There are 166 out of 779 still imprisoned, including 87 cleared for release, but still held at Guantanamo
11, 2013, marked the 11th year that the infamous Guantanamo prison has been
in operation by the United States. It is
also 11 years that Hamid Karzai has the leader of Afghanistan. On January 11, President Karzai
met with Barak Obama, the second US president who has presided over the war in
Afghanistan. We don't know if President
Karzai mentioned the 18 Afghans who remain in Guantanamo
out of the 220 who were imprisoned.
no doubt there were discussions about the messy turnover of prisons in
Afghanistan from US control to Afghan control, in which the US still refuses to
hand over some prisoners. In 2012, 570 detainees were released after acquittal
in Afghan courts with an additional 485 in the process of being released after a
bilateral board of Afghans and Americans determined that there was not enough
evidence to prosecute them. On the day prior to President Karzai's departure for
Washington, another 80 prisoners were released
was 11 years ago, in late January, 2002, when I was on a helicopter that
flew then interim-president Karzai from Kabul to Bagram Air Base for him to
board a military aircraft for a flight to Washington, DC to meet with President
Bush for the first time and for Karzai to be seated next to Laura Bush in the US
Capitol gallery for President Bush's 2002 State of the Union message. At the time, I was in the US diplomatic corps
and was on the small team that had reopened the US Embassy in Kabul, Afghanistan
in mid-December, 2001.
years ago, on January 10 or January 11, another military plane
had flown from
Bagram Air Base. It was a secret flight
known to only a few very senior US officials (I was not one of them) and CIA and military personnel needed to carry out the flight. The plane carried 20 passengers, all strapped down on the icy floor of the plane, hands and feet cuffed, wearing blacked out eye goggles to they couldn't see and wearing diapers so their captors would not have to take them to the toilet in the long 22-hour flight from Afghanistan to Cuba. These were the first of what ended up being 779 prisoners, many of whom the United States government bought in a bounty program ($5,000 to $25,000 for al Qaeda members and $1 million for Osama
bin Ladin) who were flown from sites all over the world to be locked up and
tortured in a new prison constructed on the US Naval Base at Guantanamo,
Eleven years later,
here are the statistics that make Guantanamo a word of infamy (with apologies to
those who live in the city of Guantanamo, Cuba). Statistics are from Reprieve, a UK human rights group,
and Human Rights First...
779 persons have
been imprisoned in Guantanamo since January 11, 2002.
166 prisoners are
still detained in Guantanamo.
603 prisoners have
prisoner has been convicted by US federal courts (Ahmed Ghalilani).
9 have died in
Guantanamo, 6 allegedly by suicide and 3 of "natural causes." (3 from
Afghanistan, 3 from Saudi Arabia and 3 from Yemen).
Only 6 of the 779
prisoners have been put before a military commission.
eventually agreed to plea bargains.
1 prisoner has been
convicted in a military commission.
1 prisoner is still
87 prisoners of the
166 (one-half) have been "cleared for transfer" by senior officials six US
government agencies, but have not been released.
90 of the 166 are
from Yemen, 18 from Afghanistan, 8 from Saudi Arabia, 7 from Algeria, 6 from
Pakistan, 5 from Tunisia, 4 from China, 4 from Libya, 3 the Palestinian
Territories, 3 from Syria, 2 from Mauritania, 2 from Uzbekistan, 2 from
Malaysia, 2 from Sudan, 2 from Kuwait and one each from Kenya, Indonesia,
Russia, Morocco, Somalia, Bosnia, Iraq and Tajikistan.
30 of those cleared for release are from Yemen and are being held until "conditions in the country improve," which means with US drone strikes in Yemen increasing, they will not be released for a long time, much less the other 60 from Yemen.
Only 16 prisoners
are considered "high value" (3 from Pakistan, 2 from Afghanistan, 2 Saudi
Arabia, 2 Yemen, 2 Malaysia, 1 Indonesia, 1 Somalia, 1 Palestinian Territories,
1 Iraq, 1 Libya).
36 prisoners have
now been designated for trial.
46 prisoners have
been designated by the Obama administration for indefinite detention without
charge or trial.
38 prisoners have
been determined to be held unlawfully by US Federal Courts.
$27,251 -- yearly cost to US taxpayers of a federal prisoner.
$800,000 -- yearly cost
to US taxpayer of a Guantanamo prisoner.
$150 million -- yearly
cost to operate Guantanamo.
Nearly 500 persons
have been convicted by Federal Courts since 9/11 on terror-related
convicted in Federal Courts of terror-related charges currently are being held
in US Federal prisons.
0 persons convicted
in Federal Courts of terror-related charges have escaped from any part of the Federal prison system.
4 cases involving Guantanamo prisoner rights have gone to the US Supreme Court.
In all 4 cases
involving Guantanamo prisoner rights, the Supreme Court justices have sided with
Despite his January
22, 2009 executive order closing Guantanamo Prison in one year, President Obama
ensured the continued operation of Guantanamo for another year by signing the
National Defense Authorization Act of 2013, and refused to challenge the
Congressional mandated ban on transfers from Guanta'namo to the federal court and
prison system in the United States.
the 11 years of Guantanamo prison operations, hundreds of prisoners have
gone on extended hunger strikes for treatment according to the Geneva
conventions and reasonable condition such as having clean water bottles with
meals. Military personal force-fed
hunger strikers through painful nasal tubes.
Nine prisoners have died in Guantanamo, including three who allegedly committed suicide
in one night in 2006 in separate cells by gagging themselves with their own
socks, each tying their own hands behind their backs and then each one hoisting
himself high enough to fall and then strangle to death. The US government says
that another prisoner committed suicide in 2007, another in 2009 and the latest
in 2012. Three prisoners reportedly died
of "natural causes" -- heart attacks and cancer.
latest prisoner to die in Guantanamo is Yemen citizen Adnan Farhan Abdul Latif
who allegedly committed suicide in September, 2012 in solitary confinement at
age 36, after nearly 11 years of imprisonment. Latif was never charged with a
crime. He was purchased in the bounty program in Pakistan where he had gone for
medical treatment and transported to Guantanamo on January 17, 2002.
Four years later in 2006, he was cleared by
Department of Defense for return home. He was cleared again in 2008 and 2009. In 2010, a US District Court ordered his release, but a Court of Appeals
overturned the release order. In December, 2012, his body was returned to his
family in Yemen -- with many unanswered questions about his imprisonment and
US military claims he committed suicide from an overdose of prescription
medication complicated by acute pneumonia while in solitary confinement,
monitored by camera and observed frequently by guards and medical staff who should have maintained rigorous strict medical protocols for a prisoner with acute pneumonia.
It took three months for the US government to return his body to Yemen. The US government autopsy and toxicology
reports are classified and are being withheld from his family. His body was too decomposed for a second
autopsy to be performed in Yemen. A short moving documentary about the return of his body to Yemen in December, 2012 is here
Prisoners are too Dangerous to Take to Court?
Obama administration mirrors the Bush administration's view that some of the
remaining prisoners (Obama administration says 46) are too dangerous to go
before a court when actually the danger for the administration is not from the
prisoners but from having to acknowledge in a court, the US government's illegal
torture techniques used on the prisoners.
so far, US administrations have successfully prevented any punishment for
the hundreds of CIA, military and contractors that have been involved in the
torture of prisoners in Guantanamo, Bagram and other prisons in Afghanistan,
Iraq and in locations around the world. Senior CIA officials
publicly and proudly acknowledge they destroyed interrogation tapes of "high
of Guantanamo Prison
For 10 years, American citizens and people around the world, have been protesting
the illegal imprisonment and torture of prisoners at Guantanamo. Two groups even travelled to Cuba and held
vigils outside the back gates of Guantanamo.
In December, 2005, a group of 25 Catholic Workers
walked 70 miles from the city of Santiago de Cuba to Guantanamo to bring more international publicity to the conditions in the Guanatamo prison.
January, 2007, I was part of a CODEPINK: Women for Peace delegation that held a
conference in the city of Guantanamo about the conditions for prisoners in US
prison in Guantanamo and then held a 12-hour vigil at the back gate of the US
Naval Base of Guantanamo.
citizen Asaf Iqbal, one of first prisoners to be released from Guantanamo, came
with us. We showed the documentary movie
"The Road to Guantanamo" about his "capture" in Afghanistan and his ordeal in Guantanamo to over 1,000 Cubans in the largest movie theater in Guantanamo. When we asked if he were afraid to return to Cuba, he said, "No, I'm not afraid of Cuban, its just the Americans in Cuba I am worried about."
mother and brother of Omar Deghayes
, a man who was still a prisoner in
Guantanamo, also came with us. During
the vigil at the back fence of Guantanamo, Omar's mother cried and asked, "Do
you think Omar knows we are here?" Omar
was released at the end of 2007 and later told his mother that a guard mentioned
to him that he had seen on TV that an international delegation had been at the
back fence and the newscast said that Omar's mother there.
on January 11, 2013, six years after our trip to Guantanamo and 11 years after
Guantanamo opened, we are still calling for Guantanamo prison to be closed. Vigils were held in cities all over the
United States for the closing of Guantanamo. In Washington, DC, concerned
citizens joined with Witness Against Torture
in vigils at the White House, Supreme Court
this year, with the opening of the movie at the Newsmuseum in Washington, DC
about the execution of Osama Bin Ladin, "Zero Dark Thirty," Witness Against
Torture participants in the notorious orange jumpsuits have brought attention to
the waterboarding of prisoners in Guantanamo as graphically depicted in the
year, on January 11, I was home in Honolulu, Hawaii. Several of us from Hawaii Peace and Justice
and World Can't Wait held a vigil in front of the Federal Building in Honolulu
reminding our fellow citizens that torture is wrong, imprisonment without trial
is wrong and the Guantanamo prison must close.
On the island of Oahu, with 4 major US military bases and a huge National
Security Agency (NSA) installation, there are undoubtedly military and civilian
personnel who have been guards, interrogators, medical and psychological
specialists, lawyers and administrators who know exactly what has gone on in
felt it was important to remind them, as well as our fellow citizens, that we
should end torture, close Guantanamo and "Stop Thinking like an American and Start
Thinking about Humanity."