Today sees 10 years of Guantanamo – when will Obama honour his pledge?

Ten years ago to the day, the United States government opened the now infamous Guantanamo Bay detention camp - Mike Morgan-Giles reports.


Ten years ago to the day, the United States government opened the now infamous Guantanamo Bay detention camp.

George W. Bush saw the camp as an opportunity to hold suspects for unlimited periods of time, for unspecified, alleged crimes, without proper legal recourse. In fact, the camp stands diametrically opposed to long-standing international conventions on human rights, the U.S. Constitution and the ancient right of Habeas Corpus, which has existed in judicial systems since the 13th century.

But should we really be that surprised? The United States has shown contempt for international institutions for many years.

For example, they decided that the International Criminal Court has no jurisdiction in the United States. They also often veto UN Security Council resolutions against the wishes of the overwhelming majority of the international community. The US also withdraws funding from international institutions that don’t align with their own interests, most recently UNESCO.

It is important to understand the shocking treatment prisoners of Guantanamo Bay have faced over the past ten years. Those detained ranged from a boy as young as 14 to a dementia sufferer aged 89.

Detainees suffered horrific instances of mental and physical torture during their stays in the camp, including cruel and unusual punishments such as sleep deprivation, exposure, solitary confinement and enforced stress positions. Many of the techniques used were copied from Chinese torture techniques used during the Korean War to obtain confessions.

The one remaining UK resident in the camp, Shaker Aamer, has four children with his British wife, one of whom he had yet to meet. His lawyer has stated that he is “completely innocent” and “gradually dying” inside the detention camp. In fact, Wikileaks released details of the case against Mr Aamer and legal experts have argued that this evidence wouldn’t stand up in court.

Over the ten-year period, a total of 779 prisoners have been held at Guantanamo, without charge, trial or an opportunity to challenge their alleged criminal actions. Of the remaining 171 inhabitants, 89 have been cleared for release or transfer to elsewhere, yet no one has left since January last year.

It is hard to argue against the premise that a camp of this nature could only have been devised by a totalitarian or rogue administration. History will look back on the camp and those who devised it in very unfavourable terms.

President Obama had pledged to close the detention camp, but just a year ago signed a Bill preventing the movement of its prisoners onto US soil or to foreign countries. In fact, this was a pledge many people believed in, and may have played a part in the award of the Nobel Peace Prize to Obama back in 2009.

Nothing is likely to change in 2012, with Obama up for re-election and the Republicans contesting him ready to pounce on anything that could be misrepresented as ‘anti-American’. The shameful attack ads on Jon Huntsman are testament to this.

If and when Obama wins re-election, he should be free to press home his agenda and make good on his promises, given the need to no longer look over his shoulder. American Presidents, rightly or wrongly, have tentacles that extend right across the world and should therefore look to make decisions in the interests of the international community.

Whether Obama joins Bush Jr., Cheney and co. in the history books will be much dependent on the decisions he makes following the election in November this year.

See also:

How the 9/11 response changed BritainBen Mitchell, September 11th 2011

Lethal exports: Urgent message to Cable on execution drugsOliver Sprague, April 15th 2011

We need to stop more than lethal injection drugs being exported from the UKOliver Sprague, February 15th 2011

George W Bush is wrong – waterboarding only helps our enemiesGeorge Readings, November 10th 2010

Foreign Secretary in bid to halt disclosure of British collusion in tortureLaura Wood, December 14th 2009

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