Far from closing it as Barack Obama promised soon after being sworn in as president in January 2009, the US plans to expand the prison at Guantanamo Bay.
The most notorious prison in the world, Guantanamo Bay (Gitmo), far from being shut down as Barack Obama promised amid much fanfare in 2009, is to undergo expansion. The Pentagon has sought $69 million for major expansion work including building more prisons.
Opened in 2002, the prison was used to incarcerate people caught in the US dragnet after the Taliban were driven from power in November 2001. At its height, Gitmo held nearly 700 prisoners. The overwhelming majority were simply rounded up from the streets of Kabul or other Afghan towns and thrown into Gitmo. Bounty hunters made fortunes by fingering/selling their enemies to the Americans, branding them as Taliban or al-Qaeda. A 10-year-old Afghan tea boy was one of them. Torture including sleep deprivation and water boarding, has been widespread.
Today, there are still 150 prisoners at Gitmo. Only a handful have been charged with any crime and fewer still convicted even by the kangaroo military tribunal set up to try them. Of these at least 86 have been cleared for release but are still there years after clearance.
Now the Pentagon wants to expand the prison. Why does the Pentagon want to launch an expansion program that is set up at an illegally occupied Cuban island where hundreds of innocent people have been held for years?
How does this square with the US’ claim it is governed by the rule of law? Or that it is the champion of human rights in the world?