On the second day of his inauguration, President Obama signed executive orders calling for the closure of Guantanamo Bay within a year. Three years later and as his first term approaches an end, the notorious detention facility, illegal by international standards, remains open with no signs of a closure.

Guantanamo Bay violates every possible standard laid out for an imprisonment facility; hence the rationale for building it on a naval base in Cuba. It denies prisoners protections guaranteed by the Geneva conventions, holds them indefinitely without laying charges and effectively bars them from having any chances at a fair trial.

Injustice and lies are the foundational pillars that hold up Guntanamo Bay. Prisoners at the facility are subjected to unprecedented forms of torture. This includes solitary confinement, forced feedings, sexual abuse, waterboarding and beatings. Many inmates have tried to commit suicide; six so far have succeeded. Lakhdar Boumedine, who went on a hunger strike and was held for seven years without explanation, recalled: “Twice each day my captors would shove a tube up my nose, down my throat and into my stomach so they could pour food into me”.

Murat Kurnaz of Germany was captured while in Pakstian studying the religious sciences and wrongly detained for five years. He explained: 'There were more beatings, endless solitary confinement, freezing temperatures and extreme heat, days of forced sleeplessness”. An FBI agent once observed that, “on a couple of occasions, I entered interview rooms to find a detainee chained hand and foot in a fetal position to the floor, with no chair, food or water. Most times they had urinated or defecated on themselves and had been left there for 18, 24 hours or more”. What is sickening is that abuse at other U.S. detention facilities, such as Abu Ghraib and Bagram, is far worse.

Many of the 'war combatants' at the facility have been innocent civilians with no evidence of terrorist activities. They were simply at the wrong place at the wrong time and were caught while fleeing the invasion of Afghanistan. The Tipton Three and many others fall in this category. Some were simply handed over to the Americans based on shady evidence in return for thousands of dollars. Kurnaz was an example of this.

Since most of the inmates at the facility are Muslims, religious persecution has been a complaint as well. There have been horror stories of Qurans being defaced and flushed down toilets. Prisoners have been reprimanded for praying in congregation. Some even reported attempts by guards to get them to renounce their religion.

Civil liberty groups rejoiced as Obama came into office, but his efforts to actually shut down Gitmo are laughable. The President has since signed executive orders that formalize the indefinite detention of prisoners at the facility. To top up the Patriot Act, he also added new provisions in the National Defense Authorization Act that codify the indefinite detention of American citizens suspected of terrorism. The NDAA also forbids the government from using money to build a new prison or to bring detainees to the U.S., even to face trial. This virtually ends any possibility of shutting down the prison and effectively builds on the detention scheme laid out by the Bush administration.

This establishment creates a two tiered justice system; one for the bad and one for the worst. The irony is, many times the evidence against the latter is so poor that it is insufficient to lay charges or bring them to trial. Guantanamo Bay is an apparatus that gives Americans satisfaction that the perpetrators of terrorism are being punished and their country is secure. This comes at the high cost of sacrifices in human rights, civil liberties and rule of law, not to mention the millions of tax dollars spent on it.

Once the beacon of freedom, liberty and justice; America is slowly losing her status as the bastion of democracy. Illegal wars, extra judicial killings, arrests of innocent civilians, opportunist and hypocritical foreign policies all add to the abuses going on at Guantanamo Bay. Ten years past 9/11 and after the killing of Osama Bin Laden, there are no signs of an end to this disgraceful institution.

Action Item:
Amnesty Internatinal Petition : End Detention at Gitmo

More information:

Guantanamo: By the Numbers
Notes From a Guantánamo Survivor

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16 Responses

  1. Carlos

    The usual excuse for not closing the Guantanamo prison is that no country will accept the detainees. I can buy that excuse for the most dangerous detainees, but not for all of them.

    The reason the US military keeps its detainees at Gitmo (or Bagram) is because those places really are in a sort of legal limbo, outside the jurisdiction of American civil and even traditional military courts. Once a prisoner reaches American soil, even for a non-citizen, that annoying Constitution (I’m being sarcastic) starts to get in the way. American law is increasingly hostile to non-citizens, which I find disturbing, particulary as a Hispanic American. It is almost as if non-citizens have absolutely no rights. America is one of the founders of the UN, and a signatory of its Charter on Human Rights, and must be held to its promises to respect the rights of all humans under its control, whether American citizens or not. Hypocrisy should not be tolerated. Muslim Americans, please keep reminding Americans of that.

    The justification for indefinite detention is that enemy combatants must be restrained, and that convicting them of crimes is secondary. There is some reason to that argument. Essentially, Gitmo is a prisoner-of-war camp. As a POW camp, however, it should be governed by the Geneva Conventions. But what if the war is not between nation-states, rather between the nation-state world order and international terrorism? The US government bears some of the blame, but not all of it. International non-governmental terrorism also bears some of the responsibility for this pickle.

    I have been perplexed as to why President Obama did not close Gitmo, when that was one of his campaign promises. My best guess is that some generals warned him, shortly after his election, that some of the detainees, if released, would commit acts of terrorism, and that Obama’s opponent, in the next election, would pound Obama with the accusation that American blood is on his hands. I am sure no American president wants to be accused of letting that happen.

    Gitmo is a problem for American moral leadership in the world. I know the Muslim “world” has only, at most, grudging respect for America, but, in the rest of the world, our moral leadership has traditionally meant something. I think the US government needs to stop making exceptions for “enemy combatants.” The US justice system, whether civil or military, has the ability to protect society from dangerous people, without revealing dangerous secrets. POWs need to be treated in accordance with international law and human rights. America must not flout these international standards. We expect no less when our citizens and residents are captive outside American jurisdiction. Having a legal limbo of indefinite detention is just another way of saying law is being ignored. America is better than that. Gitmo does not have to be closed. What is more important is that the US Constitution be applied to the prisoners at Gitmo, and that international treaties be respected.

    As for allegations of sexual abuse at Gitmo, I would like to see some credible citation for that. I highly doubt there is any systemic sexual abuse. The US military is probably bending over backwards to show that they are treating the Gitmo detainees humanely. I have no doubt that the military uses high pressure tactics during interrogations, but I doubt sexual abuse is part of that. The “torture,” if you call it that, probably consists of things that are non-lethal and non-permanent, but very uncomfortable, such as sleep deprivation.

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    • Waleed Ahmed

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts Carlos. Let’s not trivialize “torture” and seek Allah’s refuge from it. As British judge Collins remarked in relation to Gitmo, “America’s idea of what is torture is not the same as ours and does not appear to coincide with that of most civilised nations”

      As for evidence for sexual abuse, you can read through the testimony of the Tipton Three here http://ccrjustice.org/files/report_tiptonThree.pdf. Like I mentioned, Gitmo’s cases of abuse aren’t as horrific as Abu Ghraib…and I am sure you are familiar with those cases of sexual abuse.

      I agree with your point that it’s probably more effective to give the prisoners constitutional rights rather than just shut down the facility…cuz even if they shut this one down, a new one will pop up some where else.

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  2. Carlos

    Before being too critical of American treatment of detainees in the “War on Terror,” keep in mind what Americans have seen as the al Qaeda notion of the “Muslim way” (that is an actual quote I heard in an al Qaeda message) of treating prisoners of war, which is videotaped beheadings. I can guarantee you there have been no executions at Guantanamo, videotaped or otherwise.

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    • BintKhalil

      I, for one, would gladly prefer being beheaded over being treated the “American way” at Abu Ghraib or being subject to the treatment that Dr. Aafia Siddiqui has been subjected to (used her as an example as she is the only Muslim woman about whose hellish life we are aware of at the hands of the people who are bringing us “freedom”).

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      • Carlos

        I know there have been no executions at Guantanamo because:

        – The press would have found-out by now;
        – Somebody would have leaked it;
        – The government would have had to approve it, and there is no way the government would approve a summary execution;
        – Executing a prisoner would have served no purpose;
        – Execution would have worked against the legitimacy the military is trying to establish for Guantanamo;
        – Individual Americans sometimes, on rare occasion, commit murder, but official American law and policy would never tolerate murder of prisoners without some sort of legal process; etc.

        I am not defending torture. At least one of the things the military has admitted to doing, waterboarding, falls within most people’s definition of torture. I am with John McCain on this one. Torture should never be tolerated by America. It is inhumane, hypocritical and counter-productive. McCain was himself a POW, so he has a unique understanding of the importance of human rights even in wartime. McCain is Republican, and, therefore, at least a little crazy, short-sighted and dangerous, but he has always been spot on when it comes to the torture debate.

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      • Inqiyaad

        Carlos,
        Such a loose statement of ‘I know’, coming from someone who so strongly advocates learning, reasoning and science, did amuse me. To me, your statements are a reflection of uninformed opinions (trying to keep it as mellow as possible, else would have called it ignorance, which is the opposite of ‘knowledge’), assumptions, beliefs, and/or expectations.

        1. The press would have found-out by now. Uninformed opinion.
        Try and read this article below.
        http://harpers.org/archive/2010/01/hbc-90006368

        2. Somebody would have leaked it. Uninformed opinion. See 1 above.

        3. Executing a prisoner would have served no purpose. Belief. Maybe someone was pleased to exploit their new found authority, lack of oversight, and freedom from repercussions. Maybe someone just believed that a mock execution would yield ‘valuable intelligence’. That last one is one heck of a purpose!

        4. Execution would have worked against the legitimacy the military is trying to establish for Guantanamo. Assumption.

        They wouldn’t be worried too much, because no one would ‘know’, read coverup.

        5. Individual Americans sometimes, on rare occasion, commit murder, but official American law and policy would never tolerate murder of prisoners without some sort of legal process; etc. Uninformed opinion, assumption, belief, and expectations.

        What do you think about the administrations tactics as detailed in the article above? Did they tolerate? Which of the following two qualifies as ‘official American policy’, actions or rhetoric?

        I acknowledge that American law did not tolerate such things in the past. Though it is changing fast and the future looks bleak, unless a majority of your co-citizens enact your positive beliefs, and expectations.

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  3. Hannah

    I just hate the message behind Guantanamo. That justice is for some, not all. That type of thinking jeopardizes any justice for anyone.

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  4. Umm Sulaim

    When I saw this post my spirit dimmed. I am aware of the 10th anniversary, but this time the author did not tell us it is only about Americans.

    Thank you for bringing up this topic.

    Umm Sulaim

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  5. Carlos

    Sorry, Inqiyaad. I try to make it a habit not to click on links. If you give me the name of the article, the author, the publication and the date, I will look-up the article you mention myself. Thanks.

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  6. Inqiyaad

    Carlos,
    Thanks for your interest. Here are the details,
    The Guantánamo “Suicides”: A Camp Delta sergeant blows the whistle, Scott Horton, Harper’s Magazine, January 18, 2010.

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  7. Umm Ousama

    The difference between the “beheadings” in Afghanistan and Guantanamo is the people beheaded in Afghanistan (or Iraq) went there when the country was at war. They knew the risk they went into (even if they were journalist or aid workers) and some of them (those working for security firms or other firms) were highly paid for the risk they took. (Many locals are also beheaded and thus it is not a clear case of foreign/citizen difference). As for the people in Guantanamo, most of them, if not all of them, were taken from a country that was NOT at war at the time they went into that country. Many of them, if not the majority or all of them are innocent. There are no American citizen because the American “constitution” doesn’t allow it.

    Another question is: “Is it better to be beheaded or to be tortured and imprisoned for an indefinite time?” To each their own answer. Let’s not forget the psychological damage done by those who stayed in Guantanamo and were freed and the impact on their family too.

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  8. Robbie

    I have minimal views on this article

    ” Where were the views of HUMAN RIGHTS when the terrorists committed atrocious acts against INNOCENT CIVILIANS” ??

    Carlos, you are correct, no one has been executed in Guantanamo Bay!!!

    However, the whole world has seen the BARBARIC BE-HEADINGS of Westerners live on TV.
    Personally, I don’t think even in medieval times in the West, have such grotesque public killings been committed!!!

    You only need worry about Guantanamo Bay if you are planning an act of terrorism and if you are, hope you enjoy it !!!

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