On January 11th, 2016, Guantanamo Bay’s detention camp (often referred to as GTMO) entered its fifteenth year of operation. The infamous military prison was established “to detain extraordinarily dangerous people, to interrogate detainees in an optimal setting, and to prosecute detainees for war crimes” (Former Secretary of Defense, Donald Rumsfeld, 2002). In this Amnesty Report, we will focus on the attempts to shut down what has been deemed the “Gulag of our times” by Amnesty in 2005.
President Obama — in 2007 as a senator and a presidential candidate, in 2009 as the new sworn-in president, and throughout all his years in office — has pledged to close Guantanamo. He has acknowledged that the United States is holding “people who have been charged with no crime on a piece of land that is not part of our country” (Barack Obama, 2015). However, his effort has been ineffective due to not only the complexity of the situation, but also the military judge at GTMO who has been rejecting the requests of the White House.
Since the opening of the prison in 2002, 779 prisoners have been held in GTMO. As of January, 2016, 91 detainees remain. The condition that these detainees have faced is brutal; Red Cross inspectors as well as released prisoners have reported various acts of torture, including beatings, sleep deprivation, and confinement. The problem that highly elevates the gravity of the issue is the fact that most of these detainees have never been convicted or even given a fair trial. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights states the following: “Everyone is entitled in full equality to a fair and public hearing by an independent and impartial tribunal, in the determination of…any criminal charge against him.” The fact that these prisoners are not given one of the most basic human rights is alarming.
The government spends $120 million annually to imprison 30 individuals that have not been found guilty at Guantanamo. On the other end of the spectrum, $1.2 million is spent to imprison 30 individuals that have been found guilty by a fair court of law in the United States. The debt of the United States is pushing for lower sentences due to overcrowding in prison. Many of the sentences for nonviolent crimes are getting reduced and even replaced by hours of community service. However, the fact that the government is spending an astronomical amount of money that it cannot afford to spend on these prisoners is unacceptable. President Obama has less than a year left in office, and it is imperative for Guantanamo Bay to be shut down before it gets passed down to a third president.