Guantanamo Bay

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Map of Cuba with location of Guantanamo Bay indicated.

Guantanamo Bay (abbreviated as GTMO or "Gitmo") is located at the south-eastern end of Cuba, in the Guantanamo Province, at Template:Coor dm and contains a United States Naval Base (116 km2 = approx. 45 mi2) currently well known for its use as a detainment camp, by the United States military, for prisoners suspected of ties with al-Qaeda.



See also timeline of Guantanamo Bay

U.S. Naval Station Guantanamo Bay was established in 1898, when the U.S. obtained control of Cuba from Spain at the end of the Spanish-American War, following the 1898 invasion of Guantanamo Bay. The US government obtained a perpetual lease that began on February 23, 1903, from Toms Estrada Palma, an American citizen, who became the first President of Cuba. The newly formed American protectorate incorporated the Platt Amendment in the Cuban Constitution. The Cuban-American Treaty held, among other things, that the US, for the purposes of operating coaling and naval stations, has "complete jurisdiction and control" of the Guantanamo Bay, while the Republic of Cuba is recognized to retain ultimate sovereignty.

In 1905, in part because of the Platt Amendment, there was an uprising requiring the US to occupy Cuba for 3 years. A 1934 treaty reaffirming the lease granted Cuba and her trading partners free access through the bay, modified the lease payment from $2,000 in gold coins per year, to the 1934 equivalent value of $4,085 U.S. Treasury Dollars, and added a requirement that termination of the lease requires the consent of both the US and Cuba governments, or the abandonment of the base property by the US.

With over 9,500 US troops,[1] ( 'Gitmo' is the only U.S. base in operation on Communist soil, as of 2005.

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Aerial view of Guantanamo Bay
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Satellite view of Guantanamo Bay

Since coming to power, Fidel Castro has only cashed one rent check, while steadfastly refusing to cash any others, because he views the base as illegitimate. Although diplomatic relations do not exist between the US and Cuba, the US has agreed to return fugitives from Cuban law to Cuban authorities, and Cuba agreed to return fugitives from US law, for offenses committed in Guantanamo Bay, to US authorities.

The US control of this Cuban territory has never been popular with Cubans. The Cuban government strongly denounces the treaty on grounds that article 52 of the 1969 Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties declares a treaty void if its conclusion has been procured by the threat or use of force—in this case by the inclusion, in 1903, of the Platt Amendment in the Cuban Constitution. The US warned the Cuban Constitutional Convention not to modify the Amendment, and was told US troops would not leave Cuba until its terms had been adopted as a condition for the US to grant independence.

The Cuban government cut off water to the base, causing the US to first import water from Jamaica and then to build desalination plants. Today, the base is self-sufficient producing its own water and electricity. Only two Cubans, both elderly, still cross the base's North East Gate daily to work on the base; but the Cuban government prohibits new recruitment.

Detention of prisoners

See also Camp X-Ray, Camp Delta

The use of Gitmo as a military prison has sparked protests from around the globe, particularly from human rights organizations concerned about reports of the torture and abuse of detainees. Critics of US prisoner of war policies also question the propriety of using an offshore prison, and the murky legal status it causes for its detainees, simply to sidestep the legal inconvenience of constitutionally guaranteed civil rights, which would otherwise be invoked if the prisoners were detained on US soil.

Despite ongoing controversy over whether or not the Naval base should continue to be used to house prisoners, on June 16, 2005, the US Defense Department announced a unit of defence contractor Halliburton Energy will build a new $30 million detention facility and security perimeter around Gitmo.

Prior to the War on Terror led by US President George W. Bush, in the last quarter of the 20th century, the base was used to house Cuban and Haitian refugees intercepted on the high seas. Beginning in 2002, however, a small portion of the base was used to house suspected al-Qaeda and Taliban prisoners captured in Afghanistan and elsewhere at Camp X-Ray, Camp Delta and Camp Echo. As of June, 2005, the US was holding about 520 foreign terrorism suspects - imprisoned without charge - at Gitmo, some of whom were captured in Afghanistan. The most recent publicly disclosed transfer of prisoners occurred September 22, 2004 when 10 prisoners were brought from Afghanistan.

Legal status

The peculiar legal status of Guantanamo Bay was a factor in the choice of Guantanamo as a detention center. Because sovereignty of Guantanamo Bay ultimately resides with Cuba, the U.S. government argued unsuccessfully that people detained at Guantanamo were legally outside of the U.S. and did not have the Constitutional rights that they would have if they were held on U.S. territory (see Cuban American Bar Ass'n, Inc. v. Christopher, 43 F.3d 1412 (11th Cir. 1995)). In 2004, the Supreme Court rejected this argument in the case Rasul v. Bush with the majority decision and ruled that prisoners in Guantanamo have access to American courts, citing the fact that the U.S. has exclusive control over Guantanamo Bay.

The U.S. classifies the prisoners held at Camp Delta and Camp Echo as "illegal enemy combatants", but has not held the Article 5 tribunals that would be required by international law for it to do so. This would grant them the rights of the Fourth Geneva Convention (GCIV), as opposed to the more common Third Geneva Convention (GCIII) which deals exclusively with prisoners of war. On November 9, 2004 US District Court Judge James Robertson ruled that the Bush Administration had overstepped its authority to try such prisoners as enemy combatants in a military tribunal and denying them access to the evidence used against them.

Another problem with the US treatment of the Guantanamo Bay prisoners, is that most of them were captured and transferred to the camp from non-US soil. International laws regarding warfare would allow the US to do so, but only if the persons can be classified as prisoners of war. If they can not, the actions are kidnappings.

Abuse charges

British prisoner charges

Three British prisoners, released in 2004 without charge, have alleged ongoing torture, sexual degradation, forced drugging and religious persecution being committed by US forces at Guantanamo Bay. The prisoners have released a 115-page dossier detailing these accusations.[2] ( They have also accused British authorities of knowing about the torture and failing to respond.

The accounts of the British prisoners have been confirmed by two former French prisoners, a former Swedish prisoner, and a former Australian prisoner. In response to accusations, US Navy Secretary Gordon England has indicated a review of detainee incarceration practices at Guantanamo, conducted by a Navy inspector general, has concluded Gitmo was "being operated at very high standards."

Moazzam Begg allegations

Former Guantanamo detainee Moazzam Begg, freed in January, 2005, after nearly three years in captivity, has accused his American captors of torturing him and other detainees arrested in Afghanistan and Pakistan.[3] ( Mr Begg, in his first broadcast interview since his release, claimed he "witnessed two people get beaten so badly that I believe it caused their deaths".

Mehdi Ghezali allegations

Former Guantanamo detainee, the Swede Mehdi Ghezali was freed on July 9, 2004 after two and half years internment. Ghezali has claimed that he repeatedly was the victim of torture. His lawyer has declared that he intends to sue the US state for their illegal treatment of him.

Red Cross report

On November 30, 2004, The New York Times published excerpts from an internal memo leaked from the US administration,[4] ( referring to a report from the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC).

The ICRC report points out several activities which, it said, were "tantamount to torture": exposure to loud noise or music, prolonged extreme temperatures, or beatings. It also reported the existence of a behavior science team (BSCT), also called 'Biscuit', and the fact physicians of the base communicate confidential medical information to the interrogation teams (weaknesses, phobias, etc.), resulting in the prisoners losing confidence in the medical team of the base.

Access of the ICRC to the base was conditional, as is normal for ICRC humanitarian operations, to the confidentiality of their report; sources have reported heated debates had taken place at the ICRC headquarters, as some of those involved wanted to make the report public, or confront the US administration. The newspaper said the administration and the Pentagon had seen the ICRC report in July, 2004 but rejected its findings.[5] (,1280,-4645430,00.html) [6] ( The story was originally reported in several newspapers, including The Guardian (,,1213640,00.html), and the ICRC reacted to the article when the report was leaked in May.[7] (

Amnesty International

On May 31, 2005, President Bush denounced a new human rights report from Amnesty International reflecting ongoing claims of prisoner abuse at Gitmo and other military prisons, labeling the report "absurd", according to an Associated Press report.[8] ( Conservative commentators, as well as President Bush, have criticized the report as lacking neutrality, pointing to the report's harsh characterization of Gitmo as "the gulag of our time." [9] ([10] (

Associated Press revelations

On the same day as Bush's comments about Amnesty International's report, new allegations from prisoners at Guantanamo Bay were reported by the news agency, in a separate report asserting Afghan tribesmen had ulterior motives for turning over alleged terrorists: to sell them to the Americans. Detainees testified during military tribunals that bounties ranged from $3,000 to $25,000, according to transcripts the US government released in compliance with a Freedom of Information lawsuit filed by the AP, which the agency reported shortly after Bush's remarks.[11] (,1280,-5043187,00.html)

Further details were released at the end of the week, as on June 3, 2005, confirming reports of US soldiers abusing the Qur'an: a soldier deliberately kicked a Qur'an; an interrogator stepped on a Qur'an; a guard's urine came through an air vent, splashing a detainee and his Qur'an; water balloons thrown by prison guards caused a number of Qur'ans to get wet; and a two-word obscenity was written in English on the inside cover of a Qur'an (see Qur'an desecration controversy of 2005).

USA PATRIOT Act testimony

On June 10, 2005, as testimony was being given about human rights abuses at Gitmo, before a House Judiciary Committee hearing on reauthorization of the USA PATRIOT Act, Chairman James Sensenbrenner (one of the Act's authors) abruptly gaveled the proceedings to a close. Sensenbrenner declared debate over the detainees at Guantanamo Bay irrelevant.[12] ( Witnesses continued testifying despite Sensenbrenner's departure, while C-SPAN cameras continued to roll after microphones and lights were promptly turned off. A witness at the hearing, James Zogby of the Arab American Institute, said "I just saw something...totally inappropriate. No mic on and no record being kept," adding, "I'm troubled about what kind of lesson this gives" to the rest of the world.

Fictional representations of Guantanamo

  • The movie A Few Good Men (1992) depicts a legal trial concerning an incident that took place in Guantanamo Bay.
  • Guantanamo Bay was featured in Bad Boys II (2003).
  • Guantanamo Bay was mentioned in the James Bond movie GoldenEye (1995), which was, however, shot in Puerto Rico.
  • The base is frequently referenced in the TV series JAG, and its spin-off series NCIS.
  • The animated series American Dad! features a real-estate agent being sent to Guantanamo Bay by the Government.
  • In an episode of the animated series The Simpsons that aired on May 16, 2004 the Simpsons are imprisoned on an island prison for violating the "government knows best act." The island ends up being Alcatraz, but there are several implied parallels with Guantanamo's use as a detainment center.

See also

Wikisource link

External links

  • [13] ( - Amnesty International: Guantanamo Bay - a human rights scandal
  • ( - Professor Alfred de Zayas' web site (English, French, and German texts concerning legal and historical aspects of the Guantanamo complex, including 'The Status of Guantanamo Bay', University of British Columbia Law Review pp. 277-341, and articles in Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung and Tribune de Genve)
  • ( - 'Trial in error? Military tribunals are better suited to revenge than justice' John Hickman (December 12, 2001)
  • ( -'Supreme Court Guantanamo Decision', Steven C. Welsh, Esq., International Security Law Project (June 30, 2004)
  • ( - 'Guantanamo: Latest News from World News Network'
  • ( - Guantanamo Bay News
  • ( - 'Statement by The Government of Cuba to the National and International Public Opinion' (January 11, 2002)

Official US military website

  • ( - 'US Naval Station Guantanamo Bay Cuba: The United States' oldest overseas Naval Base'

Maps and photos

  • ( - Guantanamo Province photos with the view from Mirador de Malones
  • (,-75.142021&spn=0.163078,0.253372&t=k&hl=en) - Google Mapsde:Guantanamo-Bucht

es:Baha de Guantnamo id:Teluk Guantanamo ja:グァンタナモ米軍基地 nl:Guantanamo Bay no:Guantanamo Bay pl:Guantanamo pt:Baa de Guantnamo fi:Guantanamo sv:Guantanamo Bay zh:关塔纳摩湾


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