The detention facility at Guantanamo Bay has always been subject to several allegations and controversies. Here are some horrifying facts that everyone should know about one of the most notorious prisons in the world.
Out of the 166 detainees officially imprisoned at Guantanamo Bay currently, about 80 were cleared for release in 2009. However, they still remain behind bars.
Guantanamo Bay is situated at the southeastern end of the Cuban province of Guantanamo. In 1903, following the signing of the Cuban-American treaty, the southern portion of the bay came under the control of the United States. Since 1941, it has been an official naval base of the United States. In January 2002, a detention and interrogation center was established at Guantanamo Bay. It is operated by the Joint Task Force Guantanamo (JTF-GTMO), which is in turn was controlled by the United States government. The Guantanamo Bay detention camp, a.k.a. Gitmo, has always been a subject of huge debates, worldwide.
Post 9/11, the facility has come even more into the public eye, with the United States government claiming the center as an important milestone in the Global War on Terror. However, the presence of the center itself and whatever goes on beyond its closed compounds, have been stirring up great controversies in the global media, and there have been claims of some extreme violations of human rights within its premises. This article takes a look at some of the most shocking and horrifying facts about the Guantanamo Bay detention facility, which each and every one of us should know.
Some Horrifying Facts
The American presence in Guantanamo Bay has been interpreted in different ways by the various countries of the world. However, Cuba, where the Bay lies, deems the American presence there as illegal, and claims that Cuba was forcefully made to sign the Cuban-American treaty in violation of international law.
➦ Ever since its inception in January 2002, hundreds of people have been detained at Guantanamo Bay. What is startling is the fact that many of them were detained without trial or even without adhering to proper legal procedures. The prison houses a large number of suspected (and real) terrorists of different nationalities, some of them serving indefinite detention.
➦ Of all the facilities at the Guantanamo Bay detention camp, such as Camp Delta, Camp X-Ray, and Camp Iguana, which are known to the media, there are also numerous other facilities, the information about which has been kept secret.
➦ In 2008, the Associated Press reported about a separate facility at Guantanamo Bay called Camp 7 a.k.a Camp No. The report said that it is the highest security prison on the naval base and that the information about its location, its inmates or its operations is highly classified. Some believe that the camp is located beyond the boundaries of the naval base.
➦ This Camp No is a black site at Guantanamo Bay. In military terms, black site is a secret prison and interrogation facility, the existence of which is known only to a select few. There are claims of alleged use of extreme techniques of interrogation and torture at Camp No. Even the legal status of the prisoners kept there, does not seem to be clearly defined.
➦ Since this report, there have been some very strong homicide accusations against Camp No. In 2010, a New York based human rights attorney Scott Horton interviewed some former camp guards, an Army Staff Sergeant, and three other men who served under him, about the alleged suicides of three detainees in June 2006. According to Horton’s article in the Harper’s Magazine, the three inmates had likely died during an interrogation at Camp No.
➦ In April 2011, The Telegraph reported, with the aid of information from the Wikileaks website, that very strong cases were built on, as many as 255 inmates, on the basis of statements given to the officials at Guantanamo Bay by only eight detainees. It further said that despite the ambiguity with respect to the veracity of the testimonies given by the eight prisoners, the interrogators did not deem it necessary to cross check the evidence.
➦ According to the Wikileaks website, Guantanamo Bay is the most notorious prison in the world. It is very difficult, and most of the time, impossible to gauge what goes on behind the high security walls or how the detainees are treated.
➦ There are ongoing debates and controversies regarding the treatment of the detainees at the Guantanamo Bay prison. While most claims have been dismissed as untrue by the U.S. government, some of them have been recorded as first-hand experiences of released/transferred prisoners.
➦ There have been several allegations with regards to the alleged techniques of torture, which are employed in the course of ‘enhanced interrogation’.
➦ In 2004, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), in their confidential report, later leaked to The New York Times, accused the U.S. military of using some extreme torture techniques such as use of forced positions, waterboarding, hooding, making the detainees perform humiliating acts, solitary confinement, beating, exposure to extreme temperatures, etc., in order to extract ‘vital’ information from them.
➦ On 14th March 2004, the BBC News reported about three British citizens, released after two years of imprisonment at the Guantanamo Bay detention camp. There were no proven charges on them, and they were arrested from Afghanistan as terror suspects. Known to the media as the Tripton Three, they told BBC News that they had to undergo ongoing torture in the form of sexual abuse, forced drugging, religious persecution, and sleeplessness. One of them also said that he was repeatedly beaten and tortured with barbed wire, broken glass, and burning cigarettes.
➦ In May 2005, the Washington Post reported of the religious abuse of the prisoners that was taking place at Guantanamo Bay. It said that some detainees released from the camp alleged the officials of defacing the Qur’an and flushing it down the toilet, and withholding it as a punishment. However, the U.S. government said that such was not the case and that each and every faith was equally respected.
➦ In support of the treatment given to the detainees at Guantanamo Bay, Dick Cheney, the Vice President of the United States under President George W. Bush told the CNN interviewer Wolf Blitzer in 2005,
“There isn’t any other nation in the world that would treat people who were determined to kill Americans the way we’re treating these people. They’re living in the tropics. They’re well fed. They’ve got everything they could possibly want.”
➦ In the fall of 2005, a number of detainees went on an indefinite hunger strike. Notably, in order to avoid deaths due to starvation, the detainees were, in the presence of U.S. physicians, force-fed with large feeding tubes, forcibly put through their noses into their stomachs. Allegedly, no sedatives were given to the detainees before force feeding, and the tubes were not removed for several hours. The human rights agencies said that irrespective of the motive behind force feeding, it still amounts to torture.
➦ In 2013, owing to indefinite detention and/or extended imprisonment without any trial, the detainees at the Guantanamo Bay have declared an indefinite hunger strike. The June 6, 2013 report in The Washington Post says that out of the 103 detainees who are on hunger strike currently, 41 are being force-fed.
When Barack Obama assumed power as the President of the United States, he signed an order to shut down the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay on 22nd January 2009. However, this request from the White House faced unexpected challenges as some senators, judges, and citizens did not want the camp to be closed forever. On 15th December 2009, Obama signed a presidential memorandum, ordering the formal closure of the center and to transfer the prisoners to the Thomson Correctional Center, Thomson, Illinois. However, this also faced a strong opposition from the senate. More recently, on 7th January 2011, Obama gave the green light to the 2011 Defense Authorization Bill, thus making the transfer of the Guantanamo prisoners, a conditional affair. However, owing to the indefinite hunger strike in 2013, Obama has promised to redouble his efforts to shut down the Guantanamo Bay detention camp forever, the reports say.