Instalment 3: Guantanamo Bay Prison

Guantanamo Bay is one of the rare cases of high-scale human rights abuses that actually make it into the public eye, and has subsequently become a household name. Whether you know the details or not, most people know that Guantanamo Bay was bad. Therefore I want to keep this post relatively short. My main aim here is just to refresh your memory, arm you with a few more details and bring you up to date on the current state of affairs. 

In January 2002, Guantanamo Bay Prison opened its doors to its very first detainees. The prison was opened in response to the 2001 terrorist attack on the Twin Towers, and was essentially established on the border with Cuba so that prisoners could be detained in a territory unaffected by US or international law. 

In its 17 years of existence, 780 prisoners have been detained at Guantanamo.

In total, 7 have been convicted of a crime. 

Only 1 has been transferred to the US mainland for trial in a civilian court.  

As of May 2018, 40 men remain in custody (although that figure varies slightly depending on your source). 

Sami al-Hajj. A journalist for al Jazeera, Sami al-Hajj was detained as an “enemy combatant” in Guantanamo Bay for 6 and a half years. During this time he was simply known as number 345. In his memoir, Prisoner 345: My 6 years in Guantanamo, he describes how he was stripped bare and thrown into solitary confinement where the air conditioning was turned up to maximum. He describes incidences where soldiers dressed in riot gear would storm cells, without reason, and beat the prisoners mercilessly. He describes how he was told “we will torture you until death, but we won’t let you die. You will live in the space between life and death.”

Other known methods of torture at Guantanamo include waterboarding, forced disappearances, and mock executions in which prisoners were forced to endure the sense of drowning.

It is these accounts that have left Guantanamo Bay as a symbol of systematic human rights abuses. 

Despite widespread public knowledge of the abuse at Guantanamo Bay Prison, no one has formally been held to account, and the prison remains open today. 

One thing that makes the abuse even more disturbing (as if torturing men into thinking they’re about to die isn’t disturbing enough on its own) is that the US claim this is for the greater good of society, to rid society of terrorists. If this is the case then why use torture, when research has shown us for centuries that torture is an exceptionally ineffective way of obtaining accurate data. It just doesn’t add up. 

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