Guantanamo Bay prison to stay open for at least 25 years

Above: A watch tower at Camp Delta at the US military-run detention centre in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Left: Detainees performing their morning prayers at the prison. Guantanamo has not received any new inmates since 2008, and 40 remain.
A watch tower at Camp Delta at the US military-run detention centre in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. PHOTOS: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE
Above: A watch tower at Camp Delta at the US military-run detention centre in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Left: Detainees performing their morning prayers at the prison. Guantanamo has not received any new inmates since 2008, and 40 remain.
Detainees performing their morning prayers at the prison. Guantanamo has not received any new inmates since 2008, and 40 remain.PHOTOS: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

GUANTANAMO BAY NAVAL BASE (Cuba) • Former president Barack Obama had vowed to close the US military-run prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, but now it will stay open for at least 25 years, the officer in charge of the facility has said.

Rear-Admiral John Ring said on Tuesday that the prison, which holds several alleged plotters of the Sept 11 attacks, is focused on readiness to make "sure that the facilities are going to last for 25 years".

In January, President Donald Trump signed an executive order which reverses Mr Obama's ultimately fruitless 2009 directive to shutter the facility that has drawn global scorn.

Following Mr Trump's move, "they told us we are going to be here for 25 years or more", said Adm Ring, Commander of Joint Task Force Guantanamo.

The Pentagon "sent us a memo saying plan to be open" for at least 25 years, he said during a visit regularly organised by the US military for journalists, with the aim of showing that prisoners are treated humanely at the American enclave in communist Cuba.

In December, the top torture expert at the United Nations said reports from sources indicated at least one inmate was still being tortured at Guantanamo Bay.

Mr Nils Melzer, the UN special rapporteur on torture, said he had received information that torture through noise and vibrations was taking place against Ammar al-Baluchi, a suspected Sept 11 plotter.

 
 

Mr Melzer voiced particular concern about detainees who had been held for long periods of time in almost complete isolation.

Under president George W. Bush, the military hastily built the prison camp following the US-led invasion of Afghanistan in late 2001.

Over the years, roughly 780 people have been detained at Guantanamo, mostly for their alleged ties to Al-Qaeda and the Taleban.

First under Mr Bush and then under Mr Obama, the US released hundreds of detainees from the prison.

The most notorious inmates, including accused Sept 11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, are still awaiting trial but their cases have been beset by legal problems.

Guantanamo has not received any new inmates since 2008, and 40 remain. Some have never been charged yet have been deemed too dangerous to release.

On the campaign trail, Mr Trump vowed to load Guantanamo with "bad dudes", and later in office he said Islamic State in Iraq and Syria fighters would be sent there.

Adm Ring said that so far there is "no indication" that such new detainees would be transferred soon to Guantanamo.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 18, 2018, with the headline 'Guantanamo Bay prison to stay open for at least 25 years'. Print Edition | Subscribe