Guantanamo Bay, Cuba (USA Territory)
Fatma Gonca Tunc and Monica Cabrera
This controversial detention camp is once again the site for the brutal and inhumane treatment of its prisoners. Protest is not limited solely to people outside of its confines, but the prisoners within have adopted their own manner of protesting injustices. 106 detainees have decided to engage in a hunger strike. Of these, 45 men are being subjected to military forced-feeding techniques.
The issue with the determination of human rights derives from the lack of comprehension of what constitutes a human being. Is it simply the tangible body, or perhaps the abstract soul? In that vagueness lies a grey area which allows for atrocities, more specifically torture, to take place. Guantanamo Bay is not only a prime example of this moral grey area, but as well of a more socio-political grey region. This detention camp comes as a result of the culmination of ambiguity, which allows for its ensuing black history of exploitation and manipulation.
Early February was the setting for the initiation of a wide-spread hunger strike taking place within the confines of the Guantanamo Bay Detention Camp. This retaliation against the so-called “American Justice System,” comes from the fact that most of these prisoners have been held for 11 years without an opportunity to challenge the allegations against them. Many do not even have a clear idea of the charges they are being faced with, but rather have amongst themselves understood that they are suspected of belonging to Al-Qaeda or the Taliban, or any other terrorist groups of a similar nature. The fact that they are assumed to belong to terrorist organizations was manipulated by the Bush administration, so that they were not to be considered prisoners of war. The Geneva Convention treaties would therefore not be applicable to these men. These treaties delineate the clauses for both international law and the treatment of prisoners of war. Bearing in mind that these people were no longer considered prisoners of war, they were then not protected from torture.
Place, as we have come to understand the concept, is a reference to an area within a grander scheme. Place has come to determine morals, justice, location, boundaries, limitations, and to a larger degree, the application of understanding. In order to better illustrate this idea, take a judge who is faced with the issue of determining whether or not she has the authority to interfere with the force-feeding of the prisoners in Guantanamo Bay. The Geneva Convention, as explained above, was somehow interpreted as not applicable to these detainees within the fences of Guantanamo Bay. Keep in mind that the force-feeding procedure is known to be inherently brutal in nature; most would agree that it is a torturous practice. The judge, one would assume, is therefore faced simply (and I say that lightly) with a moral question which ought to be translated into a physical action. Is it correct for her to try to interfere, or not, with the ongoings in this controversial site? In order to answer this question, one would have to understand that her ruling would be inconsequential. Why? Well, something that ought to be taken into account is the fact that Guantanamo Bay is literally speaking, in a grey zone.
Guantanamo Bay, also known as La Bahía de Guantánamo, is located within the boundaries of the Guantanamo Bay Naval Base, territory which belongs to the American government. Under these circumstances, one would assume that its territorial implications mean that it would be under American jurisdiction. This, sadly, is not the case with the Guantanamo Bay Detention Camp. To a degree, it has become an autonomous zone, subject to none other than itself. Even though it is technically speaking, on Cuban soil, the area was established as belonging to United States of America in the year 1898. For a long time, the Guantanamo Bay Detention Camp was protected under this guise of a democratic and fair institution. When rumors of outlandish proportions including amongst them the use of water-boarding and dogs as a form of torture arose, the world’s citizenry were outraged. America has since its onset, represented for the rest of the world a civilization whose fundamental structure is composed of a fair and conscientious approach to life. To learn that all that had been a ruse shocked the world. The worst blow to Bush’s presidential administration, though, came to be in the form of a statement the United Nation (U.N.) released, in which they explained how they had petitioned to enter the detention facilities within the Naval Camp in order to explore the accusations of inhumane treatment of the detainees. The permission to access the ground was, to the world’s surprise, denied for almost two weeks past the date they had requested.
From the point of view of the Naval Camp, one can understand the hesitation in allowing U.N. representatives within the compound. This is due to the fact that, if you have ever been to an animal rescue shelter, you will already have an understanding of how it is these penitentiaries are set up. One building block is composed of an axial approach flanked on either side by twenty-four detainee blocks. Depending on the severity of their prisoners’ crimes, the facilities themselves change respectively. There are eight different camps into which the detainees are distributed depending on the threat they are assumed to pose as well as their country of origin and legal status: Camp Iguana, Camp Delta, Camp Echo, Camp 4, Camp 5, Camp 5 Echo, Camp 6, and Camp 7. There once was another named Camp X-Ray, but it was shut down, and its prisoners moved to Camp Delta. Camp X-Ray was thought to be the setting for the nightmarish accounts of torture by numerous prisoners, and was consequently ordered to close down on the 29th of April in the year 2002.
Of the facilities still in use today, Camp Delta is probably the most reminiscent to animal pens. As you can see in the image, it is subdivided into 48 cells by the use of green perforated steel, which resembles a mesh of sorts. Unlike some of the others, such as Camp 5, Camp Delta is left open to the elements. This is reflective of the minimal threat these prisoners are thought to pose, as they are allowed the immense freedom of interacting with the elements and being aware ofsurroundings both spatially as well as in terms of the passage of time. The aforementioned Camp 5, on the other hand, is, as you can see, the facility for the containment of maximum-security detainees. Most of these prisoners are made to undergo solitary confinement, in which their cells are window-less, white concrete boxes into which no light from the outside and very minimum sound is allowed to penetrate.
Removal from law and order was not sufficient for the Bush administration’s. They had to further isolate and de-humanize these men to a state approximating that of bestiality. These are men who not only have to undergo detention and the removal from their loved ones, but men who are being tortured physically and physicologically for days on end. It is therefore, not suprising, that many would opt to engage in a ‘suicide’ mission of sorts. What they are subject to is not life fit for an animal, let alone a fellow human. What they live on a day-to-day basis is a patronizing source of torture. Their crimes, if they are actually guilty, may have been incomprehensibly heinous, but our treatment of them does not have to be.
Charlie Savage, “Judge Urges President to Address Prison Strike”, The New York Times, 8 July 2013, http://www.nytimes.com/2013/07/09/us/judge-urges-president-to-address-prison-strike.html
This article is about the discussion taking place in the federal court concerning this violation of human rights. A judge recognized that she had no authority to stop the force-feedings taking place at Guantanamo Bay. She as well appealed to President Obama, asking him to please consider intervening in the manner.
Samir Naji al Hasan Moqbel, “Gitmo Is Killing Me”, The New York Times, 14 April 2013, http://www.nytimes.com/2013/04/15/opinion/hunger-striking-at-guantanamo-bay.html
This article is a personal account by one of the detainees participating in the hunger strike. He mentions being detained in G. B. for upwards of 11 years, and says the cause for his hunger strike is a attempt at restoring his dignity. “I am still being force-fed. Two times a day they tie me to a chair in my cell. My arms, legs and head are strapped down. I never know when they will come. Sometimes they come during the night, as late as 11 p.m., when I’m sleeping.”
Encyclopædia Britannica Online, s. v. “George W. Bush,” 2013, http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/86112/George-W-Bush/278441/Treatment-of-detainees
This is information about Bush’s presidency, which as well contains his reaction to the criticism of Guantanamo Bay. It mentions the enactment of the Detainee Treatment Act, and explains its clauses. The Bush administration used to deny any torture taking place in G.B., until information and pictures of the torture were leaked.
Amnesty International – USA, “Guantanamo, Bagram and Illegal U.S. Detentions”, http://www.amnestyusa.org/our-work/issues/security-and-human-rights/guantanamo
This is an article about the infringement on human rights by way of the detention camps. The detainees are not allowed to petition for a hearing, and many are not aware of the charges held against them, nor have they been given an opportunity to defend themselves.
Fleur Johns, “Guantanamo Bay and the Annihilation of the Exception”, Oxford Journals: European Journal of International Law, September 2005, http://ejil.oxfordjournals.org/content/16/4/613.full
This publication deals with the issue behind holding accountable an institution which is beyond International and American Law. Guantanamo Bay is geographically located in the country of Cuba, yet the USA purchased the land, so it belongs to them. However, one of the ways in which they are capable of conducting torture, is by claiming that G.B. is out of their jurisdiction. Therefore, G.B. has become a gray zone no law can touch.
Cambridge University Press: International & Comparative Law Quarterly, “Guantanamo Bay: The Legal Black Hole”, 17 September 2008, http://journals.cambridge.org/action/displayAbstract?fromPage=online&aid=1523512
Article pertains to the issue of Guantanamo Bay’s lack of jurisdiction. “Ill-conceived rushed legislation is passed granting excessive powers to executive governments which compromise the rights and liberties of individuals beyond the exigencies of the situation.” The article describes in detail the conditions in which the prisoners are being held in terms of their lack of accessibility to basic human rights. The author mentions repeatedly how most of these people do not have access to any information regarding the reason why they are there.
“Guantanamo Bay Detention Camp, Caimanera, Guantanamo, Cuba”, Google Maps, https://maps.google.com/maps?q=GUABTANAMO+BAY&um=1&ie=UTF-8&hl=en&sa=N&tab=wl&authuser=0
Aerial view of present-day Guantanamo Detention Camp.
Scott Horton, “The Guantanamo ‘Suicides’: A Camp Delta sergeant blows the whistle”, Harper’s Magazine, March 2010, http://harpers.org/archive/2010/03/the-guantanamo-suicides/
Labeled aerial view of Detention Camp.
“Camp Delta Assembly Areas”, Wikimapia, 2011, http://wikimapia.org/showphoto/?obj=23000056&type=1&lng=0&id=2318447
Diagrammatic layout of Detention Camp.
Video and Audio
National Geographic, “Explorer: Inside Guantanamo”, You Tube, 7 February 2012, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B4J6_tCy8To
Documentary featuring the life within the fences of the Detention Camp. It portrays the everyday struggle between both the prisoners and the people who hold them captive. It as well shows how faith in the idea that the USA represents Justice, has dwindled due to the existence of such a place. It offers the perspective of captors as well as prisoners, in regard to their treatment of one another. Discusses how the Bush administration manipulated the Geneva Contract so that it wouldn’t apply to the detainees and they could be tortured. It also discusses the question of what to do with the prisoners when G.B. is closed, as their countries do not necessarily want them back.
Reprieve UK, “Yasiin Bey (Mos Def) demonstrates Guantanamo force-feeding Standard Operating Procedure”, You Tube, 8 July 2013, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4hQ5xz_5to4
A British musician agreed to participate in a demonstration of the procedure for force-feeding. Once the procedure started, he began fighting it, to the point where he told the people conducting it to stop. Because he could not bear it. One scene in particular, shows the man rocking himself back and forward in a child-like motion, trying to comfort himself, while crying. When asked later on about the proceedings, he says that it was the most inhumane, degrading, and painful thing he has ever been made to undergo, and that he simply could not get through it. An important fact to keep in mind, is that prisoners at G.B. are forced to undergo this process twice a day, and this man could not even undergo one.