Guantanamo celebrates 20 years since its opening without a closing date on the horizon

The Guantánamo prison turns 20 years open this Tuesday, despite being a controversial symbol of the United States’ fight against terrorism, which currently houses 39 inmates and whose closure is not yet in sight despite the promises of the president, Joe Biden.

Located in a US naval base in eastern Cuba, the Guantanamo Bay detention center was opened in 2002 by order of the then US President George W. Bush (2001-2009) in response to the attacks of 11 December. September 2001.

“Twenty years later, it is undeniable that the Guantanamo Bay prison is a legal, moral and ethical failure. It is a global symbol of injustice, torture and contempt for the rule of law,” Hina Shamsi told EFE. Director of Homeland Security for the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU).

The destination of nearly 800 suspected terrorists detained in Afghanistan and Iraq, Guantanamo has been in the eye of the storm for secret detention and torture programs, which included simulated drowning and techniques to keep prisoners from sleeping.

The United States spends $ 540 million each year to maintain Guantánamo, where there are currently 39 men interned, 27 of them without criminal charges against them, according to a report published by the NGO Human Rights Watch (HRW) on the occasion of the 20th anniversary. of the prison.

For HRW, the use of these practices by the United States has damaged the entire international human rights system, facilitating abuses by other countries and making their justification easier.

No president decides to close it

The controversy generated by Guantánamo was such that its closure became one of the great promises of President Barack Obama (2009-2017), although he could never fulfill his commitment.

Obama wanted to send the prisoners to jails in the United States, but the Congress, with a Republican majority, blocked his efforts under various pretexts, so the government transferred them to other countries. With the arrival of Donald Trump (2017-2021) to power, the White House abandoned its efforts to close the prison and only transferred a single inmate in four years.

According to a book published by the journalists of the newspaper “The Washington Post” Yasmeen Abutaleb and Damian Paletta, Trump even suggested twice to his team to transfer COVID-19 patients to Guantanamo at the beginning of the pandemic.

The current president, Joe Biden, has taken up the promise of closing the jail, but with a much more discreet profile than that of Obama at the time, which has been criticized by civil society organizations.

Last year, White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki assured that “the objective and intention” of the current Administration is to close the prison, although it is not an issue that has been on Biden’s agenda during his first year of Presidency.

For now, the government has authorized the transfer of three prisoners out of the Guantanamo naval base, where there are 39, far from the 780 who came to pass through its facilities during the Bush Administration.

Last summer, the United States repatriated Abdul Latif Nasir, the last Moroccan prisoner from Guantánamo and the first inmate returned to his country by the Biden government, but since then there has been no further progress.

The Pentagon spokesman, John Kirby, was asked this Monday by journalists at a press conference if the Executive has adopted any concrete measures to close Guantánamo and replied that the Biden Administration “continues to focus on closing the detention facility.” .

“Nothing has changed in that regard, we are in the middle of a review now on how to proceed,” said Kirby, who stressed that currently the Board of Review of the cases of inmates in prison continues its work to relocate the inmates outside from the center.

The ACLU director of National Security told Efe that “Biden must be forced to fulfill his promise,” because “his Administration can do it and it is a matter of will.” “If President Biden is serious about defending human rights, racial equity and justice, he must take action and close Guantanamo for good,” said Shamsi.

Amnesty International denounced in a statement, published last week, that “the United States Government continues to perpetrate serious human rights violations in Guantánamo”, given that “none of the prisoners has received a fair trial and they continue to be detained indefinitely violating the due process”.

Finally, the NGO, which every January 11 organized a rally with people dressed in orange jumpsuits in front of the White House, will hold a virtual protest due to the advance of the coronavius ​​omicron variable in the United States.

Cuba calls for its closure in “illegally occupied territory”

For its part, the Government of Cuba has demanded this Tuesday the closure of the detention center at the US naval base at Guantanamo, an “atrocious prison” established exactly 20 years ago and which it considers installed in “occupied” territory.

“There are already 20 years of scandalous abuses in illegally occupied Cuban territory in Guantanamo Bay by the greatest violators of Human Rights in the world,” Cuban President Miguel Díaz Canel has affirmed on Twitter.

For his part, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Bruno Rodríguez, has indicated in his profile that they are now “20 years of ignominy” and recalled that 780 prisoners have at some point passed through the US base, “arbitrarily detained, without trial or due process”. It has also denounced “torture and degrading treatment” against these inmates.

Cuba ceded control of Guantánamo Bay to the United States at the beginning of the 19th century, within the framework of a reconfiguration of the sovereignty of the island after the end of the Spanish colonial period that initially involved the payment of 2,000 dollars a year in coins of gold. A treaty signed in 1934 reaffirms this particular lease, which was updated to $ 4,085.

The United States broke diplomatic relations with Cuba in 1961 and three years later the government of Fidel Castro cut off the water supply and access to the base. Since then, the facilities have been self-sufficient, with their own sources of energy and water, as the US Navy recalls on its website. The contract considers as a hypothesis for the termination the previous agreement between the governments of the two countries or the abandonment of the property by the United States.

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