With the 20th anniversary of Guantanamo Bay’s (GTMO) opening this year, the pressure and calls to close the American detention prison operating in Cuba have been seemingly left unheard. Although many presidents have promised to close the operations, there has yet to be an action that would result in the closing of the prison. Recently, the NYTimes reports that the Pentagon is building a secret courtroom at Guantanamo Bay, expected to start holding proceedings in mid-2023.
The courtroom is meant to exclude the public from the chamber. It will allow military judges to hold proceedings. Already secretive, Guantanamo Bay is known for human rights abuses. At its peak, the prison held over 700 people, most who were not charged with any crime, violating the Constitution of the United States.
International outrage over GTMO’s use of torture techniques that led to false testimonies and confessions has simmered as twenty years have passed. Today, 39 men are imprisoned. Twelve of them have been charged with war crimes, including five men who will face trial for the 9/11 attacks, 19 years after the attack.
With the new courtroom, only those who have a security clearance, including members of the intelligence community, will be allowed inside. Although Biden has expressed an administration goal of ending the operation at Guantanamo Bay, the construction of the new courtroom, and previous lapsed promises by other presidents does not allow much hope that the prison will close. According to a Middle East Eye article, Biden has “all the authority he needs to close the notorious facility.”
Twenty years of operation of the prison has been framed by torture, human rights abuses, secrecy. It is an operation that is unconstitutional, against international law, yet because of the United States’ role in the “war against terror,” GTMP stands as a symbol of American democracy. The lack of due process and evidence to hold the inmates culminated in many innocent men being held at the prison. This is the year to close GTMO and send its prisoners home.