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Shutting Down Guantanamo Bay

Updated: Mar 25

The George Bush administration strategically chose the U.S. naval base in Cuba as the operating grounds for the Guantanamo Bay Detention Camp because they believed that it would allow them to avoid public scrutiny and media attention, which in turn, would allow them to use legal black holes for the treatment of prisoners.  

Nonetheless, the prison has been sparking public controversy since its gates opened for war detainees in 2002. 

Several human rights groups and U.S. agencies have reported instances of physical abuse, systematic torture, inhumane treatment and poor living conditions for prisoners. Moreover, there have been numerous accusations made that many of the detainees are indeed uncharged but continue to be held. So, why does this discreet American prison still operate today?

The Seattle University School of Law conducted a review of Guantanamo Bay and found that it violates the Third Geneva Convention, the International Covenant for Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), the Convention Against Torture (CAT) and customary international law. 

Despite these illegal violations, little international pressure has been applied to bring justice to the prisoners who have been forced to endure such deplorable conditions. 

The Bush administration argued that—since Guantanamo Bay is not on U.S. territory—the detainees are not subject to any international law or constitutional rights. That being said, I argue that it is neither ethical nor reasonable for the most powerful country in the world to resort to secretive, illegal methods to torture human beings. 

The stain on our democracy only grows when we look at how expensive the operations are at this detention camp. Adjusted budget figures from the Pentagon and Defense Department highlight a staggering waste of taxpayer money; we have spent over $6 billion since 2002 on the prison, including $60 million in annual operations costs. 

Our partisan lawmakers often make the argument that we cannot afford to pay for critical social programs, resources, and agencies that would benefit U.S. citizens, but there is little to no debate on Capitol Hill about why we continue allocating such large figures to a prison that serves no bigger purpose than any other prison. 

Our country’s institutions and structures are touted to hold democratic values and functions, yet authorities also willingly spend billions of taxpayer dollars to defy basic human rights laws. 

As of today, 39 (of what used to be nearly 800) prisoners remain at Guantanamo Bay. News Public Radio reported that most of the remaining men have never been charged with a crime, and more than one-third have actually been cleared for release. Yet, for some reason, are still being held there indefinitely. 

These innocent men and their families have gone through years of trials and procedures in hopes of being released, but the U.S. has a heedless objective to imprison these men at the cost of American taxpayers. 

President Barack Obama was aware and concerned with Guantanamo Bay’s disdained legacy for nearly his entire presidency, and his administration released reports that showed no further need to keep it open. But the president took no action to do so. President Trump didn't either. This job is now up to President Joe Biden. 

As the human rights reports only get more vindictive and the public gains a broader sense of what really happens at this off-site American prison, President Biden must do what should have been accomplished a long time ago. 

If our political leaders care for us and for international communities, then the closing of Guantanamo Bay Detention Center will be made a high priority for the current presidential administration and for all our country’s lawmakers, regardless of party affiliation.

The opinions expressed in this article are those of the individual author.


Pearlman, Samantha. “Human Rights Violations at Guantánamo Bay: How the United States Has Avoided Enforcement of International Norms.” 38 Seattle U. L. Rev. 1109 (2015).

Pfeiffer, Sacha. “The Future of Guantanamo Bay Detention Camp - and the 39 Prisoners Still There.” NPR, 11 Jan. 2022,

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