Guantanamo Bay: 13 Years too Long
“A now-21-year-old Chadian who has been in Guantanamo since the age of 15, (he was wrongly classified as an adult when he was captured) who has reportedly been subjected to racial harassment, and who has attempted to commit suicide at least seven times.”
“A young Palestinian who has reportedly grown increasingly lethargic, listless, distracted, and incoherent after being transferred to a high-security unit over a year ago; he continues to be housed in this unit, even after having been cleared to leave Guantanamo in February 2008.”
“A 33-year-old Palestinian cleared to leave Guantanamo over two years ago who suffers from a worsening skin disease and appears to be slipping further into a state of depression.”
These are all inmates at Guantanamo Bay that have been cleared to leave but are still being housed in a maximum security facility at the detention camp. Only 90 miles from the tip of Florida (the distance from Cleveland to Detroit), the United States military commits gross human rights abuses on a daily basis. The Guantanamo Bay detention facility in Cuba has, since its opening, been said to house prisoners who would do the United States harm, including terrorists in connection with the 9/11 bombings and other Al-Qaeda attacks. In its over ten-year history, Guantanamo Bay has earned itself one of the worst reputations among American military prisons, second only to the Abu Gharib debacle, where photos surfaced in the media of military personnel obviously abusing detainees while acting under orders.
Over 700 people have passed through Guantanamo Bay’s gates, and there have been numerous questions raised on the treatment of those people (who are now prisoners), as well as their guilt in the crimes they may (or may not) have been charged with. And with only seven trials to date, there are even more questions raised as to why many inmates are even there.
Of the over 700 people, 86% of them were not captured by U.S. forces, but were turned over by Pakistani or the Northern Alliance personnel at a time when the United States was offering large bounties for “suspected” enemies, according to a report from Prof. Mark Denbeaux of the Seton Hall University of Law. One of the military’s worst-kept secrets, the treatment of prisoners at Guantanamo Bay, has incited human rights groups such as Amnesty International. Because the prisoners are not protected by the United States Constitution (they are not on U.S. soil) or the Geneva Convention (they are “rebels” not aligned with a country), their treatment is not strictly monitored and what is the standard operating procedure for the military has left not only physical but permanent mental scars on the detainees.
In August 2002, the Assistant Attorney General for the Bush administration rewrote the legal definition of torture in relation to coercion, which is what he claimed the practices at Guantanamo to be: “coercion was only torture if it caused pain so severe that death, organ failure or permanent damage resulting in a loss of significant body function will likely result.”
Under this reclassification of torture and the lack of legal protection, the prisoners at Guantanamo face various forms of maltreatment that, according to numerous human rights groups are forms of torture, no matter the new United States definition of the word.
The questionable tactics to gain information include up to years in solitary confinement, noise generators and florescent lights on 24/7, being chained and force-fed during hunger strikes, personal and religious humiliation, and sexual abuse. Prisoners are denied restroom and shower facilities as well as basic medical treatment for diseases (such as the man with the skin disease mentioned in the beginning) and injuries are sustained during questioning.
Specifically, the solitary confinement of prisoners is being cited as one of the main reasons for deteriorating mental health among inmates, though it can be assumed that other interrogation tactics, including sleep deprivation and humiliation, are also detrimental to detainees’ health. Prolonged isolation has been known to cause depression, schizophrenia, suicide attempts, and other forms of psychosis, all of which is being displayed by numerous inmates still in custody.
“Detainees at Guantanamo spend 22 hours a day alone in small cells with little or no natural light or fresh air. They are allowed out only two hours a day (often at night) to exercise in small outdoor pens, except for the occasional visit by an attorney or a representative of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC),” according to a report from June 2008 by Human Rights Watch.
The detainees cannot be evaluated by outside psychiatrists, so they are administered a questionnaire by their attorney to attempt to diagnose their competence to stand trial. While detainees can be put on a suicide watch, the conditions there are usually worse than what they started with, being given no blanket, no books, and nothing to wear put a plastic-like sheet. There are 23 documented suicide attempts to date, though it is suspected that the number is wildly inaccurate, and that over 100 attempts have occurred.
It has been over five years since President Obama issued executive order 13492, promising to close Guantanamo Bay within the first year of his presidency. Since issuing that order, the prison camp has been allowed to stay open because a replacement facility has not been found. Congress has blocked all attempts to purchase space within the U.S. to house the remaining inmates, and in 2013 the State Department closed the office that was in charge of closing the prison, according to an article by Marina Koren for the National Journal. This effectively halted Pres. Obama’s attempts to close the detention facility and relocate the remaining inmates, including those cleared for release.
In light of the overall treatment of inmates, the questionable methods behind their capture, and lack of trials, the closure of Guantanamo Bay is something that needs to happen sooner rather than later.
(23 statistic from dailymail.co.uk, 100 statistic from guantanamovoices.com)