10 Years On, 10 Reasons Guantanamo Must Be Closed

guantanamo protest france

(Pierre-Yves Brunaud)

Ten years ago today the first twenty prisoners arrived at the US military detention facility in Guantanamo Bay. As we mark this dismal anniversary, it is instructive to take a moment to reflect on the damage Guantanamo continues to do to the global cause of human rights.

Guantanamo is much more than simply the sum of its parts, and outlined below are 10 powerful anti-human rights messages that the continued existence of the detention facility sends out to the world:


Can US Citizens Now be Detained Indefinitely?

prisoner in detention

© John Moore/Getty Images

There has been a great deal of confusion over whether the indefinite detention provisions in the 2012 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) apply to US citizens or not – the simple answer is that it is too early to tell.

The NDAA provisions greatly strengthen a framework for detaining suspected members of Al Qaeda or its affiliates that is derived from the law of armed conflict. Under the law of armed conflict belligerents can be detained until the conflict ends or until they no longer pose a threat.

The NDAA drafters draw a clear distinction between US citizens and non-US citizens which is itself problematic since equality before the law is one of the most fundamental principles of justice and a core human right.

The NDAA “requires” that non-US citizens be treated as enemy combatants rather than as criminal suspects unless the President issues a waiver in the interests of national security.


Welcome to the War

Update 12/15: The U.S. House of Representatives passes the NDAA.

US soldier marine

© Bay Ismoyo/AFP/Getty Images

The passage of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) through the Senate last Thursday saw the culmination of a ten-year crusade by Senator Lindsay Graham (R-SC) to make the law of war apply on US soil.

In many ways Senator Graham is simply following the logic of the Global War on Terror frame to its inevitable conclusion: If we are at war with Al Qaeda all around the world then there is no good reason why US soil should be excluded.

Senator Graham’s avowed objective is to allow for the military detention of suspected Al Qaeda, Taliban or otherwise affiliated terrorists captured on US soil, but of course detention is not the only arrow in the military quiver.