The Killing Bay
For some reason, the U. S. is keeping the Guantanamo Bay prison going. This greatly hurts the country’s image but in President Trump’s lexicon, it is a small matter.
Ordered closed by the last US Administration, the prison in Guantánamo Bay is still open
The US President Donald Trump has signed an executive order that keeps the Guantanamo Bay prison camp open. This is a reversal of the policy of the Obama administration. President Obama had signed an order calling for the closure of the detention facility on his second day in office in 2009. Despite his good intent the American president was never able to implement the policy and the order that he signed. Notorious and famous as a detention facility that remains beyond the reach of any laws, Guantanamo Bay has been a subject of intense discussion and is very actively quoted to showcase the American disregard for human rights and the impunity with which it breaks international laws.
In the words of the American Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, “detention is second best to killing terrorists” and so Guantanamo has served as a detention facility to house most of the captured and most dangerous prisoners there. The fight against terrorism has proceeded forward with the universal aim of not negotiating with the terrorists and fighting them and obliterating them and their ideology regardless of the place where they reside. In doing so the effort has been not to meet the captured terrorists again on the battlefield, something that is only possible if they are able to break free or are released from the prison. Guantanamo is a facility breaking away from where is out of question”.
Opened in 2002 to support the American war effort in the war on
terror, it’s a facility where keeping the detainees costs more than $440 million a year to the Americans. According to an estimate, a total of 779 prisoners have so far been brought to the facility for detention. However, between 2002 and 2008, the Bush administration released 520 prisoners and at the end of the Obama administration, only 41 persons remained in the facility. Most of the prisoners were released without charges and were transferred to facilities in their home countries.
Why were they not kept at Guantanamo and tried there? If prosecution was not possible due to lack of evidence, how could there be absence of evidence against men said to be most dangerous? For these men not to be tried in a court of law and to be kept there without access to the family and lawyers and interrogated without being provided any rights brought a very bad name not only to the detention facility but also to America’s image. American society has always stood up for the promotion and implementation of universal values such as liberty, freedom and equal human rights. The day the Guantanamo prison was opened, it has drawn a widespread criticism not only domestically but from around the world which looks at this US sponsored and maintained facility in Cuba as a symbol of US injustice and torture.
Even today, one finds no policy change or explanation of how long this facility will be maintained? All one gets to see is a President Trump signed executive order that directs the Pentagon to ‘maintain and continue to use the prison on the Cuban soil.’ Most refer to Guantanamo as a ‘ faith-based prison’ and the basis of admission to this facility is not indulgence in the act of terrorism by anyone but indulgence in such acts by a particular community or faith.
A quick look at the percentage of inmates being kept there at one time sufficiently explains the point. Of all the detainees at Guantanamo, Afghans were the largest group (29 percent) followed by Saudi Arabia (17 percent), Yemenis (15 percent) Pakistanis (9 percent) and Algerians (3 percent). All these prisoners were not captured by the Americans but most of them were captured and handed over to the them by the host countries and, in some cases, in exchange of bounty money that was paid to them. Such means of exchange and handover of prisoners didn’t go well with the local populations of the countries of capture where a host of questions were raised including the question of sovereignty.
Even today, sovereignty remains a hot topic of discussion and the question
If Guantanamo remains open and functional, the U.S. will continue to draw criticism for maintaining a ‘faith-based prison’ where it provides no access to justice to the inmates.
is asked as to why can’t the host countries try and convict these prisoners and sentence them for their alleged acts of terrorism? If Guantanamo remains open and functional, the U.S. will continue to draw criticism for maintaining a ‘faith-based prison’ where it provides no access to justice to the inmates. Already some controversial decisions by President Trump, including the decision on Muslim immigration and putting some Muslim countries on the U.S travel ban list and announcing the shifting of the US embassy from Tele Aviv to Jerusalem are not going well with the Muslim world.
While the majority of the prisoners from Guantanamo have been released and handed over to their countries, it will only suit the image of the U.S., which portrays itself as a champion of human rights, to close the prison permanently. This will help improve the image of the U.S. as a country which upholds the universal principles and values of human rights and human dignity. As a world leader, the US can only maintain and take forward the world order it has created if it does not violate the very principles on which this is based. Upholding human rights is an important principle and Guantanamo is a facility that undermines that principle. The author is a PhD in international relations with a special focus on global social issues.