Fordham Law

Guantanamo: 10 years later, a spot in the American Landscape

Karen Greenberg in Le nouvel Observateur, January 10, 2012

Media Source


Ten years after hosting its first prisoners, the controversial Guantanamo prison are still 171 men, despite the promises of U.S. President Barack Obama to close, and remains for many the symbol of violations of human rights.

At its opening, January 11, 2002, twenty prisoners arrived from Afghanistan are imprisoned in cages open today returned to the weeds and iguanas. Their photos in orange jumpsuits, black bag on his head, went around the world.These are the first "enemy combatants" by President George W. Bush arrested in retaliation for the deadly attacks of September 11, 2001.

Located in Guantanamo Bay, southeast of Cuba, detention center is built on a 116 km2 naval base that the United States hire in Cuba under the Cuban-American treaty of 1903.

"More freedom"

The prison, the first permanent buildings were erected in May 2002, hosted up 779 men and boys in total, 680 are held together during 2003, according to the Pentagon.

The prison population has decreased over the years but no longer changes for lack of place to accommodate 89 inmates deemed "releasable" by the military authorities.

Despite Barack Obama's commitment to close the prison by January 2010, a law passed by Congress and signed into law in late December facto prevents the achievement of this goal. It prohibits the use of public funds to transfer detainees to the United States or third countries and requires that terrorist suspects are brought before military courts.

"Although President Obama remains committed to closing Guantanamo, Congress has taken steps to prevent" to do so, said Lt. Col. Todd Breasseale, a spokesman for the Pentagon, but added that a "country at war, it is extremely important to prevent them (the detainees) return to the battlefield. "

Prison conditions have improved and the detainees have "more freedom" in the public areas of the camp which hosts 80% of them.

"The hope is dwindling close Guantanamo," said Jonathan Hafetz, however, a law professor at Seton Hall. "It's increasingly hard politically and legally because of this law," said the lawyer of two prisoners of "Gitmo", saying that "detainees are in legal limbo."

"They are not prisoners of war or anything," said Karen Greenberg, terrorism expert at Fordham University and author of "First 100 days of Guantanamo": "no status, no name or label."

"Toxic Legacy"

"The failure of the U.S. government to close the detention center at Guantanamo Bay leaves a toxic legacy for human rights," said an Amnesty International report published for the 10th anniversary of the prison.

Known for its harsh interrogation methods, the prison remains an "insult to human rights," said Rob Freer, Amnesty researcher.

"It's not just the symbol of abuse and mistreatment," said he, "is the symbol of a violation of international principles of human rights" that continues today with "the failure of the United States to account" and with the arbitrary and indefinite detention without charge or trial.

Only six inmates were convicted by military commission, according to the Pentagon, and seven others should be tried before the special courts in the coming months, including the alleged mastermind of the Sept. 11 attacks.

The report criticizes "the longstanding reluctance of the United States to apply to themselves the principles of international human rights they expect of others."

Guantanamo was "deeply damaged the reputation of the United States in the world," added Hina Shamsi, Director in the organization of civil liberties ACLU: "Ten years ago nobody would have imagined that Guantanamo would become part of American landscape. "