The 10th Anniversary of the opening of Guantanamo Bay Detention Centre was marked by a gathering at the Conway Hall in London sponsored by three organisations, Cageprisoners, Reprieve and the Islamic Human Rights Commission (IHRC).
Speakers included the actress and political activist, Vanessa Redgrave, Co-founder of the Guantanamo Human Rights Commission; Victoria Brittain, former associate foreign editor of the Guardian; Massoud Shadjarah of the IHRC; lawyers who have and continue to represent Guantanamo prisoners, Clive Stafford Smith (the Director of Reprieve), Michael Ratner and Gareth Peirce; as well as former detainees, Moazzam Begg, Sami Al-Hajj and Omar Deghayes.
The audience in the Conway Hall, packed to capacity, as well as those watching live on IHRC TV heard harrowing eye witness accounts of torture, degrading treatment and human rights abuses.
The Independent editorial Ten years on, the shame of Guantanamo Remains, wrote yesterday,
But flagrant injustices remain. Of the 171 prisoners who are still at Guantanamo, a relatively small number – such as Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and others accused of organising the September 11 attacks – can genuinely be counted "the worst of the worst". The rest are small fry, many of them innocent of any crime: some simply sold to US troops for bounty, others guilty of nothing more than being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Yet they remain in a legal limbo that has spurred despair and hundreds of suicide attempts, at least four of them successful. Shaker Aamer, the last British resident still being held at the prison, has been there for a decade but has never even been charged. According to his lawyer, Mr Aamer is "falling apart at the seams".
This is taken from Cageprisoners:
Ten years ago, the first Guantánamo prisoners arrived at Camp X-Ray, housed in open-air cages with concrete floors. Here, former detainees and family members speak movingly about their memories of those still imprisoned there, the impact of Guantánamo on their own lives, and their hopes for the future.
One of the residents remembered is the last British man held there, Shaker Aamer, who has never been charged with an offence. After being detained in Afghanistan, Shaker was subsequently sold for a bounty to US forces, tortured in Bagram Air Force Base and Kandahar (with British agents as witnesses), before being transferred to Guantánamo for additional abuse.
Published reports indicate that Shaker is one of 89 among the 171 prisoners remaining in Guantánamo who has long been cleared for release from the prison. However, the law in the US as it currently stands requires that the US Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta must certify that Britain is a safe place for him to return to, and that he will commit no future crimes there – something that apparently Panetta has been unwilling to do.
Reprieve’s director Clive Stafford Smith, who visited Shaker in November 2011 said: “I saw Shaker…and he tries to put a brave face on ten years of horrible abuse, but it is enough to wear any human being down almost to the point of death. Why does Britain pretend it has a Special Relationship if someone from London can be held for a decade without any due process, leaving his British wife without a husband and his British children without a father?
“Notwithstanding the fact that Britain has the best record of any country with former Guantánamo prisoners (nobody released has committed any offence), and that Shaker Aamer has anyway never committed a crime of any kind, the US Secretary of Defense is apparently not willing to certify that it would be safe for him to return here. It’s time someone in the British government told Leon Panetta what time of day it is.”
A summary of Guantánamo Bay statistics
779 acknowledged prisoners held in Guantánamo Bay to date (there are indications that various prisoners were held in Guantánamo Bay in secret from 2003 until June 2004 when the US Supreme Court ordered that the prisoners be allowed access to courts, but these prisoners have never been identified).
242 prisoners when President Obama took office.
171 current prisoners.
Citizens of 48 countries have been held at Guantánamo.
50 countries that have accepted Guantánamo detainees.
38 men designated no longer enemy combatants by Combatant Status Review Tribunals.
156 prisoners cleared for release/approved for transfer by Obama's interagency task force.
59 cleared for transfer but cannot leave because of instability in their home countries, inability to get foreign countries to help out with resettlements and Congressional restrictions.
88 prisoners cleared for release/approved for transfer by Obama's interagency task force still in Guantánamo.
22 prisoners approved for transfer in need of humanitarian protection.
48 prisoners facing indefinite protection without trial.
It costs $700,000 extra per prisoner, to keep a captive at Guantánamo rather than in a US federal prison.
You can find out more about Guantanamo by visiting our timeline and statistics page. Click here to watch a BBC report about Obama's broken promise, featuring Clive Stafford Smith.
Photos of Guantanamo Remembered 10th Anniversary
From Human Rights Watch:
Many detainees at Guantanamo were subjected to painful stress positions; extended solitary confinement; threatening military dogs; threats of torture and death; and prolonged exposure to extremes of heat, cold, and noise that amounted to torture or cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment.President Obama vowed to close the facility after taking office -- calling it a "betrayal of American values." Yet almost four years later, the Obama administration has been unable to live up to its promise. White House press secretary Jay Carney reiterated on Monday that the administration is committed to closing the base because "it's the right thing to do for our national security interests," the AP reports.
Today, 171 men remain detained at Guantanamo Bay. 36 are set to face trial on war crimes charges; 46 are considered too dangerous to be released but cannot be prosecuted; 57 men from Yemen are held because the U.S. does not want them to return to the unstable country; and congressional limitations prevent the release of 32 others.
See more statistics on Huffington Post