As Gitmo Turns 21, Inaction by Biden and Courts Part of Incoherent Policy for Imprisoned Men

January 11, 2023 – Today, on the 21st anniversary of the opening of the U.S. prison at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, the Center for Constitutional Rights issued the following statement:

President Biden has pledged to battle authoritarianism both in the United States and abroad, yet he has done little to close that authoritarian abomination, the prison at Guantánamo Bay, where the U.S. government has imprisoned, tortured, and otherwise brutalized hundreds of Muslim men and boys, and continues to hold a group of men indefinitely. Despite the president’s promise to close Guantánamo, his administration has transferred only five people in two years, has failed to negotiate any third-country resettlements for men from countries to which Congress has banned repatriation, such as Yemen, and continues to oppose any effort by men at Guantánamo to secure relief through the courts – even in cases where they are already cleared for release. In other words, the administration is fighting to detain men it no longer wants to detain, in a prison it wants to close. The president’s policy is one of injustice, immorality, and total incoherence.

Meanwhile, the courts continue to fail in upholding their role as a meaningful check on executive detention, including by leaving pending challenges unresolved. For example, Abdulsalam Al Hela, a Yemeni man cleared for release, is still awaiting a decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit more than a year after oral arguments in his case.

Thirty-five men remain in the prison today, the majority of whom – 23 – have never been charged. Twenty-one of these men are cleared for release. Three are our clients:

  • Sharqawi Al Hajj, a man from Yemen, has been held without charge at Guantánamo since 2004, after enduring torture at two CIA black sites for over two years. His torture has contributed to health problems so severe an independent medical expert once warned of “total bodily collapse.” He was approved for transfer by the Biden administration in June 2021.

  • Guled Hassan Duran is a Somali captured in March 2004 and rendered to the CIA, which denied him medical care to try to force him to cooperate. Detained without charge at Guantánamo since September 2006, he was
    recently hospitalized for maladies that trace back to his abuse by the CIA.  He was approved for transfer in July 2021.

  • Majid Khan, a Pakistani citizen who grew up in the United States, was the first survivor of CIA torture to discuss in open court his experiences at black sites. He is still awaiting transfer even though he completed his sentence on March 1, 2022, as part of a plea agreement with the government. 

We should not be marking another year in the life of this ignominious product of U.S. imperialism and racism as we have every January since the first anniversary of its opening in 2002. Yet we will succeed in shutting it down. Despite the lack of will of presidents who have claimed to support closure and the express desire of some political leaders to keep the prison open forever, the prison population has shrunk by 95 percent from its peak – the result of pressure from a broad coalition from around the globe, including the imprisoned men themselves, their families, and Guantánamo survivors who have been released. Today, along with more than 150 other organizations, we sent a letter urging President Biden to prioritize closing Guantanamo and end indefinite detention. We have been part of this effort from the beginning, and we will continue to litigate and agitate and build power with our allies until men are free and the prison is shuttered for good. 

The Center for Constitutional Rights has led the effort to bring justice to Guantánamo for the past 21 years. We were the first organization to file a case on behalf of men detained there, the first civilians to go there, and the first to meet with a survivor of the CIA torture program. We organized hundreds of attorneys to ensure that anyone held at Guantánamo who wanted legal representation could have it. We have made hundreds of trips to the base to visit our clients and advocated for them in legal proceedings from Guantánamo to the U.S. Supreme Court to the International Criminal Court. 

The Center for Constitutional Rights works with communities under threat to fight for justice and liberation through litigation, advocacy, and strategic communications. Since 1966, the Center for Constitutional Rights has taken on oppressive systems of power, including structural racism, gender oppression, economic inequity, and governmental overreach. Learn more at


Last modified 

January 11, 2023