What Is Guantanamo Bay?

An image of Guantanamo Bay Naval Base in 1995, before the military prison was added.
An image of Guantanamo Bay Naval Base in 1995, before the military prison was added.

Guantanamo Bay detention camp, sometimes referred to Guantanamo Bay, Guantanamo, or Gitmo, is a US military prison that detains inmates without trial. It is located at the Guantánamo Bay Naval Base in the southeastern part of Cuba. The military prison was created in 2002 by the government of (then) US President George W. Bush after the September 11 attacks as part of the War on Terror. The detention facility quickly became infamous among human rights activists due to the alleged torture and inhuman conditions experienced by inmates. Eighteen months after it was established, the facility held 684 detainees. The youngest detainee to be held at the facility was 14 years old, while the oldest was 89 years old.


The US military does not reveal the exact number of detainees it holds within the facility, but it is estimated that 779 men have set foot in the facility since it was established. By mid-2004, about 200 had been released without trial to determine their guilt or innocence. People from fifty different countries have set foot in the facility, the majority of whom are Afghans, Saudi Arabians, Yemenis, and Pakistanis. Although the US government claims that its military forces in Afghanistan had captured a majority of the prisoners, reports from several sources, including the Center for Policy and Research, revealed that over 80% had been handed over by Pakistan and Afghanistan in exchange for bounty payments. The Center for Policy and Research further revealed that a majority of detainees were low-level combatants who had no affiliation with terror groups. It is estimated that eight people have died in the detention camp, although the US military claims six committed suicide. Between 17 and 22 minors have been detained in the facility, which is in violation of international laws protecting minors. In 2006, the the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) claimed it had 14 high-value prisoners in the facility including Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, who is believed to be the No. 3 Al-Qaeda leader, and Abu Zubaydah, who was suspected to be Osama’s link to Al-Qaeda cells.

Closure of Guantanamo Bay?

Since its inception the legality of Guantanamo Bay detention camp has been questioned. The Bush government claimed the facility was not in the US and therefore prisoners should not be subjected to the US legal system. However, in 2004 the US Supreme Court ruled that all prisoners held by the US should be subjected to the American legal system. After assuming power in 2009, President Barrack Obama signed an executive order to initiate the closure of the facility within one year. However, the plan stalled after other countries refused to accept the prisoners. Other prisoners would be transferred to prisons in Colorado, Kansas, South Carolina. The plan also faced political opposition from Republican leaders who wanted the facility to remain open, and considered it an essential tool in the war against terrorism. Additionally, a majority of US citizens also did not want Guantanamo detainees on American soil. The rise of ISIS in the Middle East proved to be a stumbling block as released detainees found their way back to the terror group.

In his first State of the Union address, incumbent US President Donald Trump vowed to keep the detention facility open. Trump claimed the released detainees were currently leading the ISIS frontline against the US. During his campaign, Trump openly stated that the facility would remain open and continue to imprison "bad dudes." As of February 2018, the Trump administration has not released or added any prisoners to the facility.


More in Politics