17 years since it opened, Guantánamo remains as significant and problematic as ever.
- The notion that the men in Guantánamo Bay are ‘the worst of the worst’ is a myth
- Despite evidence that torture isn’t effective as a means of interrogation, Donald Trump supports its use
- Trump insists that no more detainees can leave the prison – not even the five men cleared for release
Here are 5 of the most compelling reasons why Guantánamo Bay should be closed for good.
1. The ‘worst of the worst’ myth
More detainees have died in Guantánamo than have been convicted of a crime. The U.S.’ claim that Guantánamo detainees were the ‘worst of the worst’ did not stand up – U.S. authorities started to release those who had been abducted and imprisoned as early as 2002, the year the prison opened. Now, only 40 remain from a total of 780.
In fact, within a year of opening, Guantánamo’s operational commander complained that he was being sent too many “Mickey Mouse” detainees. As the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights points out: “According to official information, only 8% of Guantánamo detainees were characterised as ‘fighters’ for Al-Qaeda or the Taliban; 93% were not captured by U.S. forces; and most were turned over to U.S. custody at a time in which the United States offered bounties for the capture of suspected terrorists.” The majority of the detainees were never even charged with a crime, let alone convicted of one. In total, the U.S. has only convicted six of the 780 prisoners who have been through Guantánamo’s gates.
2. Trump’s temple of torture
Leaked documents from the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) in 2004 detail “an intentional system of cruel, unusual and degrading treatment and a form of torture at Guantánamo.”
The ICRC documented the use of humiliating acts, solitary confinement, temperature extremes, use of forced positions, exposure to loud and persistent noise and music, and regular beatings. The UN’s Special Rapporteur for Torture has made it clear that indefinite detention in itself amounts to torture.
The main conclusion of the US Senate’s 2014 probe into CIA torture was that it “was not an effective means of acquiring intelligence.” But Donald Trump has said he would like to “bring back waterboarding” and “a hell of a lot worse”, adding: “Don’t tell me it doesn’t work – torture works… if it doesn’t work, they deserve it anyway.”
3. The expensive mistake
It costs the US tax payer $445 million a year to keep the remaining 40 detainees held in Guantánamo. This means that it costs $29,000 per prisoner per night to keep Guantánamo open – far more than any federal or state prison.
4. The legal black hole
In opening Guantánamo Bay in 2002, the US Government sought to create a legal black hole – where it argued neither US nor international law applied. Choosing an offshore facility in Cuba as the base, the administration claimed that detainees were not covered by the US Constitution because they were not on US soil, and that their enemy combatant status meant they could be denied legal protections. The ‘legal protections’ in question ranged from being denied access to lawyers and fair trials to the systematic use of torture.
5. The prison of no exits
Last year, Donald Trump proudly announced that nobody else would be released from Guantánamo. There are 40 men still in the prison – five of those have already been cleared for release in a rigorous process involving six separate US agencies including the Department of Defense and the Director of National Intelligence. They have been deemed to pose no threat, yet Donald Trump won’t allow them to leave.
Join the movement to Close Guantanamo
17 years since it opened, Guantánamo has become an enduring symbol of injustice in our time. That’s why we’re renewing our campaign to have America’s illegal prison closed for good – will you join our movement by adding your name?