Correspondent in Washington
As a candidate, Joe Biden He promised that he would close the prison at the Guantánamo base, which he described in the campaign as “a demand to train more terrorists.” However, just before Christmas the current president of the United States ratified a defense spending law that makes it impossible for it to fulfill that promise, since it makes it extremely difficult to use public funds to transfer several prisoners of the war of terrorism to other countries or to the United States to be tried in civil courts of justice.
According to Biden in an official communication, “these provisions unduly impair the ability of the executive branch to determine when and where to process detainees at the Guantanamo base and where to send them when they are released.”
The January 11, 2022 marks the 20th anniversary of the arrival of the first prisoners from the war against terrorism to the Guantanamo naval base, which the US took on Cuban soil after the war that Spain lost in 1898. Since then, the US Navy operates in that 117-square-kilometer space, in which George W. Bush built a prison with several detention centers with varying degrees of security, including an isolation one in which the ideologues of the 9/11 terrorist attacks are held, such as Kuwaiti Khaled Sheik Mohammed.
780 people have passed through this prison, of which only 39 remain today. The rest have been transferred to other countries. Those who remain are still awaiting final judgment. The attempt by the administration of Barack Obama, of which Biden was vice president, to transfer those who remain to US soil to stand trial was boycotted by Republicans and some Democrats on Capitol Hill.
Donald Trump also expressed discomfort with Guantanamo, but not because of the accusations of torture and mistreatment of prisoners, but because of the annual cost of maintaining the prison, which, according to him, reaches 13 million dollars (11 million euros) per detainee. It is true that the former president never promised to close the prison and sometimes even referred to it as a good place “to send bad guys to.”
The first detainees from the prison arrived when it was not yet finished, and that is why they were locked in cages in the open, known collectively as “X-ray Field.” The prisoners wore orange jumpsuits, they were hooded, with their hands handcuffed in their laps. The photos with them on their knees, facilitated by the Pentagon, sparked a controversy over possible mistreatment and torture that has only grown. The lawyers of several prisoners, many of those who were released, and international organizations such as the Red Cross have denounced degrading treatment of these inmates in interrogations, especially those conducted by the CIA, the intelligence agency. The Bush Administration allowed such harsh interrogations during the call war on terror that followed the 9/11 attacks.
Recently, at the end of October 2020, one of those detainees was able to testify for the first time before the US military courts about his alleged torture at the hands of the CIA.
Majid Khan He is from Pakistan but was residing in Baltimore City when he was arrested. He was accused of being a messenger for Al Qaida. He was held in several secret CIA sites until he arrived at Guantanamo in 2006. For another six years he was kept in isolation, subjected to CIA questioning. These, he said, before and after arriving at Guantánamo, included intimidation, threats and torture such as being suspended from the ceiling or being subjected to sham drowning, which is known in English as ‘waterboarding’. After pleading guilty, Khan was sentenced to 26 years. The bulk of the rest of the detainees are still awaiting charges.
In this matter, as in others, the Biden White House has caused great dissatisfaction in both parties in the US One of the last issues that the Senate Justice committee addressed before the Christmas recess was the closure of the prison. They invited the Presidency to send a witness, something to which Biden refused. “Actually, I’m not even sure they have a plan to shut it down,” said the Republican Senator Chuck Grassley.