Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, was originally a US naval base in Cuba, but has since evolved to become a detention center for suspected terrorists and enemy combatants. Since 1903, at the signing of the American-Cuban treaty, the Cubans agreed to give control of the territory of Guantanamo Bay to the USA. One may wonder how it is that two enemy countries have come to share their land, but what is important to take into account is that the American-Cuban treaty was signed before the major conflict between Cuba and the USA erupted. This conflict essentially began with Fidel Castro’s ascension to power. He began to ‘sell’ Cuban land that was partially owned by the American government, and offered a compensation which the Americans thought to be inadequate. With the added growing relationship between Cuba and the Soviet Union, who were also American enemies, the US cut all economic and social ties with Cuba, making them enemies. Yet, this small piece of land, known as Guantanamo Bay, still belongs to the US. What is particularly shocking about this land is not as much how the Americans acquired it, but rather the US’s current use of the land. In the Guantanamo Bay detention center, over the past six years, several human rights abuses have been observed. (“BBC NEWS-Americas-Timeline: US-Cuba relations”)
Guantanamo Bay is essentially a detention center for suspected terrorists and those who are considered enemies of the US. What is key to underline is the word ‘suspected’. Of these so called terrorists, very few or none of them have actually been proven guilty and none of them, have been given a trial. Furthermore these so called POWs are not being treated according to the international laws for prisoners of war, because the US has not officially declared war, they only give the name of war on terror, however it is not by international standards a war (it is not comparable to the world wars that we have had which were by international standards a war) therefore the geneva convention, which protects prisoners of war no longer applies to these inmates. (“FBI files Detail Guantanamo torture tactics”) Immediately we can conclude that there is something wrong with this picture, according to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Articles 6 and 10, which respectively state that “Everyone has the right to recognition everywhere as a person before the law” and that “Everyone is entitled in full equality to a fair and public hearing by an independent and impartial tribunal, in the determination of his rights and obligations and of any criminal charge against him”. Thus, the American government is violating two of the most fundamental human rights. (“Universal Declaration of Human Rights”)
Unfortunately, these are not the only two rights being violated at Guantanamo. It has become clear in the past few years, that the United States has been using ‘interrogation techniques’ on the prisoners that resemble torture. In fact, a United Nations report recently stated that the prisoners were forced to endure cruel and degrading treatment, even to the point of death. (“Human Rights Experts issue Joint Report on Situation of Detainees in Guantanamo Bay”) Several autopsies performed on the bodies of Guantanamo bay prisoners have confirmed homicide. The International Red Cross report on Guantanamo Bay revealed that the prisoners exhibited signs of sleep deprivation and this same report stated that there were several signs of physical abuse, a witness even reported the slamming of prisoner’s heads against the wall. Needless to say that this is a violation of fundamental human rights. (“Red Cross finds Detainee Abuse in Guantanamo”) The current president of the United States, Obama, has made efforts to close this prison due to the highly questionable practices (torture) that prisoners were being submitted to but there is still no certainty as to whether or not this will indeed occur.
However, the damage does not only extend to the point of physical torture; it also involves mental torture. The detainees are not allowed outside visits and are held for extended periods of time in solitary confinement, which can be very difficult to bear mentally. Furthermore, there has been evidence, again investigated by the Red Cross, that medical information on the detainees’ psychological and emotional weaknesses has been passed on to interrogators, for interrogations to be more effective. Essentially, the interrogators are taking advantage of the prisoner’s weaknesses. (“Red Cross finds Detainee Abuse in Guantanamo”) However, perhaps the most torturous part of the detainees’ life at Guantanamo is the fact that they are completely unaware of how long they are to stay at the prison, and living with this uncertainty can be acquitted with mental torture. (“Allegations of Abuse”) Evidently we see that if a government, in this case the Bush administration, is willing to under any circumstances sanction torture, then they must have a blatant disregard for human rights, which in a powerful nation such as the US, is rather alarming.
All of the torture, both mental and physical, that occur at Guantanamo bay are a terrible experience for any adult. However, for children, this torture is magnified. Three children, aged between 13 and 15, have been in the past been detained at Guantanamo Bay for alleged involvement in terrorist activities. Although these children were kept in different conditions than the rest of the prisoners at the camp, they were still held in detention with no proper trial or access to a lawyer and with no complete understanding of their situation. One example of this situation is young canadian Omar Khadr who was incarcerated in the prison at age 15 for supposedly killing an american soldier in Iraq, however charges were never pressed and he has not yet appeared before a Judge, he also claims to have been tortured during his stay. The canadian government has made several unsuccessful efforts to repatriate him but now at age 21 Khadr remains behind bars (“Omar Khadr/ Now public news coverage”). Some children however, children were eventually evacuated from Guantanamo on the basis that they had provided essential information, cooperated with the interrogators and that they were forced into the terrorist activity. General Miller, leader of operations at Guantanamo also stated that their age was taken into account during their stay at the center. Despite the fact that these children maintained some level of dignity during their imprisonment, it does not change the fact that they did have several of their fundamental human rights violated. (“Guantanamo May Free Children”)
But over all, no matter which way you look at it, if you are a proponent or an opponent to Guantanamo Bay, it is absolutely undeniable that fundamental human rights violations are occurring in this detention center, which is completely unacceptable under any circumstance. And although the current Obama administration has pledged to shut down this oasis of human right violations there continues to be an unacceptable disregard for fundamental rights. (“US Close Guantanamo- Not Tomorrow, but Today”)