11 January marks the 16th anniversary of the controversial prison Guantanamo Bay in Cuba, a place where the US government has held 779 men suspected of fighting with Al-Qaeda without trial.
The notorious detention center now holds 41 men, 31 of whom have endured more than a decade of imprisonment without charge. Five have been recommended for release by a high-level government review process.
“It’s shameful that 16 years after the opening of Guantanamo, we are still holding people without charge or trial on the basis of faulty ‘intelligence’ extracted through torture. Guantanamo is a violation of America’s strongest-held principles concerning the rule of law,” Shelby Sullivan-Bennis, attorney for the human rights NGO Reprieve, said.
If our current President really wants to make America great again, he should make 2018 the year that we close this legal black hole. It is the responsibility of the courts and Congress to hold him to account in doing so
Reprieve says its client Khalid Qasim, who has been held in prison for 15 years without charge or trial, has been refused medical treatment.
Torture methods used:
Cramped confinement: Detainee held in a box for up to 18 hours, sometimes with a ‘harmless’ insect
Groin searches: Physical ‘sexual harassment search’
Nudity: Detainees forced to stand for prolonged periods while nude
Sleep Deprivation: Detainees kept awake for up to 180 hours, often standing or in a stress position
Walling: Interrogators slam detainees against a wall
Waterboarding: The detainee is strapped to a board or bench and water is poured over their face to simulate drowning
Opened under the authority of former President George W. Bush in 2002 after the horrific 9/11 attacks in New York, Guantanamo – or Gitmo as it has also become known – has been engulfed in stories of human rights abuses with far reaching calls for it to be closed down and detainees to receive fair trials and access to the legal system.
Former President Barrack Obama promised to close the prison facility, however failed to follow through with his campaign pledge. Some 196 prisoners were released by Obama; however none were freed after January 2011. Current US President Donald Trump has vowed to “fill it up… We’re not closing Gitmo.”
At least 17 British citizens and residents were held in Guantanamo Bay and released over the years. The last British prisoner to leave was Shaker Aamer in 2015, having been held without charge for 13 years. In an interview with the BBC, he said the best thing about being free was “just to wake up and known that nobody’s going to tell you what to do”.
The remaining prisoners include three men who are cleared for release back in 2009 by Obama’s review task force.
Of the 41 detainees remaining, 11 prisoners are from Yemen, eight from Saudi Arabia, four from Pakistan, including nationals from Palestine, Libya, Iraq, Somalia, Morocco, Algeria, Malaysia, Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates.
In a statement to mark the 16th anniversary, Amnesty International said: “The laws of war never envisioned the sort of endless conflict the US government is waging. The Guantanamo detainees must either be charged and transferred to the United States for fair trials, or sent home or to another country where they’ll be safe.”