Guantánamo, 20 years of controversy and no closing date



The Guantánamo prison has been open for 20 years, despite being a controversial symbol of the United States’ fight against terrorism, which currently houses 39 inmates and whose closure is not yet in sight despite the promises of the president, Joe Biden.

Located at a US naval base in eastern Cuba, The Bay Detention Center Guantánamo opened in 2002 by order of the then president of the United States, George W. Bush (2001-2009) in response to the attacks of September 11, 2001.

“Twenty years later, it is undeniable that the Guantanamo Bay prison is a legal, moral and ethical failure. It is a global symbol of injustice, torture and disregard for the rule of law, ”said Hina Shamsi, director of Homeland Security for the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU).

The destination of nearly 800 suspected terrorists detained in Afghanistan and Iraq, Guantanamo has been in the eye of the storm for secret detention and torture programs, which included simulated drowning and techniques to keep prisoners from sleeping.

Security. International activists point to Guantanamo as a place where human rights are violated. Reuters

The United States spends $ 540 million each year to maintain Guantánamo, where there are currently 39 men interned, 27 of them without criminal charges against them, according to a report published by the NGO Human Rights Watch (HRW) on the occasion of the 20th anniversary of the prison.

For HRW, the use of these practices by the United States has damaged the entire international human rights system, facilitating abuses by other countries and making their justification easier.

A closure that goes on forever

The controversy that Guantánamo generated was such that its closure became one of the great promises of former President Barack Obama (2009-2017), although he could never fulfill his commitment.

Obama wanted to send the prisoners to jails in the United States, but the Congress, with a Republican majority, blocked his efforts under various pretexts, so the government transferred them to other countries.

With the arrival of Donald Trump (2017-2021) to power, the White House abandoned its efforts to close the prison and only transferred a single inmate in four years.

Strength. Main gate of the Joint Detention Group “Camp Six” detention center at the United States Naval Station at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. AFP

According to a book published by The Washington Post journalists Yasmeen Abutaleb and Damian Paletta, Trump even suggested twice to his team that COVID-19 patients be transferred to Guantanamo at the beginning of the pandemic.

The current president, Joe Biden, has taken up the promise of closing the jail, but with a much more discreet profile than that of Obama at the time, which has been criticized by civil society organizations.

Last year, White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki assured that “the objective and intention” of the current Administration is to close the prison, although it is not an issue that has been on Biden’s agenda during his first year of Presidency.

For now, The Government has authorized the transfer of three prisoners out of the naval base of Guantánamo, where are 39, far from the 780 that came to pass through its facilities during the Bush Administration.

Last summer, the United States repatriated Abdul Latif Nasir, the last Moroccan prisoner from Guantánamo and the first inmate returned to his country by the Biden government, but since then there has been no further progress.

Biden government plans to close controversial headquarters

The Pentagon spokesman, John Kirby, was asked by journalists at a press conference if the Executive has adopted any concrete measures to close Guantánamo and replied that the Biden Administration “continues to focus on closing the detention facility.”

“Nothing has changed in that regard, we are in the middle of a review now on how to proceed,” said Kirby, who noted that currently the Board of Review of the cases of inmates in prison continues its work to relocate the inmates outside from the center.

The Director of Homeland Security for ACLU told Efe that “we must force Biden to fulfill his promise “, because “your Administration can do it and it is a matter of will.”

“If President Biden is serious about defending human rights, racial equity and justice, he must take action and close Guantanamo for good,” said Shamsi.

They demand. Protesters from the organization Witness Against Torture call for the closure of the Guantánamo prison, in Lafayette Square, in front of the White House in Washington. EFE

Amnesty International (AI) denounced in a statement, published last week, that “the United States Government continues to perpetrate serious human rights violations in Guantánamo”, given that “none of the prisoners have received a fair trial and they continue to be detained. indefinitely violating due process ”.

The NGO, which every January 11 organized a rally with people dressed in orange jumpsuits in front of the White House, will hold a virtual protest due to the advance of the variable Omicron of coronavirus in United States.

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