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:

Coordinated Global Protests to Close Guantánamo

 Debra Sweet | April 19, 2023

On May 3, June 7, July 5 and August 2, (all first Wednesdays) there will be coordinated vigils and protests around the world to demand the release of the remaining 17 prisoners currently being held at Guantanamo -- despite being cleared for release.

.Seventeen of the 31 men still imprisoned have been approved for release, and yet there is no way of knowing when, if ever, they will be because they did not have their release ordered by a court but recommended by administrative review processes and, as a result, they cannot appeal to a judge to order their release if, as is the case, the government shows no sense of urgency when it comes to freeing them. More at

So far, here in the U.S., a vigil is set for
May 3
New York City 5:00-6:00 pm ET
Steps of the New York Public Library, 5th
Avenue & 42nd Street.

Visit the Facebook Event Page.

Download PDF Poster

Would you organize a vigil? Get in touch and we will help: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .


Mexico City Guantánamo Vigil

Natalia Rivera Scott | March 8, 2023


Natalia Rivera Scott, from Mexico4Julian, holding a sign, “In solidarity from Mexico, Close Guantánamo,” outside the US embassy in Mexico City as part of the global vigils.

Global vigils for the closure of Guantánamo and the release of the Guantánamo 18, those men who have been approved for release

Today coordinated vigils took place: in London (the UK Guantánamo Network), Washington DC (Close Guantánamo), New York (World Can’t Wait) and Mexico City (Mexico4Julian and Amnesty International) with a beautiful surprise solidarity vigil by the Free Assange Belgium Committee.

Here in Mexico City, we stood in front of the U.S. embassy, Alli and Mary (Amnesty International activists living in this city) and me, a longtime activist and supporter of the closure of the torture facility in Guantánamo Bay.

I think most people here don’t understand my passion for this cause or how important and close to my heart it is, mainly because they don’t think it’s relevant to Mexicans or because this is happening very far away, or, as I’ve been told, “There are more important things to worry about.” But I can’t close my eyes to this. I can’t pretend the prison and the men don’t exist. I want the world to see that Mexico is present in this difficult, long and slow path towards justice and freedom. I want the men inside and outside of Guantánamo to know we won’t quit and won’t stop until that place is closed and empty.


Majid Khan Released from Guantanamo

Debra Sweet | Feburary, 9 2023

One of the few Guantanamo prisoners criminally charged, who plead guilty years ago and finished his sentence more than a year ago, Majid Khan was finally released and sent to the former British colony of Belize (British Honduras) this month. There are now 34 prisoners remaining in the U.S. torture camp. See, for example, What the C.I.A.’s Torture Program Looked Like to the Tortured.

Andy Worthington writes, "Now 42 years old, Khan spent almost half his life in U.S. custody, and was, for most of that time, one of the most profoundly isolated prisoners in the whole of the 'war on terror.' He is the first of 16 'high-value detainees' held at Guantánamo to be released, the sixth prisoner released under President Biden, and the first of these six to be resettled in a third country."


7600 DAYS of Guantanamo

Debra Sweet | November 1, 2022

7600daysSay what? Two Republican presidents - and two Democrats - hold on to the U.S. torture camp into its third decade. Saifullah Paracha, cleared for release years ago, with no charges, was finally released last week at age 75. But 35 men are left, most "cleared" but still imprisoned.

Tuesday Nov. 1, marks 7,600 days of Guantanamo’s existence. Andy Worthington and ask you to take a photo with the Close Guantanamo campaign’s poster. Send it to  This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. . via the Gitmo Clock website or share on social media tagging with #CloseGuantanamo.


Do you know the art of Guantanamo?

Debra Sweet | September 6, 2022

Do you know the art of Guantanamo?

Kind of a ridiculous question because your government has made sure you don't. The artists of Guantanamo are locked up and no longer allowed to send out their art. The latest few who have been actually released (as opposed to the 21 men "approved for release" who are still locked up) can't bring their art out with them.

Some of the prisoners' art is beautifully decorative, some evocative, some showing great skill. But it all conveys the humanity, emotion and spirit of the men in that torture camp, which is likely why, under Trump, they were no longer allowed to have their attorneys share it with the world. Outrageously, 21 months after Biden took office, that policy stands.


A way to help Guantanamo survivors

Debra Sweet | July 1, 2022

It's an outrage that men who were held completely illegitimately in the U.S. torture camp in Guantanamo were sent upon release to countries they did not know, isolated from their families and often left without basic needs or medical care.  They should be paid reparations by the criminal government that held them. Nevertheless, good people will step up to support them, as we always do.

We received the following request:


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




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.