The Stream

Why is Guantanamo still open?

We ask why – years after 9/11 – people remain jailed despite never being charged with any crimes.

Barack Obama, the former US president, famously promised to close the Guantanamo Bay detention centre, issuing an executive order in January 2009 to shut it down. But nearly a decade later the prison remains open, bolstered by an executive order from President Donald Trump that ensures “Gitmo” will survive for the foreseeable future.

Nine of the 40 people still imprisoned at Guantanamo have been charged with war crimes and five have been approved for release by either the George W Bush or Obama administrations. The rest of the prisoners are free to petition a parole-style board for their release.

Earlier this month, lawyers for eight prisoners who have never been charged with a crime launched an ongoing case challenging their detention. The lawyers argued that because the nature of the so-called “war on terror” has changed so, too, must the standards of detention.

“I am officially a prisoner of war,” inmate Ahmed Rabbani wrote in an editorial last week. Rabbani says he was mistaken for a fighter by Pakistan’s government and then sold to the CIA in 2002 for a bounty. “I’ve now been detained at Guantanamo, without trial, for nearly 14 years.”

Those in favour of keeping the prison open contend that detainees will threaten US national security if released.

“The recidivism data make one thing very clear: There never has been, nor will be, any risk-free transfer or release of Gitmo detainees,” argues Hans A. von Spakovsky of the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank. “We will never know with exactitude just how many additional acts of terrorism they will commit and how many more innocents they will kill.”

In this episode, we take a look at why the Guantanamo Bay detention facility remains open, speak to advocates working to release its prisoners, and hear from those who think it serves a vital purpose. Join us at 19:30 GMT.


On this episode of The Stream, we speak with:

Siraj Hashmi @SirajAHashmi
Commentary Writer & Editor, Washington Examiner

Lawrence Korb @LarryKorb
Former United States Assistant Secretary of Defence
Senior fellow, Center for American Progress

Pardiss Kebriaei @PardissKebriaei
Senior Attorney, Center for Constitutional Rights

Moazzam Begg @uk_cage; @Moazzam_Begg
Director of Outreach, CAGE
Former Guantanamo prisoner

Read more:

‘Out Of Gitmo’: Released Guantanamo Detainee Struggles In His New Home – NPR
I’m stuck in Guantanamo. The world has forgotten me – Los Angeles Times
I’ve Been Covering the Detention of Terrorism Suspects for 15 Years. What Have We Learned? – New York Times

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