Why is Guantánamo Bay still open?

Al Jazeera
August 1, 2018

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.

Can't see the video? Watch it here.

Last modified 

August 14, 2018