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News > World

A 'Fine Place' for 'Bad Dudes' — White House Signals Plan to Refill Guantanamo Torture Camp

  • The guard tower at the detention facility of the Joint Detention Group at the US Naval Station in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba (L) and U.S. President Donald Trump.

    The guard tower at the detention facility of the Joint Detention Group at the US Naval Station in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba (L) and U.S. President Donald Trump. | Photo: Reuters

Published 9 July 2017

The detention compound is infamous for the routine use of torture and denial of human rights protections assured by international law.

In what could be a major setback to already-diminished human rights standards in the United States, the White House appears to be readying itself to incarcerate a new wave of suspects at the Guantanamo Bay detention camp.

Terror Suspect Waterboarded 83 Times by CIA to Testify About Gitmo

Speculation has grown over the renewed usage of the notorious military prison — which lies on territory in Cuba's Guantanamo province that has been illegally occupied by the U.S. Navy for over a century — after Attorney General Jeff Sessions, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein and Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats visited the prison Friday.

The move would be in line with repeated campaign promises by Donald Trump to “load up” the facility “with some bad dudes,” despite the prison seeing no new inmates in over a decade.

Following the U.S. declaration of the so-called “War on Terror,” the facility earned infamy as a site where incarcerated prisoners of war were systematically denied protection from inhumane treatment under the Geneva Conventions and the United Nations Convention on Torture.

Attorney General Sessions has been a long-time proponent of the use of Guantanamo dating back to his time as an Alabama senator, noting that the prison serves “marvelously well” as a detention compound for foreign terror suspects and is a “very fine place for holding these kinds of dangerous criminals,” despite concerns from the international community that the facility represents a legal black hole where rights abuses regularly occur against indefinitely detained suspects.

Trump has provided few specifics about his Guantanamo plans, but a draft executive order that leaked from the White House in late January called the facility a "critical tool" in the fight against "radical Islamist groups."

How Human Rights Sell War

New renditions to the detention camp could potentially come from various theaters of war where the U.S. is involved, including Yemen, where the U.S. has helped to maintain a network of secret jails; Afghanistan, which will soon see a surge in U.S. military personnel; or Syria, where the U.S. has increasingly attacked Shi'ite militias aligned with the Assad government and allied Iran.

During his election campaign, former reality star Trump pontificated about potentially trying U.S. citizens accused of terrorism before military commissions at the facility, commenting in an interview with the Miami Herald that “they could be tried there, that'll be fine.” However, current law disallows the detention of U.S. citizens at the overseas site.

At the height of its operations, the prison held 780 people detained mostly for their alleged ties to al-Qaida and the Taliban. Prisoners were subject to routine torture — or “enhanced interrogation techniques” — including sexual abuse and rape, beatings, water and sleep deprivation, submersion in ice water, waterboarding, force-feeding, and “rectal feeding” or the insertion of tubes into a prisoner's anus.

In 2008, former President Barack Obama campaigned on a promise to shut down the Guantanamo Bay detention facility, issuing an executive order on his second day in the White House. However, the Obama administration failed to close the facility while maintaining the secrecy surrounding the egregious rights abuses that occurred there.

In recent years, hundreds have been transferred back to their home countries or to other locations. The inmate population currently stands at 41, while 26 inmates remain trapped in legal purgatory. These so-called "forever prisoners" have never been charged formally with committing any offenses but are alleged to be “too dangerous” to be released by authorities.

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