The Guantanamo Bay Detention Camp is a controversial United States detention center operated by Joint Task Force Guantanamo since 2002 in Guantanamo Bay Naval Base, which is on the shore of Guantánamo Bay, Cuba. The detainment areas consist of three camps in the base: Camp Delta (which includes Camp Echo), Camp Iguana, and Camp X-Ray (which has been closed). The facility is often referred to as Guantanamo, or Gitmo (derived from the abbreviation "GTMO"). The detainees currently held as of June 2008 have been classified by the United States as "enemy combatants". After claims were made that these detainees were not entitled to any of the protections of the Geneva Conventions, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled on 29 June, 2006 that they were entitled to the minimal protections listed under its Common Article 3. Following this, on July 7, 2006, the Department of Defense issued an internal memo stating that prisoners will in the future be entitled to protection under Common Article 3.
Since October 7, 2001, when the current war in Afghanistan began, 775 detainees have been brought to Guantanamo. Of these, approximately 420 have been released without charge, with only one prisoner, David Hicks, being convicted of a crime. As of May 2008, approximately 270 detainees remain. More than a fifth are cleared for release but may have to wait months or years because U.S. officials are finding it increasingly difficult to persuade countries to accept them, according to officials and defense lawyers. Of those still incarcerated, U.S. officials said they intend to eventually put 60 to 80 on trial and free the rest. On February 9, 2008, it was reported that 6 of the detainees at the Guantanamo Bay facility would be tried for conspiracy in the September 11, 2001 attacks. In May 2008, the Pentagon claimed that 36 former Guantanamo inmates were "confirmed or suspected of having returned to terrorism
Camp Iguana is a smaller, low-security compound, located about a kilometer from the main prison compound. In 2002 and 2003, it housed three detainees who were under 16 and was closed when they were flown home in January 2004. The compound was reopened in mid-2005 to house some of the 38 detainees who were determined by the Combatant Status Review Tribunals not to be "enemy combatants". Camp X-Ray was a temporary detention facility which was closed in April 2002, and its prisoners were transferred to Camp Delta.
A recent report by the Associated Press indicates that a 7th camp, entitled Camp 7, is also a separate facility on the naval base. It is considered the highest security among all jails on the base, and its location is classified.
On 22 September 2004, ten prisoners were brought from Afghanistan. In July 2005, 242 detainees were moved out of Guantánamo, including 173 that were released without charge, and 69 transferred to the governments of other countries, according to the United States Department of Defense. By November 2005, 358 of the 505 detainees held at Guantánamo Bay had had Administrative Review Board hearings. Of these, 3% were granted and were awaiting release, 20% were to be transferred, 37% were to be further detained at Guantánamo, and no decision had been made in 40% of the cases. Of the 505 detainees, 100 or more are from Saudi Arabia, about 80 from Yemen, about 65 from Pakistan, about 50 from Afghanistan and two from Syria.
From 2002 to 2006 there have been several hunger strikes at Guantánamo Bay, with up to 200 participants according to some reports. Numerous participants were being force-fed through a feeding tube when their safety was judged to have been compromised. On 30 May 2006, The Australian reported that there were 75 detainees on hunger strike. The Center for Constitutional Rights has prepared a biography of some of the prisoners currently being held in Guantanamo Prison.
On July 2, 2008, the International Herald Tribune revealed in an article that the U.S. military trainers who came to Guantánamo Bay in December 2002 had based an entire interrogation class on a chart copied directly from a 1957 Air Force study of Chinese Communist torture techniques used during the Korean War to obtain confessions, many of them false. The chart showed the effects of "coercive management techniques" for possible use on prisoners, including "sleep deprivation," "prolonged constraint," and "exposure." The 1957 article from which the chart was copied, written by Alfred D. Biderman, a sociologist then working for the Air Force, was entitled "Communist Attempts to Elicit False Confessions From Air Force Prisoners of War". Other techniques used by the Chinese Communists that were listed on the chart include "Semi-Starvation," "Exploitation of Wounds," and "Filthy, Infested Surroundings," along with their effects: "Makes Victim Dependent on Interrogator," "Weakens Mental and Physical Ability to Resist," and "Reduces Prisoner to 'Animal Level' Concerns." The only change made to the chart used at Guantánamo was an altered title.
One of the allegations of abuse at the camp is the abuse of the religion of the detainees.The US government has claimed that they respect all religious and cultural sensitivities. However, prisoners released from the camp have alleged that abuse of religion including flushing the Qur'an down the toilet, defacing the Qur'an, writing comments and remarks on the Qur'an, tearing pages out of the Qur'an and denying detainees a copy of the Qur'an. These allegations were highlighted by Pakistan politician Imran Khan. Some of these abuses have been seen as emblematic of the whole military leadership's approach toward treatment of the prisoners while others argue that many abuses are performed and directed on an individual level with severe disciplinary repercussions if discovered. One of the justifications offered for the continued detention of Mesut Sen, during his Administrative Review Board hearing, was:
Red Cross inspectors and released detainees have alleged acts of torture , including sleep deprivation, beatings and locking in confined and cold cells. Human rights groups argue that indefinite detention constitutes torture.
The use of Guantánamo Bay as a military prison has drawn criticism from human rights organizations and others, who cite reports that detainees have been tortured or otherwise poorly treated. Supporters of the detention argue that trial review of detentions has never been afforded to prisoners of war, and that it is reasonable for enemy combatants to be detained until the cessation of hostilities.
By 2008 there had been at least 4 suicides and hundreds of suicide attempts in Guantanamo that are in public knowledge. No information is available on the number of suicides of prisoners that are classified secret, or their suicide attempts. On 10 June 2006, three detainees were found dead, who, according to the Pentagon, "killed themselves in an apparent suicide pact". Prison commander Rear Admiral Harry Harris claimed this was not an act of desperation, despite prisoners' pleas to the contrary, but rather "an act of asymmetric warfare committed against us".
Amnesty International said the apparent suicides "are the tragic results of years of arbitrary and indefinite detention" and called the prison "an indictment" of the George W. Bush administration's human rights record. Saudi Arabia's state-sponsored Saudi Human Rights group blamed the U.S. for the deaths. "There are no independent monitors at the detention camp so it is easy to pin the crime on the prisoners... it's possible they were tortured," said Mufleh al-Qahtani, the group's deputy director, in a statement to the local Al-Riyadh newspaper.
Guantanamo officials have reported 41 unsuccessful suicide attempts by 25 detainees since the U.S. began taking prisoners to the base in January 2002. Defense lawyers contend the number of suicide attempts is higher. On 19 May 2002, a U.N. panel said that holding detainees indefinitely at Guantanamo violated the world's ban on torture and that the United States should close the detention center. Mark Denbeaux, a law professor at Seton Hall University in New Jersey who represents two Tunisians at Guantanamo, said he believes others are candidates for suicide.
As of August 2003, at least 29 inmates of Camp Delta had attempted suicide in protest. The U.S. officials would not say why they had not previously reported the incident. After this event the Pentagon reclassified suicides as "manipulative self-injurious behaviors" because it is alleged by camp physicians that detainees do not genuinely wish to end their lives.
In 2008 a hidden-camera-video was released of a interrogation between Canadian security officials, and a Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) officer and Omar Khadr a youth held in Guantanamo Bay in which the prisoner repeatedly seems to utter "kill me, kill me, kill me".
European Union members and the Organization of American States, as well as non-governmental organizations such as Amnesty International, have protested the legal status and physical condition of detainees at Guantánamo. The human rights organization Human Rights Watch has criticized the Bush administration over this designation in its 2003 world report, stating: "Washington has ignored human rights standards in its own treatment of terrorism suspects. It has refused to apply the Geneva Conventions to prisoners of war from Afghanistan, and has misused the designation of 'illegal combatant' to apply to criminal suspects on U.S. soil." On May 25, 2005, Amnesty International released its annual report calling the facility the "gulag of our times". Lord Steyn called it "a monstrous failure of justice," because "... The military will act as interrogators, prosecutors and defense counsel, judges, and when death sentences are imposed, as executioners. The trials will be held in private. None of the guarantees of a fair trial need be observed.
Another senior British Judge, Justice Collins, said of the detention centre: "America's idea of what is torture is not the same as the United Kingdom's.At the beginning of December 2003, there were media reports that military lawyers appointed to defend alleged terrorists being held by the United States at Guantánamo Bay had expressed concern about the legal process for military commissions. The Guardian newspaper from the United Kingdom reported that a team of lawyers was dismissed after complaining that the rules for the forthcoming military commissions prohibited them from properly representing their clients. New York's Vanity Fair reported that some of the lawyers felt their ethical obligations were being violated by the process. The Pentagon strongly denied the claims in these media reports. It was reported on 5 May 2007, that many lawyers were sent back and some detainees refuse to see their lawyers, while others decline mail from their lawyers or refuse to provide them information on their cases.
The New York Times and other newspapers are critical of the camp; columnist Thomas Friedman urged George W. Bush to "just shut it down", calling Camp Delta "...worse than an embarrassment. Another New York Times editorial supported Friedman's proposal, arguing that Guantánamo is part of "...a chain of shadowy detention camps that includes Abu Ghraib in Iraq, the military prison at Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan and other secret locations run by the intelligence agencies" which are "part of a tightly linked global detention system with no accountability in law."
In November 2005, a group of experts from the Commission on Human Rights at the United Nations called off their visit to Camp Delta, originally scheduled for December 6, saying that the United States was not allowing them to conduct private interviews with the prisoners. "Since the Americans have not accepted the minimum requirements for such a visit, we must cancel [it]," Manfred Nowak, the UN envoy in charge of investigating torture allegations around the world, told AFP. The group, nevertheless, stated its intention to write a report on conditions at the prison based on eyewitness accounts from released detainees, meetings with lawyers and information from human rights groups.
In February 2006, the UN group released its report, which called on the U.S. either to try or release all suspected terrorists. The report, issued by the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, has the subtitle Situation of detainees at Guantánamo Bay. This includes, as an appendix, the U.S. ambassador's reply to the draft versions of the report in which he restates the U.S. government's position on the detainees.
European leaders have also voiced their opposition to the internment center. On 13 January 2006, German Chancellor Angela Merkel criticized the U.S. detention of prisoners at Guantánamo Bay and the "interrogation technique" known as "waterboarding", calling it a form of torture: "An institution like Guantánamo, in its present form, cannot and must not exist in the long term. We must find different ways of dealing with prisoners. As far as I'm concerned, there's no question about that," she declared in a January 9 interview to Der Spiegel. Meanwhile in the UK, Peter Hain, the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, stated during a live broadcast of Question Time (February 16, 2006) that: "I would prefer that it wasn't there and I would prefer it was closed." His cabinet colleague and Former Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, Tony Blair, declared the following day that the centre was "an anomaly and sooner or later it's got to be dealt with. On 10 March 2006, a letter in The Lancet is published, signed by more than 250 medical experts urging the United States to stop force-feeding of detainees and close down the prison. Force-feeding is specifically prohibited by the World Medical Association force-feeding declarations of Tokyo and Malta, to which the American Medical Association is a signatory. Dr David Nicholl who had initiated the letter stated that the definition of torture as only actions that cause "death or major organ failure" was "not a definition anyone on the planet is using". Conversely, the UN War Crimes Tribunal at The Hague ruled that force-feeding was not "torture, inhuman or degrading treatment" when they ordered it be implemented in another case.
In May 2006, the Attorney General for England and Wales Lord Goldsmith said the camp's existence was "unacceptable" and tarnished the U.S. traditions of liberty and justice. "The historic tradition of the United States as a beacon of freedom, liberty and of justice deserves the removal of this symbol," he said. Also in May 2006, the UN Committee against Torture condemned prisoners' treatment at Guantanamo Bay, noted that indefinite detention constitutes per se a violation of the UN Convention Against Torture, and called on the U.S. to shut down the Guantanamo facility.In June 2006, the European Parliament voted overwhelmingly in support of a motion urging the United States to close the camp.
In June 2006, U.S. Senator Arlen Specter stated that the arrests of most of the roughly 500 prisoners held there were based on "the flimsiest sort of hearsay".In September 2006, the UK's Lord Chancellor, Lord Falconer, who heads the UK's legal system, went further than previous British government statements, condemning the existence of the camp as a "shocking affront to democracy". Lord Falconer, who said he was expressing Government policy, made the comments in a lecture at the Supreme Court of New South Wales. According to former U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell: "Essentially, we have shaken the belief the world had in America's justice system by keeping a place like Guantanamo open and creating things like the military commission. We don't need it and it is causing us far more damage than any good we get for it,".
In March 2007, a group of British Parliamentarians formed an All-Party Parliamentary Group to campaign against Guantanamo Bay. The group is made up of Members of Parliament and peers from each of the main British political parties, and is chaired by Sarah Teather with Des Turner and Richard Shepherd acting as Vice Chairs. The Group was launched with an Ambassadors' Reception in the House of Commons, bringing together a large group of lawyers, non-governmental organisations and governments with an interest in seeing the camp closed. On 26 April 2007, there was a debate in the United States Senate over the detainees at Guantanamo Bay which ended in a draw, with Democrats urging action on the prisoners' behalf but running into stiff opposition from Republicans.
According to polls conducted by the Program on International Policy (PIP) attitudes, “Large majorities in Germany and Great Britain, and pluralities in Poland and India, believe the United States has committed violations of international law at its prison on Guantánamo Bay in Cuba, including the use of torture in interrogations.” PIP found a marked decrease in the perception of the U.S. as a leader of human rights as a result of the international community's opposition to the Guantánamo prison. A 2006 poll conducted by the BBC World Service together with GlobeScan in 26 countries found that 69% of respondents disapprove of the Guantánamo prison and the U.S. treatment of detainees. American actions in Guantanamo, coupled with the Abu Ghraib torture and prisoner abuse scandal, are considered major factors in the decline of the U.S.’s image abroad.
An Associated Press report claims that some detainees were turned over to the U.S. by Afghan tribesmen in return for cash bounties The first Denbeaux study reproduces copies of several of leaflets, flyers and posters the U.S. Government distributed to advertise the bounty program; some of which offered bounties of "millions of dollars". Some of the posters were in comic form to reach the majority of the Afghan population, many of whom are illiterate.
Forced feeding accusations by hunger-striking detainees began in the fall of 2005: "Detainees said large feeding tubes were forcibly shoved up their noses and down into their stomachs, with guards using the same tubes from one patient to another. The detainees say no sedatives were provided during these procedures, which they allege took place in front of U.S. physicians, including the head of the prison hospital. "A hunger striking detainee at Guantánamo Bay wants a judge to order the removal of his feeding tube so he can be allowed to die, one of his lawyers has said. Within a few weeks, the Department of Defense "extended an invitation to United Nations Special Rapporteurs to visit detention facilities at Guantánamo Bay Naval Station". This was rejected by the U.N. considering the restrictions "that [the] three human rights officials invited to Guantánamo Bay wouldn't be allowed to conduct private interviews" with prisoners. Simultaneously, media reports ensued surrounding the question of prisoner treatment. "District Court Judge Gladys Kessler also ordered the U.S. government to give medical records going back a week before such feedings take place. In early November 2005, the U.S. suddenly accelerated, for unknown reasons, the rate of prisoner release, but this was unsustained. Prisoners were force fed with nasal tubes.
In 2005, it was reported that sexual methods were allegedly used by female interrogators to break Muslim prisoners.
Some ex-prisoners in interviews at their homes, weeks after being released, talked of what they said was the overwhelming feeling of injustice among the approximately 680 men detained indefinitely at Guantánamo Bay.
Quotes from ex-prisoners:
I was trying to kill myself, said Shah Muhammad, 20, a Pakistani who was captured in northern Afghanistan in November 2001, handed over to American soldiers and flown to Guantánamo in January 2002. I tried four times, because I was disgusted with my life.
We needed more blankets, but they would not listen, he said.
The U.S. government has denied all of the above charges, but on 9 May 2004, The Washington Post publicized classified documents that showed Pentagon approval of using sleep deprivation, exposure to hot and cold, bright lights, and loud music during interrogations at Guantánamo.
Spc. Sean Baker, a soldier posing as a prisoner during training exercises at the camp, was beaten so severely that he suffered a brain injury and seizures. In June 2004, the New York Times reported that of the nearly 600 detainees not more than two dozen were closely linked to al-Qaeda and that only very limited information could have been received from questionings. The only top terrorist is reportedly Mohamed al-Kahtani from Saudi Arabia, who is believed to have planned to participate in the September 11, 2001 attacks.
The International Committee of the Red Cross inspected the camp in June 2004. In a confidential report issued in July 2004 and leaked to the New York Times in November 2004, Red Cross inspectors accused the U.S. military of using "humiliating acts, solitary confinement, temperature extremes, use of forced positions" against prisoners. The inspectors concluded that "the construction of such a system, whose stated purpose is the production of intelligence, cannot be considered other than an intentional system of cruel, unusual and degrading treatment and a form of torture." The United States Government has reportedly rejected the Red Cross findings.
The Washington Post in a May 8, 2004, article describes a set of interrogation techniques approved for use in interrogating alleged terrorists at Guantánamo Bay which are said by Kenneth Roth, executive director of Human Rights Watch, to be cruel and inhumane treatment illegal under the U.S. Constitution. On June 15, Brigadier General Janis Karpinski at the centre of the Abu Ghraib prisoner abuse in Iraq said she was told from the top to treat detainees like dogs "as it is done in Guantánamo [Camp Delta]." The former commander of Camp X-Ray, Geoffrey Miller, was the person brought in to deal with the inquiry into the alleged abuses at Abu Ghraib in Iraq during the Allied occupation. Ex-detainees of the Camp have made serious allegations, including alleging Geoffrey Miller's complicity in abuse at Camp X-Ray.
The book, Inside the Wire by Erik Saar and Viveca Novak also claims to reveal the abuse of prisoners. Saar, a former U.S. soldier, repeats allegations that a female interrogator taunted prisoners sexually and in one instance wiped what seemed to be menstrual blood on the detainee. Other instances of beatings by the IRF (initial reaction force) have been reported in the book.
An FBI email from December 2003, six months after Saar had left, said that the Defense Department interrogators at Guantánamo had impersonated FBI agents while using "torture techniques" on a detainee.
In an interview with CNN's Wolf Blitzer in June 2005, Dick Cheney defended the treatment of prisoners at Guantanamo: "There isn't any other nation in the world that would treat people who were determined to kill Americans the way we're treating these people. They're living in the tropics. They're well fed. They've got everything they could possibly want." . In a subsequent interview in October 2006, Vice President Cheney admitted in a radio interview that U.S. interrogators subjected prisoners to waterboarding.
The United States government, through the State Department, makes periodic reports to the United Nations Committee Against Torture. In October 2005, the report focused on pretrial detention of suspects in the "War on Terrorism", including those held in Guantánamo Bay. This particular Periodic Report is significant as the first official response of the U.S. government to allegations that prisoners are mistreated in Guantánamo Bay. The report denies the allegations but does describe in detail several instances of misconduct that did not arise to the level of substantial abuse, as well as the training and punishments given to the perpetrators.
On 4 August 2004, the three ex-detainees who were returned to the UK (and freed by the British authorities within 24 hours of their return), filed a report in the U.S. claiming persistent severe abuse at the camp, of themselves and others. They claimed that false confessions were extracted from them under duress, in conditions which amounted to torture. They alleged that conditions deteriorated when Major General Geoffrey Miller took charge of the camp, including increased periods of solitary confinement for the detainees. They claimed that the abuse took place with the knowledge of the intelligence forces. Their claims are currently being investigated by the British government.
Among the approximately two dozen Uyghur detainees in Guantanamo, the Washington Post reported on August 25, 2005, that fifteen had been determined not to have been "enemy combatants." Some of the Uyghurs had lawyers who volunteered to help them pursue a writ of habeas corpus, which would have been the single step in getting them freed from American detention. Five of the Uyghurs were scheduled to have arguments for their writ of habeas corpus argued in U.S. District Court on 8 May 2006. However, on May 5, the five Uyghurs were transported to refugee camps in Albania, thousands of miles from their homes, and the Department of Justice filed an "Emergency Motion to Dismiss as Moot" on the same day. One of the Uyghurs' lawyers characterized the sudden transfer as an attempt "to avoid having to answer in court for keeping innocent men in jail".
In August 2006, a German-born Turkish national was released from Guantánamo. Airat Vakhitov and Rustam Akhmyarov, two Russian nationals captured in Afghanistan in December 2001 (in a Taliban prison, in Vakhitov's case) and released from Guantánamo in 2004, were arrested by Russian authorities in Moscow on 27 August 2005, for allegedly preparing a series of attacks in Russia. According to authorities, Vakhitov was using a local human rights group as cover for his activities. They were released on September 2, and no charges were pressed..
U.S. officials claimed that some of the released prisoners returned to the battlefield. The story, as told by Dick Cheney, is that these captives tricked their interrogators about their real identity and made them think they were harmless villagers, and thus were able to "return to the battlefield."One released detainee, Abdallah Salih al-Ajmi, a Kuwaiti, committed a successful suicide attack in Mosul, on March 25, 2008. Al-Ajmi had been repatriated from Guantanamo in 2005, and transferred to Kuwaiti custody. A Kuwaiti court later acquitted him of terrorism charges.
However, a three judge panel overturned judge Robertson's ruling on Friday July 15 2005. The panel's ruling stated that the trial by military commission could, in and of itself, serve as the necessary "competent tribunal." On June 29, 2006, the Supreme Court of the United States reversed the ruling of the Court of Appeals and found that President Bush did not have authority to set up the war crimes tribunals and that the commissions were illegal under both military justice law and the Geneva Convention. The Supreme Court reserved the question that Judge Robertson found decisive, namely it did not rule on whether detainees were entitled to an Article 5 determination.
There is a dispute over whether (and how) detainees may be incarcerated and tried. David B. Rivkin Jr. and Lee A. Casey claimed that the Supreme Court's Hamdan ruling affirms that the United States is engaged in a legally cognizable armed conflict to which the laws of war apply. It may hold captured al Qaeda and Taliban operatives throughout that conflict, without granting them a criminal trial, and is also entitled to try them in the military justice system — including by military commission.
The Supreme Court in Hamdan v. Rumsfeld has not required that neither members of al Qaeda nor their allies, including members of the Taliban, must be granted POW status. However, the Supreme Court stated that the Geneva Conventions, most notably the Third Geneva Convention and also article 3 of the Fourth Geneva Convention (requiring humane treatment) applies to all detainees in the War on Terror. In July 2004, following Hamdi v. Rumsfeld—ruling the Bush administration began using Combatant Status Review Tribunals to determine whether the detainees could be held as "enemy combatants".
The ruling also disagreed with the administration's view that the laws and customs of war did not apply to the U.S. armed conflict with Al Qaeda fighters during the 2001 U.S. invasion of Taliban-controlled Afghanistan, stating that Article 3 common to all the Geneva Conventions applied in such a situation, which--among other things--requires fair trials for prisoners. Common Article 3 applies in "wars not of an international character" (i.e., civil wars) in a signatory to the Geneva Conventions—in this case the civil war in signatory Afghanistan. It is likely that the Bush administration may now be forced to try detainees held as part of the "war on terror" either by court martial (as U.S. troops and prisoners of war are) or by civilian federal court. However, Bush has indicated that he may seek an Act of Congress authorizing military commissions.
On January 31 2005, Washington federal judge Joyce Hens Green ruled that the Combatant Status Review Tribunals (CSRT) held to confirm the status of the prisoners in Guantánamo as "enemy combatants" were "unconstitutional", and that they were entitled to the rights granted by the Constitution of the United States of America. The Combatant Status Reviews were completed in March 2005. Thirty-eight of the detainees were found not to be combatants. On March 29, 2005, the dossier of Murat Kurnaz was accidentally declassified. Kurnaz was one of the 500-plus detainees the reviews had determined was an "enemy combatant". Critics found that his dossier contained over a hundred pages of reports of investigations which had found no ties to terrorists or terrorism whatsoever. It contained one memo that said Kurnaz had a tie to a suicide bomber. Judge Green said this memo "fails to provide significant details to support its conclusory allegations, does not reveal the sources for its information and is contradicted by other evidence in the record."
Eugene R. Fidell, who the Washington Post called a Washington-based expert in military law, said that "It suggests the procedure is a sham; if a case like that can get through, then the merest scintilla of evidence against someone would carry the day for the government, even if there's a mountain of evidence on the other side." Another detainee, Fawaz Mahdi, was determined by a CSRT to be an enemy combatant despite the fact that the CSRT (and Fawaz' lawyer) observed that he suffers a form of mental illness and that the only evidence for determining his status was his own statement.
In addition to the Combatant Status Review Tribunals the Department of Defense initiated a similar, annual review. Like the CSRT the Board did not have a mandate to review whether detainees qualified for POW status under the Geneva Conventions. The Board's mandate was to consider the factors for and against the continued detention of captives, and make a recommendation either for their retention, or their release or their transfer to the custody of their country of origin. The first set of annual reviews considered the dossiers of 463 captives. The first board met between December 14, 2004, and December 23, 2005. The Board recommended the release of 14 detainees, and repatriation of 120 detainees to the custody of their country of origin.
In September 2006, President Bush announced that fourteen suspected terrorists are to be transferred to the Guantanamo Bay detainment camp and admitted that these suspects have been held in CIA black sites. None of the 14 top figures transferred to Guantanamo from CIA custody had been charged until September 11 2006.
The Supreme Court heard oral arguments on the case of Al Odah v. United States on December 5, 2007. Plaintiffs in the case argue that Guantanamo detainees deserve the right to habeas corpus and that the U.S. court system, not the military CSRT system, should have jurisdiction in such cases. On June 12, 2008 the Supreme Court ruled that detainees do have the right to challenge their detention in civilian courts, overturning a 2006 law that abridged such rights.
On February 23, 2006, U.S. District Court Judge Jed S. Rakoff in New York ordered the Defense Department to release uncensored transcripts of detainee hearings which contained identifying information for detainees in custody as well as the names of those who have been held and later released. The U.S. military has never officially released even the names of any detainees except the ten who have been charged. The U.S. Defense Department immediately said it would obey the judge's order. The names of only 317 of the about 500 alleged enemy combatants being held in Guantánamo Bay were released by the Department of Defense on March 3, 2006. Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman justified withholding the names out of a concern for the detainees' privacy, although justice Jed Rakoff had already dismissed this argument.
French judge Jean-Claude Kross September 27, 2006, postponed a verdict in the trial of six former Guantanamo Bay detainees accused of attending combat training at an al Qaeda camp in Afghanistan, saying the court needs more information on French intelligence missions to Guantanamo. Defense lawyers for the six men, all French nationals, accuse the French government of colluding with U.S. authorities over the detentions and seeking to use inadmissible evidence obtained through secret service interviews with the detainees without their lawyers present. Kross scheduled new hearings for May 2, 2007, calling the former head of counterterrorism at the French Direction de la surveillance du territoire intelligence agency [official backgrounder] to testify.
In May 2007, Martin Scheinin, a United Nations rapporteur on rights in countering terrorism, released a preliminary report for the United Nations Human Rights Council. The report stated the United States violated international law, particularly the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, that the Bush Administration could not try such prisoners as enemy combatants in a military tribunal and could not deny them access to the evidence used against them.
Prisoners held at Camp Delta and Camp Echo have been labeled "illegal" or "unlawful enemy combatants," but several observers such as the Center for Constitutional Rights and Human Rights Watch maintain that the United States has not held the Article 5 tribunals required by the Geneva Conventions. The International Committee of the Red Cross has stated that, "Every person in enemy hands must have some status under international law: he is either a prisoner of war and, as such, covered by the Third Convention, a civilian covered by the Fourth Convention, [or] a member of the medical personnel of the armed forces who is covered by the First Convention. There is no intermediate status; nobody in enemy hands can fall outside the law." Thus, if the detainees are not classified as prisoners of war, this would still grant them the rights of the Fourth Geneva Convention as opposed to the more common Third Geneva Convention which deals exclusively with prisoners of war. A U.S. court has rejected this argument, as it applies to detainees from al Qaeda. Henry King, Jr., a prosecutor for the Nuremberg Trials, has argued that the type of tribunals at Guantanamo Bay "violates the Nuremberg principles" and that they are against "the spirit of the Geneva Conventions of 1949.
Many supporters have argued for the summary execution of all unlawful combatants, using Ex parte Quirin as the precedent, a case during World War II which upheld the use of military tribunals for eight German soldiers caught on U.S. soil. The Germans were deemed to be saboteurs and unlawful combatants, and thus not entitled to POW protections, and six were eventually executed for war crimes on request of the President of the United States, Franklin D. Roosevelt. The validity of this case, as basis for denying prisoners in the War on Terrorism protection by the Geneva Conventions, has been disputed.
A report by the American Bar Association commenting on this case, states that the Quirin case "...does not stand for the proposition that detainees may be held incommunicado and denied access to counsel." The report notes that the Quirin defendants could seek review and were represented by counsel.
On June 12 2008 the United States Supreme Court ruled in Boumediene v. Bush that the Guantanamo captives were entitled to the protection of the United States Constitution. Justice Anthony Kennedy, writing for the majority, described the CSR Tribunals as "an inadequate substitute for habeas corpus" although "both the DTA and the CSRT process remain intact.
On November 30, 2004, The New York Times published excerpts from an internal memo leaked from the U.S. administration, referring to a report from the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC). The ICRC reports of several activities which, it said, were "tantamount to torture": exposure to loud noise or music, prolonged extreme temperatures, or beatings. It also reported that a Behavioral Science Consultation Team (BSCT), also called 'Biscuit,' and military physicians communicated confidential medical information to the interrogation teams (weaknesses, phobias, etc.), resulting in the prisoners losing confidence in their medical care.
Access of the ICRC to the base was conditional, as is normal for ICRC humanitarian operations, on the confidentiality of their report; sources have reported heated debates had taken place at the ICRC headquarters, as some of those involved wanted to make the report public, or confront the U.S. administration. The newspaper said the administration and the Pentagon had seen the ICRC report in July 2004 but rejected its findings. The story was originally reported in several newspapers, including The Guardian, and the ICRC reacted to the article when the report was leaked in May.
In a foreword to Amnesty International's International Report 2005, the Secretary General, Irene Khan, made a passing reference to the Guantánamo Bay prison as "the gulag of our times," breaking an internal AI policy on not comparing different human rights abuses. The report reflected ongoing claims of prisoner abuse at Guantánamo and other military prisons.
A number of children are interned at Guantanamo Bay, in apparent contravention of international law.
General Counsel Mora and Navy Judge Advocate General Michael Lohr believed the detainee treatment to be unlawful, and campaigned among other top lawyers and officials in the Defense Department to investigate, and to provide clear standards prohibiting coercive interrogation tactics. In response, on January 15, 2003, Donald Rumsfeld suspended the approved interrogation tactics at Guantánamo until a new set of guidelines could be produced by a working group headed by General Counsel of the Air Force Mary Walker. The working group based its new guidelines on a legal memo from the Department of Justice Office of Legal Counsel written by John Yoo and signed by Jay S. Bybee, which would later become widely known as the "Torture Memo". General Counsel Mora led a faction of the Working Group in arguing against these standards, and argued the issues with Yoo in person. The working group's final report, was signed and delivered to Guantánamo without the knowledge of Mora and the others who had opposed its content. Nonetheless, Mora has maintained that detainee treatment has been consistent with the law since the January 15 2003 suspension of previously approved interrogation tactics.
On May 1, 2005, the New York Times reported on an ongoing high-level military investigation into accusations of detainee abuse at Guantánamo, conducted by Lt. Gen. Randall M. Schmidt of the Air Force, and dealing with: "accounts by agents for the Federal Bureau of Investigation who complained after witnessing detainees subjected to several forms of harsh treatment. The F.B.I. agents wrote in memorandums that were never meant to be disclosed publicly that they had seen female interrogators forcibly squeeze male prisoners' genitals, and that they had witnessed other detainees stripped and shackled low to the floor for many hours.
In June 2005, the United States House Committee on Armed Services visited the camp and described it as a "resort" and complimented the quality of the food. However Democratic members of the committee complained that Republicans had blocked the testimony of attorneys representing the prisoners.
On July 12, 2005, members of a military panel told the committee that they proposed disciplining prison commander Army Major General Geoffrey Miller over the interrogation of Mohamed al-Kahtani who was forced to wear a bra, dance with another man and threatened with dogs. The recommendation was overruled by General Bantz J. Craddock, commander of U.S. Southern Command, who referred the matter to the Army's inspector general.
Guantanamo: Where Do We Go from Here? President Obama Has Pledged to Close the Infamous Guantanamo Bay Detention Camp. Still to Be Decided Is How the US Justice System Will Deal with the Inmates and the International Repercussions-A Legacy of the Dubious Integrity of the George Bush Regime. Milan Vesely Reports from the United States
Mar 01, 2009; IN ONE YEAR Guantanamo Bay will be no more--the ironically named "Camp Justice" detention section of this American military base...