Gitmo: Inside the US Torture Camp

 On Jan. 11 Guantanamo Bay prison 
begins its 16th year of operations.

As the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan was waged in 2001, the Bush administration began searching for a site to hold Al Qaeda and Taliban detainees outside U.S. legal jurisdiction. In January 2002, Guantanamo Bay detention camp was born, with then secretary of defense Donald Rumsfeld claiming the site would hold high value detainees.


For the first few months, the detention facility was nothing more than a collection of wire cages, leaving detainees exposed to the Caribbean elements. Designated Camp X-Ray, the site provided detainees with bare concrete blocks to sleep on, and makeshift tubes to urinate in.


Camp X-Ray was closed in April 2002, after construction of a more permanent facility was completed nearby. Over the years, the site would hold 780 detainees, and be embroiled in allegations of torture and mistreatment.

In 2006, the United Nations demanded the United States close Guantanamo. In a scathing report, the U.N.'s human rights commissioner condemned U.S. interrogation techniques, and accused authorities at the site of excessive force against hunger striking detainees, including force feeding.

Former Guantanamo Bay detainees Walid al-Qadasi (R) and Sadiq Muhammad Saeed wear black hoods during a protest to demand the release of Yemeni detainees from Guantanamo Bay, outside the U.S. embassy in Sanaa, Yemen. (Reuters)

After years of denial by the Bush administration, in early 2009 a government-ordered review conceded torture had taken place at the site. Two days after taking office, on January 22 President Barack Obama issued a request to close Guantanamo. One of Obama's key electoral platforms was closing the site within a year of taking office, amid surging international condemnation.

The signature of U.S. President Barack Obama is seen in this January 22, 2009 file photo after he signed an executive order about the U.S. military base and detention facility in Guantanamo. (Reuters)

Obama signed legislation on Jan. 7, 2011, making it close to impossible to transfer Guantanamo detainees out of the site. 
The legislation effectively crushed any hopes for closure the site in the foreseeable future.


Even after attempts to close the site ended, complaints of massive human rights abuses continued. In April 2011, Wikileaks began publishing hundreds of leaked documents related to the site. The documents appeared to show hundreds of detainees were ordinary, innocent Afghans and Pakistanis that never faced charges and weren't considered security threats. The documents also appeared to show the U.S. had held Al Jazeera journalist Sami al-Hajj for six years simply to obtain inside information about his employer.

Each detainee costs the U.S. taxpayer US$2.7 million to hold in Guantanamo, according to a 2013 report by Democrats on the House Armed Services Committee.

Leg shackles for detainees are seen on the floor at the Camp 6 detention center. (Pool/Reuters)

No senior government officials have faced any public repercussions for alleged abuses at Guantanamo.

Today, over 100 detainees remain in Guantanamo. Twenty-two were children when they were detained, and 45 have been cleared for release but remain behind bars. In total, nine detainees have died since 2002 – that's more than the number convicted.

Detainees are seen inside the Camp 6 detention facility at Guantanamo. (Reuters)