Twenty Years of Guantánamo: Can Biden Finally Close the US Prison Camp?

The United States has been present at Guantánamo Bay, on Cuba’s southeast coast, since the Spanish-American War of 1898, when marines landed there to remove the island from real control. spanish people.

Five years later, a nominally independent Cuban government leased the site to the United States for a naval base. The US continues to pay the rent – annual checks for $4,085 – but Cuba hasn’t received it since 1959, when Fidel Castro took power, and it considers the base illegally occupied.

How did the prisoners end up there?

In the early 1990s, the United States often blocked Cuban refugees at sea before they could apply for asylum. They are held at Guantánamo, and litigation involving them seems to confirm that the base is outside of US jurisdiction.

This made it an attractive option when George W. Bush launched the “Global War on Terror” in response to the September 11 attacks of 2001, when the United States was desperate for information. news from captured terrorists – and was prepared to “work in the shadows side by side”, as then-VP Dick Cheney put it.

The Bush administration argues that US legal protections do not apply to prisoners of al-Qa’eda or the Taliban, but it is reluctant to test the theory on American soil. As a result, 100 wire cages were erected in just 96 hours at Guantánamo, which received the first detainees – 20 men arrested in Afghanistan – on 11 January 2002, four months after the date Destroyed World Trade Center.

How did the world learn about the camp?

The Pentagon announced that and released an early celebrity photo of the newcomers kneeling in orange jumpsuits, with dark glasses and leg shackles, taken by a US naval photographer. Guantánamo is considered a famous military prison, housing “the worst of the worst”, according to its first commander, General Michael Lehnert.

A spokesman for then-Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld released the photo because she thought it would assure the world that the detainees would be treated well. Exactly, it had the opposite effect. As the camp filled – Guantánamo had processed about 780 people since 2002, among them 15 minors – it became an international tagline for the villains and excesses of the War against terrorism.

Detention space is not used

How bad is it?

The wire cages were quickly replaced by umbrellas made from shipping crates. Then, more conventional prison facilities appeared. By 2010, conditions were comparable to those in super-large prisons in the US. However, in its early years, inmates were subjected to beatings, sleep deprivation, sexual abuse and humiliation, and other “advanced interrogation techniques,” despite the harsh sessions. Most took place in CIA “black sites” (unofficial prisons) elsewhere.

In June 2004, the International Committee of the Red Cross issued a confidential report stating that the treatment of detainees in Cuba was “cruel, unusual and despicable”, equivalent to “a form of criminal justice”. torture mode”. In 2009, Susan Crawford, a Bush administration official, admitted that torture was carried out there. There have been numerous hunger strikes and cases of self-harm; and seven apparent suicides.

Who are the prisoners?

From the outset, Rumsfeld complained in a memo that the camp was filled with “low-level enemy fighters”. In fact, in 2006, a study of 517 arrestees found that 55% were not even identified as having committed any hostile acts against US forces or their allies. ; only 8% were clearly identified as members of al-Qa’eda.

Most were arrested in Afghanistan, where the US offered large rewards – “enough to feed your family for a lifetime”, as one flyer stated – in return for “Arab terrorists”. As a result, foreign tourists and residents’ own enemies were caught in the net.

However, in 2006, several “high-value detainees” were brought there from the CIA’s dark web, including Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the alleged architect of the case. September 11 attacks and Hambali, a member of the Indonesian Muslim group, carried out the 2002 Bali bombings.

Why hasn’t it been closed yet?

At the 2008 election, Barack Obama, John McCain and outgoing President Bush all agreed that Guantánamo needed to be closed. Obama attempted, by executive order, into his second day in office. But the manipulation of the Pentagon, the Republican opposition and, arguably, Obama’s lack of political boldness, meant the effort failed.

There are many legal difficulties. Thanks to the torture and illegitimate nature of the enterprise, prisoners cannot be tried in civil courts. The next best solution, the military tribunal, raised constitutional issues and lacked credibility.

At the same time, many prisoners cannot be repatriated, either because they would be in danger at home, or because they are considered a security risk there. The Obama administration is no longer able to negotiate with third countries to acquire them.

Detention space is not used

How is the situation now?

Out of a total of 780 people arrested, only 12 were ever charged and two were convicted (by a military court). The trial of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and four others has now entered its tenth year of pre-trial hearings. Under President Bush, 500 detainees were released from prison or released. Under Obama, 197 detainees were repatriated or resettled in third countries.

Under Trump, who promised to fill the site with “bad guys,” another one was moved. There are currently 39 people detained at Guantánamo. President Biden also wants to shut it down, but has limited options: most Republicans still consider it, in Rumsfeld’s words, the “least worst place” to keep such suspects. . In theory, some other country could try. Legal avenues can be found to convict others in the United States. In the meantime, it will last: The Pentagon asked for $88 million to build a hospice for elderly detainees. Twenty Years of Guantánamo: Can Biden Finally Close the US Prison Camp?

Fry Electronics Team

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