Guantánamo Bay Detention Camp: History, Costs, Prisoners And More
In response to the 9/11 attacks, the United States established a military prison in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, 22 years ago this month (as of January 2024). Even now, that prison is still operational.
There is still no 9/11 trial and thirty men are being held there, many of whom have never been charged with a crime.
Consequently, President Biden received a letter from nearly a hundred advocacy groups pleading with him to shut down the facility once and for all.
Situated on the coast of Guantánamo Bay in southeast Cuba, the Guantánamo Bay detention camp, also known as Gitmo, is a U.S. detention facility. The Guantánamo Bay detention camp, also known as Gitmo, was built gradually beginning in 2002 to house Muslim militants and suspected terrorists apprehended by American forces in Afghanistan, Iraq, and other locations (see also Iraq War).
The facility became the center of international controversy due to claims that U.S. authorities were torturing or mistreating detainees, as well as claims that detainees’ legal rights under the Geneva Conventions had been violated.
Southeast Cuba’s Guantánamo Bay is a region that is jointly controlled by the US and Cuba. Though only one, Guantánamo Bay, was ever constructed, the United States was permitted to establish up to four naval bases on the island of Cuba. Because of the 1934 repeal of the Platt Amendment, Cuba now views the American occupation of Guantánamo Bay as unlawful. Although the Guantánamo Bay Naval Base was built in 1898, it wasn’t until the detention camp was reopened in 2002 that the Guantánamo Bay name started to be associated with violations of human rights.
George W. Bush reopened the Guantánamo Bay detention facility in 2002 as part of his War on Terror initiative, establishing the facility’s existence. Following the September 11, 2001 terrorist attack on the United States, it was reopened in response to a surge in global anti-terrorist efforts. “Originally intended to be a ‘island outside the law’ where terrorism suspects could be detained without process and be interrogated without restraint, the prison and military commissions at Guantánamo Bay are catastrophic failures,” claims the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU 2020).
Guantánamo Bay was intended to be a special detention facility for the most dangerous offenders, particularly those who had committed war crimes. International condemnation, however, has been directed towards it because of the human rights violations that have taken place, such as the indefinite detention of prisoners without charge or trial. Eight hundred people have been detained at Guantánamo Bay, according to the ACLU. Suicides have occurred in the detention camp on multiple occasions, and hunger strikes are frequent among the inmates. A hunger strike by 103 prisoners occurred at one point, with 41 of them being forced to eat. (2019 CNN Library)
The annual operating costs of Guantanamo Prison come to about $445 million. Maintaining its use with the current population would cost more than $10 million annually per prisoner—much more than similar federal or military prisons, which charge roughly $78,000 annually per prisoner.
Housing detainees in the US would save approximately $85 million annually, even after deducting the costs of constructing new facilities or renovating existing ones. Guantanamo has earned the moniker “the most expensive prison on earth,” and if the facility stays open, expenses will probably go up due to deteriorating infrastructure.
Since then, 779 men have been admitted to the facility. Just seven of them have been found guilty; five of them did so as a consequence of pre-trial agreements that allowed them to enter guilty pleas in exchange for the chance to be released from the base. These men were going to stand trial by’military commission’. Standards for a fair trial were not met by the proceedings.
There has only been one detainee from Guantánamo moved to the US mainland to face trial in a civilian court. 107 prisoners are being held at the US detention facility in Cuba’s Guantánamo Bay. Of them, 47 have been found not to need to be transferred, but they are still detained.
The Obama administration struggled to close the prison at the Naval Station Guantanamo Bay in Cuba, and President Biden hopes to do the same. This was announced by the White House on Friday. But, National Security Council spokesperson Emily Horne told NPR that the detention center’s closure will take some time.
“We are undertaking an NSC process to assess the current state of play that the Biden administration has inherited from the previous administration, in line with our broader goal of closing Guantanamo,” she stated. “There will be a robust interagency process to move forward on this, but we need to have the right people seated to do this important work.”
According to Horne, the NSC will collaborate with the Defense, State, and Justice departments to close the prison. When advocating for the closure of the prison in 2016, former President Barack Obama claimed that the detention facility was a “stain on our broader record” and went against American values, NPR reported.
Donald Trump, who was then the president-elect, promised to maintain the installation open later that year. “We’re gonna load it up with some bad dudes, believe me,” Trump said in 2016.
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