It has been 10 years since the first prisoners arrived at the Guantanamo detention centre in Cuba.
A total of 779 prisoners have passed through the naval base since it started holding prisoners suspected of having links to al-Qaeda after the US invasion of Afghanistan in 2002. Today 171 detainees are still kept there.
According to Hina Shamsi, Director of the National Security Project at the ACLU, the milestone is nothing to celebrate: “On the 10-year anniversary of Guantanamo, it could not be more clear that the place is a catastrophic failure legally, ethically, morally, and in terms of our national security. It is a place that was a laboratory for torture and represents the principle of indefinite military detention without charge or trial by the United States. It is a failure of our democratic values and the time has come to close it.”
The US Congress has blocked the transfer of Guantanamo inmates to custody in other countries, making a mockery of President Barack Obama’s promise when he stated: “Guantanamo will be closed no later than one year from now.”
Just two days after taking office in 2009, Obama ordered Guantanamo’s closure, an objective which has not yet been managed.
Karen Greenberg, Director at the Centre on National Security at Fordham Law School, said the US government is failing in its approach: “What the Obama administration has tried to do is go person-by-person through each one of these files to try to decide whether to try them, whether to release them or transfer them, or whether they want to open this category of indefinite detention. And that’s what they decided to do. So in essence, once you’ve opened up the category of indefinite detention, you can never get rid of Guantanamo.”
Prisoners are banned from being transferred for at least another year thanks to the recently-passed US National Defence Authorisation Act (NDDA) – highlighting an Obama failure as he fights for re-election this year.