Guantanamo Bay

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Map of Cuba with location of Guantanamo Bay indicated.
Map of Cuba with location of Guantanamo Bay indicated.

Guantanamo Bay is located in Guantánamo Province at the south-eastern end of Cuba (19°54′ N 75°9′ W). A United States Naval base at Guantanamo Bay hosts a detainment camp for prisoners of war collected from both Afghanistan and Iraq.



Aerial view of Guantanamo Bay
Aerial view of Guantanamo Bay
Satellite view of Guantanamo Bay
Satellite view of Guantanamo Bay

See also timeline of Guantanamo Bay

The bay was originally named Guantanamo by the Taino and renamed Cumberland when the English took it in the first part of the 18th century during the War of Jenkins' Ear. In 1790 the English garrison at Cumberland died of fever as had a previous English force [1], before they could attack Santiago by land [2].

During the Spanish American War the US fleet attacking Santiago needed shelter from the summer hurricane season. Thus Guantanamo with its excellent harbor was chosen for this purpose. The Marines landed successfully with naval support, however, as they went inland Spanish resistance increased to the point at which (as the Cubans tell it) Cuban scouts were needed to save the leathernecks.

U.S. Naval Station Guantanamo Bay, which covers 116 km² (approx. 45 mi²), is sometimes abbreviated as GTMO or "Gitmo". It was established in 1898, when the United States obtained control of Cuba from Spain at the end of the Spanish-American War, following the 1898 invasion of Guantanamo Bay. The U.S. government obtained a perpetual lease that began on February 23, 1903, from Tomás Estrada Palma, an American citizen, who became the first President of Cuba. The newly formed American protectorate incorporated the Platt Amendment in the Cuban Constitution. The Cuban-American Treaty held, among other things, that the United States, for the purposes of operating coaling and naval stations, has "complete jurisdiction and control" of the Guantanamo Bay, while the Republic of Cuba is recognized to retain ultimate sovereignty.

In 1905, in part because of the Platt Amendment, there was an uprising to which the United States responded by occupying Cuba for three years. A 1934 treaty reaffirming the lease granted Cuba and her trading partners free access through the bay, modified the lease payment from $2,000 in U.S. gold coins per year, to the 1934 equivalent value of $4,085 in U.S. Treasury Dollars , and added a requirement that termination of the lease requires the consent of both governments, or the abandonment of the base property by the United States.

With over 9,500 U.S. troops, [3] Guantanamo Bay is the only U.S. base in operation on Communist soil, as of 2005.

Since coming to power, Fidel Castro has only cashed one rent cheque, while steadfastly refusing to cash any others, because he views the lease as illegitimate. Although diplomatic relations do not exist between the two countries, the United States has agreed to return fugitives from Cuban law to Cuban authorities, and Cuba agreed to return fugitives from U.S. law, for offenses committed in Guantanamo Bay, to U.S. authorities.

The U.S. control of this Cuban territory has never been popular with the Cuban government or the Cuban people. The Cuban government strongly denounces the treaty on grounds that article 52 of the 1969 Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties declares a treaty void if its conclusion has been procured by the threat or use of force — in this case by the inclusion, in 1903, of the Platt Amendment in the Cuban Constitution. The United States warned the Cuban Constitutional Convention not to modify the Amendment, and was told U.S. troops would not leave Cuba until its terms had been adopted as a condition for the U.S. to grant independence, making the Geneva Conventions applicable to the 1903/1934 treaty upheld by that Amendment.

The United States holds that by cashing the first check received in accordance with said treaty, Castro's government effectively ratified the lease, and cannot unilaterally change its mind after the fact on account of political tensions or ideological differences. It further argues that all claims regarding an original violation of sovereignty under the Platt Amendment, and questions of an illegal military occupation, became moot once the new and independent revolutionary government freely reaffirmed the base's legitimacy.

The Cuban government cut off water to the base, causing the United States to first import water from Jamaica and then to build desalination plants. Today, the base is self-sufficient, producing its own water and electricity. Only two Cubans, both elderly, still cross the base's North East Gate daily to work on the base; the Cuban government prohibits new recruitment. Now only rarely do Cubans escape here, going by water around the mine fields, to reach the base.

Detention of prisoners

Detainees upon arrival at Camp X-Ray, January 2002
Detainees upon arrival at Camp X-Ray, January 2002

The use of Guantanamo Bay as a military prison has sparked protests from around the globe, particularly from human rights organizations concerned about reports of the torture and abuse of detainees. Critics of U.S. detainment policies also question the propriety of using an offshore prison, and the unclear legal status it causes for its detainees (neither prisoners of war, nor tried as common criminals). It is unclear whether the detainees are protected by the constitutionally guaranteed civil rights which would be invoked if they were detained in the United States.

On June 16, 2005, the U.S. Department of Defense announced a unit of defense contractor Halliburton will build a new $30 million detention facility and security perimeter around the base.

In the last quarter of the 20th century, prior to the decision by President George W. Bush to lead the United States into the War on Terror, the base was used to house Cuban and Haitian refugees intercepted on the high seas. Beginning in 2002, however, a small portion of the base was used to imprison suspected al-Qaeda and Taliban prisoners captured in Afghanistan and elsewhere at Camp X-Ray, Camp Delta and Camp Echo. As of June 2005, the United States was holding about 520 foreign terrorism suspects at the facility, some of whom were captured in Afghanistan. On September 22, 2004 ten prisoners were brought from Afghanistan.

Detention Camps

A Camp Delta recreation and exercise area at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. The detention block is shown with sunshades drawn on December 3, 2002.
A Camp Delta recreation and exercise area at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. The detention block is shown with sunshades drawn on December 3, 2002.

Camp Delta and Camp X-Ray are prisons at Guantanamo Bay. As of July 22, 2005 there are "about 510 prisoners at Guantánamo." [4]

Camp Delta

Camp Delta (composed of detention camps: 1,2,3,4,5,6, and Camp Echo) is located in the U.S. naval base that stands on Guantánamo Bay in Cuba. It is a permanent 612-unit detention center. Construction of the camp began on February 27, 2002 with workers from Kellog, Brown and Root, a subsidiary of Halliburton, Navy Seabees, and Marine Engineers. It finished approximately in the middle of April 2002. The U.S. army military police make up the security force present at Camp Delta.

Camp 3 is the maximum security camp; when a prisoner first arrives, he is sent here. When a detainee shows co-operation with the staff, he is moved to Camp 2. With more co-operation, the prisoner is moved to Camp 1. Finally, when a prisoner shows no security risk and is actively co-operating with the interrogation process, he is moved to Camp 4.

Camp Echo is a detention center where pre-commissions are held. The detainees here have access to lawyers and hold private conversations with them. Camp Iguana is a low-security detention center for juvenile detainees aged thirteen to fifteen.

Camp X-Ray

Camp X-Ray, shown here under construction, was a temporary holding facility for detainees held at U.S. Naval Base Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
Camp X-Ray, shown here under construction, was a temporary holding facility for detainees held at U.S. Naval Base Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

Camp X-Ray was a temporary detention facility located at the Joint Task Force Guantanamo on the U.S. Naval Base in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. It was named Camp X-Ray because various temporary camps in the station were named sequentially from the beginning and then from the end of the NATO phonetic alphabet. The legal status of detainees at the camp has been a significant souce of controversy, ultimately reaching the United States Supreme Court.

Detainees upon arrival at Camp X-Ray, January 2002
Detainees upon arrival at Camp X-Ray, January 2002

As of April 29, 2002, the official Camp X-Ray was closed and all prisoners were transferred to Camp Delta. However, the term "Camp X-Ray" has come to be used as a synonym for the entire facility where prisoners from the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan are detained.

Care of the detainees at Camp X-Ray was handled by Joint Task Force 160 (JTF-160), while interrogations were conducted by Joint Task Force 170 (JTF-170).

JTF-160 was under the command of Marine Brigadier General Michael Lehnert until March 2002, when he was replaced by Brigadier General Rick Baccus. In November 2002, Baccus was replaced as commander by Major General Geoffrey Miller. He was in turn replaced by Brigadier General Jay Hood in March 2004 while Miller was sent to deal with the Abu Ghraib prisoner abuse in Iraq. U.S. Army Lieutenant Colonel Bill Cline serves as the commander for security forces. Since Camp X-Ray's closure and the subsequent opening of Camp Delta, JTF-160 and 170 have been combined into Joint Task Force Guantanamo (JTF-GTMO).

The U.S. government has classified the detainees in Camp X-Ray as "illegal combatants," rather than prisoners of war (POWs), which they claim means that they do not have to be conferred the rights granted to POWs under the Geneva Conventions (at least under that convention). The U.S. government justifies this designation by claiming that they do not have the status of either regular soldiers nor that of guerrillas, and they are not part of a regular army or militia. In July of 2003, about 680 alleged Taliban members and suspected Al-Qaeda terrorists from 42 different countries were housed there. None have been allowed to meet with attorneys.

The human rights organization Human Rights Watch has criticized the Bush administration over this designation in its 2003 world report, stating: "Washington has ignored human rights standards in its own treatment of terrorist suspects. It has refused to apply the Geneva Conventions to prisoners of war from Afghanistan, and has misused the designation of "illegal combatant" to apply to criminal suspects on U.S. soil."

On April 23, 2003, the U.S. military reported that "a handful" of the Afghan war prisoners held at Camp X-Ray had been identified as juveniles and were separated from the adult prisoners.

On July 23, 2003, U.S. Major General Geoffrey Miller said that three-quarters of the roughly 660 detainees had confessed to some involvement in terrorism. Many have informed about friends and colleagues. According to Miller, the confessions were acquired through rewards that included extended recreation time, extra food rations to keep in their cells, or a move to the prison's medium-security facility. However, some have questioned the value of the confessions, given the conditions under which they were obtained. The general's statement, if it is true, also means that a quarter of the detainees have not been proven to be terrorists or involved in terrorism.

As of August 2003, at least 29 inmates of Camp X-Ray had attempted suicide in protest. The U.S. officials would not say why they had not previously reported the incident [5]. After this event the Pentagon reclassified suicides as "manipulative self-injurious behaviors" because it is alleged by camp physicians that detainees do not genuinely wish to end their lives. The prisoners supposedly feel that they may be able to get better treatment or release with suicide attempts. Daryl Matthews, a professor of forensic psychiatry at the University of Hawaii, who examined the prisoners stated that given the cultural differences between interogators and prisons such a classification was difficult if not impossible. Depression is common in Guantanamo with 1/5 of all prisoners taking antidepressants such as prozac.[6]

In late January 2004, U.S. officials released three children aged 13 to 15 and returned them to Afghanistan. In March 2004, twenty-three adult prisoners were released to Afghanistan, five were released to the United Kingdom (the final four British detainees were released in January 2005), and three were sent to Pakistan.

On August 4, 2004, the three ex-detainees who were returned to the U.K. (who were freed by the British authorities within 24 hours of their return home), filed a report in the U.S. claiming persistent severe abuse at the Camp, of themselves and others. (See The Guardian newspaper article.) They claimed that false confessions were extracted from them under duress, in conditions which amounted to torture. They alleged that conditions deteriorated when Major General Geoffrey Miller took charge of the camp, including increased periods of solitary confinement for the detainees. They claimed that the abuse took place with the knowledge of the intelligence forces. Their claims are currently being investigated by the British Government.

There are five British residents remaining: Bisher Amin Khalil Al-Rawi, Jamil al Banna, Shaker Abdur-Raheem Aamer, Jamal Abdullah and Omar Deghayes. All these men have close family members who are British citizens and have themselves lived in the UK for many years: Moazzam Begg Speaks about his experience at Guantanamo. In addition there are 'ghost prisoners' undeclared by the State, some of whom may be British or British resident.

Many of the released prisoners have complained of enduring beatings, sleep deprivation, prolonged constraint in uncomfortable positions, prolonged hooding, sexual and cultural humiliation, forced injections, and other physical and psychological mistreatment during their detention in Camp X-Ray.

The U.S. government has denied all charges, but on May 9, the Washington Post obtained classified documents that showed Pentagon approval of using sleep deprivation, exposure to hot and cold, bright lights, and loud music during interrogations at Guantanamo [7]. One soldier, posing as a prisoner during training exercises at the camp, was beaten so severely that he suffered a brain injury and seizures. [8] In June 2004 the New York Times reported that of the nearly 600 detainees not much more than two dozens were closely linked to Al Quaida and that only very limited information could have been gotten from questionings. The only top terrorist is reportedly Mohamed al-Kahtani from Saudi Arabia, who is believed to have planned to participate in the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. [9]

The International Committee of the Red Cross inspected the camp in June 2004. In a confidential report issued in July 2004 and leaked to the New York Times in November 2004, Red Cross inspectors accused the U.S. military of using "humiliating acts, solitary confinement, temperature extremes, use of forced positions" against prisoners. The inspectors concluded that "the construction of such a system, whose stated purpose is the production of intelligence, cannot be considered other than an intentional system of cruel, unusual and degrading treatment and a form of torture." The United States Government has reportedly rejected the Red Cross findings. Reuter, New York Times, ICRC comments

Abdul Ghaffar, captured in Afghanistan in December 2001, was one of the twenty-three prisoners released from Camp X-Ray in late January 2004. After his release, he rejoined the remnants of the Taliban and was killed in a gunfight in late September 2004[10].

Abdullah Mehsud, also captured in Afghanistan in December 2001 after surrendering to Abdul Rashid Dostum, masterminded the kidnapping of two Chinese engineers in Pakistan's South Waziristan region as well as returning to his position as an Al-Qaeda field commander. Mehsud has also claimed responsibility for the bombing at Islamabad’s Marriott Hotel in October 2004. The blast injured seven people, including a U.S. diplomat, two Italians and the Pakistani prime minister’s chief security officer.

Airat Vakhitov and Rustam Akhmyarov, two Russian nationals captured in Afghanistan in December of 2001 and released from Guantanamo in late 2002, were arrested by Russian authorities on August 30, 2005. The two former detainees were arrested in Moscow for allegedly preparing a series of attacks in Russia. According to authorities, Vakhitov was using a local human rights group as cover for his activities. [11]

International concern about the conditions in the camp

On May 25, 2005, Amnesty International released a report calling the facility the [12] "gulag of our times"

Physical conditions for detainees at Camp X-Ray are claimed to meet basic standards for maintaining health, but the prisoners are held in small, mesh-sided cells with little privacy, and lights are kept on day and night. Detainees are said to have rations similar to American forces, with consideration for Muslim dietary needs. James Yee, a Muslim chaplain from the U.S. Navy, provided religious services, but has now resigned after unproven allegations were brought against him by the United States, following his tour of duty at Guantanamo Bay. These charges include sedition, aiding the enemy, spying (though it was never declared on whose behalf), espionage, and failure to obey a general order. He was then transferred to a United States Navy brig in Charleston, South Carolina. Later, the charges were quietly dropped. He states that he resigned because no apology was given, nor was there an acknowledgement of error by the US.

Detainees are kept in isolation most of the day, are blindfolded when moving into Camp X-Ray and from place to place within the camp, and forbidden to talk in groups of more than three. American doctrine in dealing with prisoners of war state that isolation and silence are effective means in breaking down the will to resist interrogation. There have been allegations of torture, including sleep deprivation, the use of so-called truth drugs, beatings, locking in confined and cold cells, and being forced to maintain uncomfortable postures.

Member states of the European Union and the Organization of American States, as well as non-governmental organizations such as Amnesty International have strenuously protested the legal status and physical condition of detainees at Guantanamo. In addition, British and American courts have been approached by relatives and friends of detainees to request a legal determination favorable to detainees.

Lord Steyn, a prominent British judge, was quoted in the British newspaper The Independent on November 26, 2003 regarding the planned trial of the prisoners by military tribunal:

As a lawyer brought up to admire the ideals of American democracy and justice, I would have to say that I regard this a monstrous failure of justice. The military will act as interrogators, prosecutors and defence counsel, judges, and when death sentences are imposed, as executioners. The trials will be held in private. None of the guarantees of a fair trial need be observed.

At the beginning of December 2003, there were media reports that military lawyers appointed to defend alleged terrorists being held by the US at Guantanamo Bay had expressed concern about the legal process for military commissions. The UK's Guardian newspaper [13] reported that a team of lawyers was dismissed after complaining that the rules for the forthcoming military commissions prohibited them from properly representing their clients. New York's Vanity Fair magazine reported that some of the lawyers felt their ethical obligations were being violated by the process. The Pentagon strongly denied the claims in these media reports.

The Washington Post in a May 8, 2004 article describes a set of interrogation techniques approved for use in interrogating alleged terrorists at Guantanamo Bay which are said by Kenneth Roth, executive director of Human Rights Watch, to be cruel and inhumane treatment illegal under the US Constitution.

On June 15 Brigadier General Janis Karpinski at the centre of the Abu Ghraib prisoner abuse in Iraq said she was told from the top to treat detainees like dogs "as it is done in Guantanamo". The former commander of Camp X-Ray, Geoffrey Miller, was the person brought in to deal with the inquiry into the alleged abuses at Abu Ghraib in Iraq during the Allied occupation. Ex-detainees of the Camp have made serious allegations, including alleging Geoffrey Miller's complicity in abuse at Camp X-Ray.

This concentration camp is also unpopular in the U.S. Columnist Thomas Friedman urged George W. Bush to "just shut it down":

[The Camp X-Ray] has become worse than an embarrassment. I am convinced that more Americans are dying and will die if we keep the Gitmo prison open than if we shut it down. So, please, Mr. President, just shut it down.

Later, another New York Times editorial [14] supported Friedman's proposal:

What makes Amnesty's gulag metaphor apt is that Guantánamo is merely one of a chain of shadowy detention camps that also includes Abu Ghraib in Iraq, the military prison at Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan and other, secret locations run by the intelligence agencies. Each has produced its own stories of abuse, torture and criminal homicide. These are not isolated incidents, but part of a tightly linked global detention system with no accountability in law. Prisoners have been transferred from camp to camp. So have commanding officers. And perhaps not coincidentally, so have specific methods of mistreatment.

Legal proceedings

United States Supreme Court

On November 10, 2003, the United States Supreme Court announced that it would decide on appeals by Afghan war detainees who challenge their continued incarceration at the Camp as being unlawful.

On 10 January 2004, 175 members of both houses of Parliament in the UK had filed an amici curiæ brief to support the detainees' access to USA jurisdiction.

On June 28, 2004 the Supreme Court ruled that "illegal combatants" such as those held in Guantánamo can challenge detentions but can also be held without charges or trial.

Military Commission hearings (Camp Delta)

On November 8, 2004, a federal court halted the proceeding of Salim Ahmed Hamdan, 34, of Yemen. Hamdan was to be the first Guantanamo detainee tried before a military commission.

Judge James Robertson of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia ruled that the US military had failed to convene a competent tribunal to determine that Hamdan was not a prisoner of war under the Geneva Conventions -- specifically Article 5 of the third Geneva Convention, which reads:

Should any doubt arise as to whether persons, having committed a belligerent act and having fallen into the hands of the enemy, belong to any of the categories enumerated in Article 4, such persons shall enjoy the protection of the present Convention until such time as their status has been determined by a competent tribunal.

However, a three judge panel overturned judge Robertson's ruling on Friday July 15, 2005 [15]. The panel's ruling stated that the trial by military commission could, in and of itself, serve as the necessary "competent tribunal".

That panel included John Roberts. The panel made the ruling one business day before President Bush nominated Roberts to fill the vacant post on the US Supreme Court.

Combatant Status Review Tribunals

In July 2004, in response to legal challenges, the United States started conducting Combatant Status Review Tribunals. The US judicial branch agreed with critics of the US executive branch, that the USA did have a treaty obligation to convene competent tribunals to determine whether their prisoners were or weren't "lawful combatants".

On 31 January, Washington federal judge Joyce Hens Green ruled that the Combatant Status Review Tribunals held to acertain the status of the prisoners in Guantanamo as "illegal combatants" were "unconstitutional", and that they were entitled to the rights granted by the Constitution of the United States of America.

The Combantant Status Reviews were completed in March 2005. 38 of the detainees who had been imprisoned, for years, without charge, and subjected to years of abusive interrogation, were determined to have been innocent civilians all along.

On March 29, 2005, the dossier of Murat Kurnaz was accidentally declassified. Kurnaz was one of the 500-plus detainees the reviews had determined was an "unlawful combatant". Critics found that his dossier contained over a hundred pages of reports of investigations, which had found no ties to terrorists or terrorism whatsoever. It contained one memo that said Kurnaz had a tie to a suicide bomber. Judge Green said this memo:

"fails to provide significant details to support its conclusory allegations, does not reveal the sources for its information and is contradicted by other evidence in the record."

Eugene R. Fidell, who the Washington Post called a Washington-based expert in military law, said:

"It suggests the procedure is a sham, If a case like that can get through, what it means is that the merest scintilla of evidence against someone would carry the day for the government, even if there's a mountain of evidence on the other side."

Legal status

The particular legal status of Guantanamo Bay was a factor in the choice of Guantanamo as a detention center. Because sovereignty of Guantanamo Bay ultimately resides with Cuba, the U.S. government argued unsuccessfully that people detained at Guantanamo were legally outside of the U.S. and did not have the Constitutional rights that they would have if they were held on U.S. territory (see Cuban American Bar Ass'n, Inc. v. Christopher, 43 F.3d 1412 (11th Cir. 1995)). In 2004, the Supreme Court rejected this argument in the case Rasul v. Bush brought by the Center for Constitutional Rights, with the majority decision and ruled that prisoners in Guantanamo have access to American courts, citing the fact that the U.S. has exclusive control over Guantanamo Bay.

On November 8, 2004 U.S. District Court Judge James Robertson ruled in Hamdi v. Rumsfeld that the Bush Administration could not try such prisoners as enemy combatants in a military tribunal and could not deny them access to the evidence used against them. [16] However, on 15 July 2005, the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals in overturning Robertson ruled that al-Qaeda members could not be classified as prisoners of war and upheld military tribunals in Guantanamo Bay Naval Base for al-Qaeda members. This ruling does not necessarily authorize all military tribunals as the case only dealt with the POW status of al-Qaeda members.

Prisoners held at Camp Delta and Camp Echo have been labelled "illegal" or "unlawful enemy combatants", but a number of observers such as the Center for Constitutional Rights and Human Rights Watch maintain that the United States has not held the Article 5 tribunals specified by the Geneva Conventions. [17] The International Committee of the Red Cross has stated that, "Every person in enemy hands must have some status under international law: he is either a prisoner of war and, as such, covered by the Third Convention, a civilian covered by the Fourth Convention, [or] a member of the medical personnel of the armed forces who is covered by the First Convention. There is no intermediate status; nobody in enemy hands can fall outside the law." Thus, if the detainees are not classified as prisoners of war, this would still grant them the rights of the Fourth Geneva Convention (GCIV), as opposed to the more common Third Geneva Convention (GCIII) which deals exclusively with prisoners of war. Many have argued for the summary execution of all unlawful combatants, using Ex parte Quirin as the precedent, a case during World War II which upheld the use of military tribunals for six German soldiers caught on US soil. The Germans were deemed to be saboteurs and unlawful combatants, and thus not entitled to POW protections, and all were eventually executed for war crimes on request of the President of the United States of America.

Prisoner complaints

Three British prisoners, represented by the Center for Constitutional Rights released in 2004 without charge, have alleged ongoing torture, sexual degradation, forced drugging and religious persecution being committed by US forces at Guantanamo Bay. The prisoners have released a 115-page dossier detailing these accusations. [18] They have also accused British authorities of knowing about the alleged torture and failing to respond.

The accounts of the British prisoners have been reiterated by two former French prisoners, a former Swedish prisoner, and a former Australian prisoner.

Former Guantanamo detainee, the Swede Mehdi Ghezali was freed on July 9, 2004 after two and half years internment. Ghezali has claimed that he was the victim of repeated torture. His lawyer has declared that he intends to sue the US for their treatment of him.

Former Guantanamo detainee Moazzam Begg, freed in January, 2005, after nearly three years in captivity, has accused his American captors of torturing him and other detainees arrested in Afghanistan and Pakistan.[19] Mr Begg, in his first broadcast interview since his release, claimed he "witnessed two people get beaten so badly that I believe it caused their deaths".

An Associated Press report asserted that some of the detainees were turned over to the United States by Afghan tribesmen in return for cash rewards. Detainees testified during military tribunals that bounties ranged from $3,000 to $25,000. The allegations were in transcripts the U.S. government released in compliance with a Freedom of Information lawsuit filed by AP. [20] There has not been independent confirmation of any of the above allegations since the U.S. government prohibits investigation by any third party. [21]

Forced feeding accusations by hunger-striking detainees began around the beginning of Autumn, 2005: "Detainees said large feeding tubes were forcibly shoved up their noses and down into their stomachs, with guards using the same tubes from one patient to another. The detainees say no sedatives were provided during these procedures, which they allege took place in front of U.S. physicians, including the head of the prison hospital." [22] [23] "A hunger striking detainee at Guantanamo Bay wants a judge to order the removal of his feeding tube so he can be allowed to die, one of his lawyers has said." [24]. Within a few weeks, the Department of Defense "extended an invitation to United Nations Special Rapporteurs to visit detention facilities at Guantanamo Bay Naval Station" [25] [26]. This was preliminarily rejected by the U.N. considering the restrictions "that [the] three human rights officials invited to Guantanamo Bay wouldn't be allowed to conduct private interviews" with prisoners [27] [28] [29]. Simultaneously, media reports ensued surrounding the question of prisoner treatment [30] [31] [32] [33] [34]. "District Court Judge Gladys Kessler also ordered the US government to give medical records going back a week before such feedings take place." [35] [36]. In early November, 2005, the U.S. suddenly accelerated, for unknown reasons, the rate of prisoner release [37] [38] [39] [40] [41] [42].

In October, 2005, Juma Al Dossary, a 30-year-old Bahraini detainee, at the urging of his lawyers released his memoirs: "Included in his account, which he said he could barely bring himself to write because of the 'shame' he feels, Al Dossary says in three years he has been interrogated some 600 times, fed rotten food, beaten many times (by up to eight guards at once), made to walk on broken glass and pushed so that his face hit the glass shards, made to walk on barbed wire, and has had cigarettes put out on his body. This is in a US prison by US personnel." [43]

NGO reports

On November 30, 2004, The New York Times published excerpts from an internal memo leaked from the U.S. administration,[44] referring to a report from the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC).

The ICRC reports of several activities which, it said, were "tantamount to torture": exposure to loud noise or music, prolonged extreme temperatures, or beatings. It also reported that a behavior science team (BSCT), also called 'Biscuit', and military physicians communicated confidential medical information to the interrogation teams (weaknesses, phobias, etc.), resulting in the prisoners losing confidence in their medical care.

Access of the ICRC to the base was conditional, as is normal for ICRC humanitarian operations, on the confidentiality of their report; sources have reported heated debates had taken place at the ICRC headquarters, as some of those involved wanted to make the report public, or confront the U.S. administration. The newspaper said the administration and the Pentagon had seen the ICRC report in July 2004 but rejected its findings.[45] [46]. The story was originally reported in several newspapers, including The Guardian, and the ICRC reacted to the article when the report was leaked in May.[47]

In May 2005, a human rights report from Amnesty International reflects ongoing claims of prisoner abuse at Guantanamo and other military prisons. [48] [49][50]

Government and military inquiries

In response to the complaints of abuse by the prisoners and others, U.S. Navy Secretary Gordon England ordered a review of detainee incarceration practices at Guantanamo, conducted by a Navy inspector general, which concluded the facility was "being operated at very high standards."

On June 3, 2005, a U.S. military report supported allegations that US soldiers had abused the Qur'an. The report found that a soldier deliberately kicked a Qur'an; an interrogator stepped on a Qur'an; a guard's urine came through an air vent, splashing a detainee and his Qur'an; water balloons thrown by prison guards caused a number of Qur'ans to get wet; and a two-word obscenity was written in English on the inside cover of a Qur'an. It concluded that many other allegations of desecration were unfounded (see Qur'an desecration controversy of 2005).

In June 2005 the U.S. House of Representatives Armed Services Committee visited the camp and described it as a "resort" and complimented the quality of the food. However Democratic members of the committee complained that Republicans had blocked the testimony of attorneys representing the prisoners. [51]Democratic Senators have visited Guantanamo and they reported that they could not find evidence of abuse or mistreatment.

On June 10, 2005, as testimony was being given about alleged human rights abuses at Guantanamo, before a House Judiciary Committee hearing on reauthorization of the Patriot Act, Chairman James Sensenbrenner (one of the act's authors) declared debate over the detainees at Guantanamo Bay irrelevant. [52]

On July 12, 2005 members of a military panel told the committee that they proposed disciplining prison commander Army Major General Geoffrey Miller over the interrogation of Mohamed al-Kahtani who was forced to wear a bra, dance with another man and threatened with dogs. The recommendation was overruled by General Bantz J. Craddock, commander of U.S. Southern Command, who refered the matter to the Army's inspector general. [53]

The book, Inside the Wire by Erik Saar and Viveca Novak also claims to reveal the abuse of prisoners. Saar, a former US soldier, repeats allegations that female interrogators taunted prisoners sexually and in one instance wiped what seemed to be menstrual blood on the detainee. In reality it was just a red marker but the prisoner was unable to clean himself and hence unable to pray. Other instances of beatings by the IRF (initial reaction force) have been reported in this book and it supports the claim that the Qur'an was flushed down the toilet. An FBI email [54] from December 2003, six months after Saar had left, said that the Defense Department interrogators at Guantanamo had impersonated FBI agents while using "torture techniques" on a detainee.

'Exceptional treatment' of prisoners

The U.S. government has claimed it has accommodated religious needs. Religious literature is supplied, daily prayers are respected and all meals are certified halal (adhering to Islamic law) by Gitmo's Muslim chaplain. In fact, between April 2002 and March 2003 most detainees had gained an average of 13 pounds. But continued alleged religious harrassment is one of the triggers to the hunger strike that started on August 8, 2005. Detainee Omar Khadr told his lawyer that the camp authorities were only broadcasting the call to prayers four times a day, not the five times Islam requires. Further, camp authorities were allegedly offending the religious sensibilities of the detainees by having female personnel announce the call to prayers. Finally, he claimed that camp authorities were allowing guards to disrupt prayer sessions.

According to detailed accounts reported by the New York Times on June 24, 2005, from former interrogators, military doctors have assisted with refinement of the techniques interrogators have used on detainees, including advice on how to incrementally adjust psychological duress levels and manipulate fears, as a means of attempting to make the detainees more cooperative and willing to provide information.[55]

A related article in the New England Journal of Medicine reported doctors involved with devising and supervising the interrogations indicated they understood the interrogation procedure refinements they gave advice on were designed to increase fear and distress, as a means to obtaining intelligence. Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman, while declining to address the specifics of the doctors' accounts, responded by asserting the doctors were not covered by ethics rules, since they were advising interrogators as behavioral scientists rather than treating patients.

According to a June 21, 2005 New York Times opinion article, [56] on July 29, 2004 an FBI agent was quoted as saying, "On a couple of occasions, I entered interview rooms to find a detainee chained hand and foot in a fetal position to the floor, with no chair, food or water. Most times they had urinated or defecated on themselves and had been left there for 18, 24 hours or more."

U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney suggested detainees were treated better than they would be "by virtually any other government on the face of the earth."

Air Force Lt. Gen. Randall Schmidt, who headed the probe into FBI accounts of abuse of Guantanamo prisoners by Defense Department personnel, concluded the man (a Saudi, described as the "20th hijacker") was subjected to "abusive and degrading treatment" due to "the cumulative effect of creative, persistent and lengthy interrogations." The techniques used were authorized by the Pentagon, he said. [57]

Senator Pat Roberts of Kansas, Chariman of the Senate Intelligence Comittee, challenged the allegations, on July 11, 2005, after taking a tour, contending the detainees received better care than most Kansans. However, visiting politicians were not allowed to speak to any of the detainees [58]. Roberts commented on the high quality of the food on the detainee's menus while the detainees were in the midst of a widespread hunger strike.

And in a similar vein, still others claim that the real abuse at the base is against the guards that work there: "Our young military men and women routinely endure the vilest invective imaginable, including death threats that spill over to guards' families". [59]

See also

External links and references

U.S. sources

Miscellaneous sources

Supreme Court case and UK parliamentarians' amici curiæ

Fictional representations of Guantanamo

See also

Wikisource links

External links

Wikinews has news related to:

A list of detainees at Guantanamo Bay Naval Base with links to Federal court documents, by detainee.

Official U.S. military website

  • — "US Naval Station Guantanamo Bay Cuba: The United States' oldest overseas Naval Base"

Official U.S. Congressional Research Service Papers

  • Elsea, et. al Detainees at Guantanamo Bay (July 20, 2005).pdf .html-- good summary of pending court cases

Maps and photos

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