Subtitle Camp X-Ray
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The Guantanamo Bay detention camp (Spanish: Centro de detención de la bahía de Guantánamo) is a United States military prison within Guantanamo Bay Naval Base, also referred to as Gitmo (/ˈɡɪtmoʊ/), on the coast of Guantánamo Bay in Cuba. Of the roughly 780 people detained there since January 2002 when the military prison first opened after the September 11 attacks, 740 have been transferred elsewhere, 31 remain there, and 9 have died while in custody.
The camp was established by U.S. President George W. Bush's administration in 2002 during the War on Terror following the September 11, 2001 attacks. Indefinite detention without trial led the operations of this camp to be considered a major breach of human rights by Amnesty International, and a violation of the Due Process Clause of the Fifth and Fourteenth amendments of the United States Constitution by the Center for Constitutional Rights.
Bush's successor, U.S. President Barack Obama, promised that he would close the camp, but met strong bipartisan opposition from the U.S. Congress, which passed laws to prohibit detainees from Guantanamo being transferred to the United States for any reason, including imprisonment or medical care. During President Obama's administration, the number of inmates was reduced from about 250 to 41.
In January 2018, U.S. President Donald Trump signed an executive order to keep the detention camp open indefinitely. In May 2018, the Trump Administration repatriated a prisoner to Saudi Arabia.
After Bush political appointees at the U.S. Office of Legal Counsel, Department of Justice advised the Bush administration that the camp could be considered outside U.S. legal jurisdiction, military guards took the first twenty detainees to Camp X-Ray on January 11, 2002. At the time, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld said the detention camp was established to detain extraordinarily dangerous people, to interrogate detainees in an optimal setting, and to prosecute detainees for war crimes. In practice, the site has long been used for enemy combatants.
The DoD at first kept secret the identity of the individuals held in Guantanamo, but after losing attempts to defy a Freedom of Information Act request from the Associated Press, the U.S. military officially acknowledged holding 779 prisoners in the camp.
Current and former detainees have reported abuse and torture, which the Bush administration denied. In a 2005 Amnesty International report, the facility was called the \"Gulag of our times.\" In 2006, the United Nations unsuccessfully demanded that Guantanamo Bay detention camp be closed. On 13 January 2009, Susan J. Crawford, appointed by Bush to review DoD practices used at Guantanamo Bay and oversee the military trials, became the first Bush administration official to concede that torture occurred at Guantanamo Bay on one detainee (Mohammed al-Qahtani), saying \"We tortured Qahtani.\"
On January 6, 2011, President Obama signed the 2011 Defense Authorization Bill, which, in part, placed restrictions on the transfer of Guantanamo prisoners to the mainland or to foreign countries, thus impeding the closure of the facility. In February 2011, U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates said that Guantanamo Bay was unlikely to be closed, due to opposition in the Congress. Congress particularly opposed moving prisoners to facilities in the United States for detention or trial. In April 2011, WikiLeaks began publishing 779 secret files relating to prisoners in the Guantanamo Bay detention camp.
In 2010, Colonel Lawrence Wilkerson, a former aide to Secretary of State Colin Powell, stated in an affidavit that top U.S. officials, including President George W. Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney and Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, had known that the majority of the detainees initially sent to Guantánamo were innocent, but that the detainees had been kept there for reasons of political expedience. Wilkerson's statement was submitted in connection with a lawsuit filed in federal district court by former detainee Adel Hassan Hamad against the United States government and several individual officials. This supported numerous claims made by former detainees like Moazzam Begg, a British citizen who had been held for three years in detention camps in Afghanistan and Guantanamo as an enemy combatant, under the claim that he was an al-Qaeda member who recruited for, and provided money for, al-Qaeda training camps and himself trained there to fight US or allied troops.
In January 2010, Scott Horton published an article in Harper's Magazine describing \"Camp No\", a black site about 1 mile (1.6 km) outside the main camp perimeter, which included an interrogation center. His description was based on accounts by four guards who had served at Guantanamo. They said prisoners were taken one at a time to the camp, where they were believed to be interrogated. He believes that the three detainees that DoD announced as having committed suicide were questioned under torture the night of their deaths.
From 2003 to 2006, the CIA operated a small site, known informally as \"Penny Lane,\" to house prisoners whom the agency attempted to recruit as spies against Al-Qaeda. The housing at Penny Lane was less sparse by the standards of Guantanamo Bay, with private kitchens, showers, televisions, and beds with mattresses. The camp was divided into eight units. Its existence was revealed to the Associated Press in 2013.
One of the allegations of abuse at the camp is the abuse of the religion of the detainees. Prisoners released from the camp have alleged incidents of abuse of religion including flushing the Quran down the toilet, defacing the Quran, writing comments and remarks on the Quran, tearing pages out of the Quran, and denying detainees a copy of the Quran. One of the justifications offered for the continued detention of Mesut Sen, during his Administrative Review Board hearing, was:
During August 2003, there were 23 suicide attempts. The U.S. officials did not say why they had not previously reported the incident. After this event, the Pentagon reclassified alleged suicide attempts as \"manipulative self-injurious behaviors\"; camp physicians alleged that detainees do not genuinely wish to end their lives. The prisoners supposedly feel that they may be able to get better treatment or release with suicide attempts. Daryl Matthews, a professor of forensic psychiatry at the University of Hawaii who examined the prisoners, stated that given the cultural differences between interrogators and prisoners, \"intent\" was difficult if not impossible to make. Clinical depression is common in Guantánamo, with 1/5 of all prisoners being prescribed antidepressants such as Prozac. Guantanamo Bay officials have reported 41 suicide attempts by 25 detainees since the U.S. began taking prisoners to the base in January 2002. Defense lawyers contend the number of suicide attempts is higher.
Human rights activists and defense attorneys said the deaths signaled the desperation of many of the detainees. Barbara Olshansky of the Center for Constitutional Rights, which represented about 300 Guantánamo detainees, said that detainees \"have this incredible level of despair that they will never get justice.\" At the time, human rights groups called for an independent public inquiry into the deaths. Amnesty International said the apparent suicides \"are the tragic results of years of arbitrary and indefinite detention\" and called the prison \"an indictment\" of the George W. Bush administration's human rights record. Saudi Arabia's state-sponsored Saudi Human Rights group blamed the U.S. for the deaths. \"There are no independent monitors at the detention camp so it is easy to pin the crime on the prisoners... it's possible they were tortured,\" said Mufleh al-Qahtani, the group's deputy director, in a statement to the local Al-Riyadh newspaper.
The Center for Policy and Research published Death in Camp Delta (2009), its analysis of the NCIS report, noting many inconsistencies in the government account and said the conclusion of suicide by hanging in their cells was not supported. It suggested that camp administration officials had either been grossly negligent or were participating in a cover-up of the deaths.
In 2004, Army Specialist Sean Baker, a soldier posing as a prisoner during training exercises at the camp, was beaten so severely that he suffered a brain injury and seizures. In June 2004, The New York Times reported that of the nearly 600 detainees, not more than two dozen were closely linked to al-Qaeda and that only very limited information could have been received from questionings. In 2006 the only top terrorist was reportedly Mohammed al Qahtani from Saudi Arabia, who is believed to have planned to participate in the September 11 attacks in 2001.
Eight men have died in the prison camp; DoD has said that six were suicides. DoD reported three men, two Saudis and a Yemeni, had committed suicide on 10 June 2006. Government accounts, including an NCIS report released with redactions in August 2008, have been questioned by the press, the detainees' families, the Saudi government, former detainees, and human rights groups.
An estimated 17 to 22 minors under the age of 18 were detained at Guantánamo Bay, and it has been claimed that this is in violation of international law. According to Chaplain Kent Svendsen who served as chaplain for the detention centers from 2004 to 2005 there were no minor detainees at the site upon starting his assignment in early 2004. He said: \"I was given a tour of the camp and it was explained to me that minors were segregated from the general public and processed to be returned to their families. The camp had long been emptied and closed when I arrived at my duty station\". 59ce067264