton in the U.K., and our co-founder Andy Worthington has been helping to organize it, and is a keynote speaker. Check out our article about it here.


Never-Ending Injustice: State Secrets and the Torture of Abu Zubaydah

Andy Worthington | October 17, 2021

abu-zubaydah-brigid-barrett-editOn Wednesday, the Supreme Court heard arguments in the case of the notorious torture victim and Guantánamo prisoner Abu Zubaydah, for whom the US’s post-9/11 torture program was invented. Zubaydah, whose real name is Zayn al-Abidin Muhammad Husayn, was held and tortured in CIA “black sites” for four and a half years, after his capture in a house raid in Pakistan in March 2002, until his eventual transfer to Guantánamo with 13 other so-called “high-value detainees” in September 2006, and he has been held there without charge or trial ever since.


Act now for the Guantánamo prisoners | July 9, 2021

ravil mingazovReposted from the Close Guantanamo Now! campaign. 

In our latest article, Former Military Commissions Prosecutor Calls for the Closure of Guantánamo, we cross-post, with an introduction by our co-founder Andy Worthington, an op-ed recently published in the Washington Post by Omar Ashmawy, a former prosecutor in Guantánamo’s broken military commission trial system.

Ashmawy was involved in the only two cases that have proceeded to trials (six others ended in plea deals), and the broken nature of the commissions can be gauged from the fact that these trials took place 13 years ago, in 2008, and that even the most recent plea deal took place nine years ago, in 2012.


Death of a war criminal, but not of the war

Debra Sweet | July 1, 2021

rumsfeldDonald Rumsfeld was a cunning unapologetic political/military operative in the US government's global machine of aggressive war-making. His death is no loss to humanity.

But it should cause an evaluation of the role he and his partners in war crimes - members of the Bush regime - played in launching the on-going war of terror on people in the Persian Gulf, Afghanistan/Pakistan and beyond, and of the on-going efforts to stop these crimes.


A known known

Raymond Nat Turner | 2021


“…there are known knowns. There are things

we know that we know. There are known

unknowns—things we do not know we know…”

—an infamous War Criminal



Biden’s Slow Progress on Closing Guantánamo

Andy Worthington | June 17, 2021

biden-guantanamo-2021An article last week by NBC News — “Biden quietly moves to start closing Guantánamo ahead of 20th anniversary of 9/11” — was widely shared by opponents of the continued existence of the shameful prison at Guantánamo Bay, but frustratingly failed to live up to the promise of its headline.

40 men are still held at Guantánamo, and nine of these men have been approved for release by high-level US government review processes — three in 2010, two in 2016, one in 2020, and three just last month, in decisions taken by the Periodic Review Boards set up under President Obama that show a willingness on the part of the Biden administration to recognize that there is something fundamentally wrong with a system that continues to hold, indefinitely, men who have been held for up to 19 years, and have never been charged with a crime.


The outrage that won't go away

Debra Sweet | April 30, 2021

specialevent 250 250 may22 3Justice-loving people were happy when Obama ordered Guantanamo closed; some were incredulous that he never took the actions he could have to actually close it. Trump, a proponent of torture, and particularly a fan of water-boarding, wanted to expand the US torture camp, and promised to reduce any protections to those held without charge.

Now comes Biden who seems to think Guantanamo is an embarrassment, and has indicated he would like to close it. But he has done even less than Obama did to take the steps needed.

We're sharing here an upcoming World Can't Wait event (please help spread the word to Spanish language speakers) and some recent articles of interest on Guantanamo.

Saturday May 22nd en español - On-line Event: Screening of "The Mauritanian" 
with special guest Mohamedou Ould Slahi
7:30 pm EDT / 6:30pm EST (Mexico/Central America) - stay tuned for details on the stream


US Military Closes Camp 7, Guantánamo’s “High-Value Detainee” Prison Block, Moves Men to Camp 5

Andy Worthington | April 8, 2021

camp-7-guantanamoIn news from Guantánamo, the US military announced yesterday that it had shut Camp 7, the secretive prison block where Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and other so-called “high-value detainees” have been held since their arrival at Guantánamo from CIA “black sites” in September 2006, and had moved the prisoners to Camp 5.

Modeled on a maximum security prison in Terre Haute, Indiana, Camp 5, which cost $17.5 million, opened in 2004, and its solid-walled, isolated cells were used to hold prisoners regarded as non-compliant. As the prison’s population shrank, however, it was closed — in September 2016 — and its remaining prisoners transferred to Camp 6, which opened in 2006, and includes a communal area.

Camp 7, meanwhile, which cost $17 million, was also built in 2004. Two storeys tall, it was modeled on a maximum-security prison in Bunker Hill, Indiana, and, as Carol Rosenberg explained in the New York Times yesterday, had “a modest detainee health clinic and a psychiatric ward with a padded cell, but none of the hospice or end-of-life care capacity once envisioned by Pentagon planners.”


Obama said he’d close Guantánamo — these activists are pushing Biden to finish the job

A close Guantánamo protester in Washington, D.C. shortly before Barack Obama’s second inauguration in January 2013. (Witness Against Torture)Jeremy Varon | March 17, 2021

This article was originally published by Waging Nonviolence.

What should have been an end to the Guantánamo saga in 2012, was only the beginning of more grueling work for this anti-torture coalition.

I remember, as if in a distant dream, repeating through sobs of joy and exhaustion, “It’s over. It’s over.” On live TV President Obama had just signed, as his first official act in January 2009, an executive order mandating the closure of the prison at Guantánamo. To Obama’s right stood a proud Vice President Biden, gently coaching his neophyte boss through the momentous ceremony.

As my tears began to drain away, so too did the sting of years of torture, wars based on lies, and the grotesque contortions of the law making up Bush’s War on Terror. All the work of Witness Against Torture and other anti-GTMO activists — the frigid White House rallies, the endless press releases, the many fasts, the arrests for civil disobedience — had borne fruit. Tortured men could now go home, or stand trial before a fair tribunal.


‘The Mauritanian’ rekindles debate over Gitmo detainees’ torture – with 40 still held there


Lisa Hajjar | February 12, 2021 

Click here to read the orginal post on

“The Mauritanian,” directed by Kevin Macdonald, is the first feature film to dramatize how the war on terror became a war in court.

As a sociologist of law and a journalist, I have spent the past two decades researching and writing about the kinds of legal battles the film accurately portrays. My research has included 13 trips to observe military commission trials at the U.S. Navy base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

The film stars Tahar Rahim as a Mauritanian named Mohamedou Ould Slahi who is captured and held at the Guantanamo detention center, where many suspected terrorists were sent. Jodie Foster and Shailene Woodley play Nancy Hollander and Teri Duncan, Slahi’s attorneys. Benedict Cumberbatch plays Lt. Col. Stuart Couch, who is assigned to prosecute Slahi’s case.


Will Guantanamo stay the forever prison?

Debra Sweet | February 2, 2021

Is the torture colony established by the U.S. in 2002 a forever prison? Three U.S. presidents said: "Yes, these are the worst of the worst;" "No - that's not who we are;" and "Hell yes...let's build more Guantanamos." Until some decisive action is taken to close it, the prison at Guantanamo Bay is there as a monument to what the U.S. actually stands for.

What Biden will do is not clear, but here's what some people working for justice are saying:

Seven men formerly imprisoned at Guantanamo wrote an open letter to Biden published in The New York Review of Books on January 29. They call for the idea of "forever prisoners" to be rescinded, an end to the Military Commissions set up by Bush, expedited repatriation and changes in how prisoners are released:



World Can't Wait mobilizes people living in the United States to stand up and stop war on the world, repression and torture carried out by the US government. We take action, regardless of which political party holds power, to expose the crimes of our government, from war crimes to systematic mass incarceration, and to put humanity and the planet first.