Photo: Thetimes
Guantánamo Bay: History, Costs, Prisoners and Shutdown. Photo: Thetimes

What is Guantánamo Bay detention camp?

Guantánamo Bay detention camp, also called Gitmo, U.S. detention facility on the Guantánamo Bay Naval Base, located on the coast of Guantánamo Bay in southeastern Cuba. Constructed in stages starting in 2002, the Guantánamo Bay detention camp (often called Gitmo, which is also a name for the naval base) was used to house Muslim militants and suspected terrorists captured by U.S. forces in Afghanistan, Iraq, and elsewhere (see also Iraq War).

The facility became the focus of worldwide controversy over alleged violations of the legal rights of detainees under the Geneva Conventions and accusations of torture or abusive treatment of detainees by U.S. authorities.

History of Guantánamo Bay detention camp

Photo: Britanica
Photo: Britanica

Guantánamo Bay is an area in the southeast of Cuba that resides under United States and Cuban control. The U.S. was allowed to create up to four naval bases on the island of Cuba, but only ever built one; Guantánamo Bay. The Platt Amendment was repealed in 1934, which is why Cuba currently considers the U.S. occupation of Guantánamo Bay as illegal. The Guantánamo Bay Naval Base was constructed in 1898, however Guantánamo Bay only began to receive its reputation of human rights abuses in 2002, when the Guantánamo Bay detention camp was reopened.

The presence of the Guantánamo Bay detention center was established in 2002 when George Bush reopened it as part of his War on Terror initiative. It was reopened after the United States suffered from the terrorist attack on September 11, 2001 as a response to increase international anti-terrorist initiatives. According to the American Civil Liberties Union, Guantánamo Bay was, “Originally intended to be an ‘island outside the law’ where terrorism suspects could be detained without process and be interrogated without restraint, the prison and military commissions at Guantánamo Bay are catastrophic failures” (ACLU 2020).

The establishment of the detention camp in Guantánamo Bay was supposed to serve as a special camp for the most dangerous criminals, especially those who had committed war crimes. However, it has come under international condemnation due to the human rights violations that have occurred, including the indefinite detention of prisoners without trial. According to the ACLU, 800 people have spent time in the detention camp at Guantánamo Bay. Throughout the existence of the detention camp, there have been several cases of suicide and hunger strikes among the population is common. At one point, 103 detainees were on a hunger strike, with 41 of those being forced fed (CNN Library 2019), Panoramas reported.

Costs of Guantánamo Bay detention camp

The prison at Guantanamo costs approximately $445 million per year to run. With the current population, continuing its use costs more than $10 million per detainee per year–much more than comparable federal or military prisons, which cost about $78,000 per prisoner annually.

Even with the costs of building new facilities or modifying existing facilities, housing detainees in the United States would save around $85 million per year. Guantanamo has been called “the most expensive prison on earth,” and due to deteriorating infrastructure, costs will likely rise if the prison remains open, Humanrightsfirst noted.

Guantánamo Bay: A place of Injustice

Photo: The Mirror
Photo: The Mirror
779 men have been taken to the facility since then. Of these, only seven have been convicted, including five as a result of pre-trial agreements under which they pleaded guilty in return for the possibility of release from the base. These men faced trial by 'military commission'. The proceedings did not meet fair trial standards.

Only one Guantánamo detainee has been transferred to the US mainland for trial in a civilian court. There are currently 107 detainees held in the US detention center in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba. Of them, 47 have been cleared for transfer, yet still remain behind bars, Amnesty said.

Biden Administration Aims To Shutdown Guantanamo Bay Prison

Photo: Nypost
Photo: Nypost
The White House announced Friday that President Biden hopes to shut down the prison at the Naval Station Guantanamo Bay in Cuba, a tall task that the Obama administration failed to do nearly a decade ago. But the closure of the detention facility will take time, National Security Council spokeswoman Emily Horne told NPR.

"We are undertaking an NSC process to assess the current state of play that the Biden administration has inherited from the previous administration, in line with our broader goal of closing Guantanamo," she said. "There will be a robust interagency process to move forward on this, but we need to have the right people seated to do this important work."

Horne said the NSC will work with the Departments of Defense, State and Justice to close the prison. Former President Barack Obama said the detention center went against American values and was a "stain on our broader record" when he argued for the prison's closure in 2016, NPR reported.

Later that same year, then-President-elect Donald Trump vowed to keep the installation open. "We're gonna load it up with some bad dudes, believe me," Trump said in 2016, NPR noted.

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