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16 years on, Guantanamo Bay remains a blight on the US

Guantanamo Bay detention camp [Joint Task Force Guantanam/Flickr]

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 centre 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

Sullivan-Bennis continued.

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.

Read: UN slams Egypt for executions

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.”

To continue to imprison these men, many of whom the US also tortured, is unconscionable.

Still incarcerated:

Uthman Abdul Rahim Mohammed Uthman (Yemen): Recommended for continued detention and possible transfer to detention in the US

Muaz Al Alawi (Yemen): Recommended for continued detention

Ridah Bin Saleh al Yazidi (Tunisia): Cleared for release in January 2010

Mohammed Al Qahtani (Saudi Arabia): Forever prisoner who has been subjected to cruel ‘enhanced interrogation techniques’

Khalid Ahmad Qasim (Yemen): Recommended for continued detention

Abdul Latif Nasir (Morocco): Cleared for release on 11 July 2016

Muieen Adeen Al Sattar (UAE): Cleared for release in January 2010

Suhayl Al Sharabi (Yemen): A forever prisoner who has not been charged

Ghassan Al Sharbi (Saudi Arabia): A forever prisoner after being classed ‘too dangerous for release’

Abdul Razak Ali (Algeria): He’s never been charged with a crime however is being held indefinitely

Sufiyan Barhoumi (Algeria): Approved for release on 9 August 2016

Ismael Ali Faraj Al Bakush, (Libya): Forever prisoner

Ahmed Muhammed Haza Al Darbi (Saudi Arabia): Pleaded guilty to terror charges on 20 February 2014 he is due to be transferred to a Saudi prison this year

Said Salih Said Nashir (Yemen): Forever prisoner

Tawfiq Al Bihani (Saudi Arabia): Cleared for release in January 2010

Omar Al Rammah (Yemen): Forever prisoner

Saifullah Paracha (Pakistan): A forever prisoner who has never been charged

Sanad Al Kazimi (Yemen): A forever prisoner who has never been charged

Hassan Bin Attash (Saudi Arabia): A forever prisoner who has never been charged

Abdu Ali Sharqawi (Yemen): A forever prisoner who has never been charged

Abdul Rahim Ghulam Rabbani (Pakistan): A forever prisoner who has never been charged

Mohammed Ghulam Rabbani (Pakistan): A forever prisoner who has never been charged

Abdulsalam Al Hela (Yemen): A forever prisoner

Mustafa Al Hawsawi (Saudi Arabia): One of 10 detainees who has been charged

Ramzi Bin Al Shibh (Yemen): Charged and pre-trial hearings are underway

Waleed Bin Attash (Saudi Arabia): He was charged and pre-trial hearings are underway

Abd Al Rahim Al Nashiri (Saudi Arabia): He was charged and pre-trial hearings are underway

Zayn Al Abdeen Mohammed Al Hussein (Palestine-Saudi Arabia): A forever prisoner who has not been charged

Faraj Al Libi (Libya): A forever prisoner who has not been charged

Ammar Al Baluchi (Pakistan-Kuwait): One of 10 detainees who has been charged

Riduan Isamuddin (Indonesia): A forever prisoner who has not been charged

Majid Khan (Pakistan): Accepted a plea deal on 29 February 2012

Modh Farik Bin Amin (Malaysia): Forever prisoner who is being held in a secret prison and is considered a candidate for a war crimes trial

Mohammed Bin Lep (Malaysia): Forever prisoner who is being held in a secret prison and is considered a candidate for a war crimes trial

Gouled Hassan Dourad (Somalia): Forever prisoner who is being held in a secret prison and has never been charged with a crime

Khalid Sheikh Mohammed (Pakistan-Kuwait): He was charged and pre-trial hearings are underway

Mohammed Abdul Malik (Kenya): Forever prisoner

Abd Al Hadi Al Iraqi (Iraq): Being held in a secret prison and has been charged

Haroon Al Afghani (Afghanistan): Forever prisoner who has never been charged

Muhammad Rahim (Afghanistan): A forever prisoner who is being held in a secret prison

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.

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