Close Guantánamo Update

The 5 Most Important Things that Happened in the First Year of Trump’s Guantánamo

On the campaign trail, Donald Trump made it clear that he had no intention of closing Guantánamo, and in fact, he wanted to fill it up with “Bad Dudes.” After his inauguration, he stuck to his word: cleared prisoners have remained unreleased, Guantánamo’s oldest prisoner has now turned 70, and in November he tweeted that he’d consider sending people directly from the US to the off-shore prison.

President Trump’s attitude to Guantánamo must be seen within the broader context of his attacks on Muslims. The President’s ‘Muslim ban,’ his anti-Muslim tweets and statements, all make clear that Trump’s approach to Guantánamo is fueled by his fervent anti-Muslim prejudice.

Today, to mark one year of Donald Trump’s presidency, we bring you five of the key Guantánamo events that occurred during the first year of the Trump Presidency.

1. No detainees have been released by Trump

George W. Bush released over 500 detainees from Guantanamo during his presidency. President Obama released nearly 200. But, during the first year of his presidency, Trump has released none. This is despite the fact that five men who remain detained in Guantánamo have been unanimously cleared for release by the American security apparatus, made up of six different agencies.

2. Donald Trump knows almost nothing about Guantánamo

In the run up to the 2016 election, Donald Trump made clear his intention to not only keep  Guantánamo open, but to bring new detainees to the prison. A few days before his inauguration in 2017, Trump doubled down on this pro-Guantánamo campaign rhetoric, and tweeted that: “There should be no further releases from Gitmo. These are extremely dangerous people and should not be allowed back onto the battlefield.”

What Trump fails to understand is that most of these men cannot return to the ‘battlefield,’ as they were never there to begin with—86% of detainees were sold to the US for bounties, rather than being captured by the US on any battlefield. In fact, it has been determined by the US itelf that several of the detainees who remain do not pose a threat upon release that justifies their continued detention.

3. Donald Trump’s Guantánamo policy is fueled by prejudice and antipathy towards Muslims

Donald Trump’s tweets and comments throughout the year have also made his anti-Muslim prejudice clear. He has introduced a ‘Muslim ban’ which prevents those from Muslim-majority countries from entering the US. He failed to denounce white Supremacist violence in Charlottesville and in November, the President retweeted a series of Islamophobic videos from a far-right British hate group. Just last week, Trump made vulgar and racist comments about Central American, Caribbean, and African countries.

4. Guantánamo’s oldest prisoner turned 70

In August, Reprieve client Saifullah Paracha turned 70. Saifullah has been held in the prison without charge or trial, away from his family,  for over 12 years.

Tortured in Bagram and rendered to Guantánamo to live out his remaining days, Saifullah suffers from a host of medical problems—some natural for an aging man, others the result of years of mistreatment and torture. Saifullah has had three heart attacks, two of which happened while in Guantánamo, and lives with the daily anxiety that his next could be his last.

For those in Guantánamo, birthdays can be a particularly difficult time. However, our supporters ensured that Saifullah was not forgotten—in a show of solidarity, over 9,000 of our supporters signed our birthday card to Saifullah, proving to him that the world has not forgotten him.

5. A Marine General became Guantánamo’s first new prisoner in nearly a decade

During the 2016 election campaign, Donald Trump claimed that he was going to “fill Guantánamo up with bad dudes.” In 2017, the Trump Administration in a sense, followed through with that promise. But strangely, it was Brigadier General John Baker, the second highest ranking lawyer in the Marine Corps and the chief defense counsel of the Guantánamo military commission system, who found himself detained in Guantánamo.

General Baker was punished for standing up for three American lawyers who refused to continue representing a Guantánamo client after their client’s right to privileged communications with his lawyers was violated by yet another bought of illegal government spying. General Baker was sentenced to 21 days of confinement on the military base that confines 41 others.

These events further exposed Guantánamo as the chaotic legal black hole that it really is.