Why is Guantanamo Bay jail nonetheless open 20 years after 9/11?

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Moath al-Alwi was captured by Pakistani forces near the Afghanistan border in December 2001 and given over to the United States navy.

A Yemeni nationwide, al-Alwi has mentioned he was fleeing for security, not a fighter, when he was kidnapped and bought to the US navy, which in January 2002 transported him the world over to a tropical jail camp on the US Navy base in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

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In the nearly 20 years since, the infamous navy jail at Guantanamo has grow to be an emblem of US human rights abuses. Many detainees – largely Muslim males – have been tortured or held for years and even many years with out fees, trials or primary authorized rights.

One of some dozen remaining detainees at Guantanamo Bay, al-Alwi has by no means been charged with any crime, and but stays in jail. The US Supreme Court in 2019 turned down his petition with out remark.

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With the departure of American troops from Afghanistan, rights advocates see a possibility for President Joe Biden to meet his 2020 political pledge to shut the jail. Others say the takeover of Afghanistan by the Taliban, a few of whose new leaders are former Guantanamo prisoners, creates a brand new impediment.

Hundreds of detainees from the US battle in Afghanistan have been transported to Guantanamo, the place they have been held indefinitely outdoors the conventions of the legal guidelines of battle [File: Joe Raedle/Getty Images]

Why is the US navy jail at Guantanamo Bay nonetheless open?

“The fact that the prison remains open 20 years later is because of US partisan politics and, unfortunately, the prisoners there are hostages to that politics,” mentioned Ramzi Kassem, a professor on the City University of New York School of Law who represents al-Alwi and one other detainee nonetheless being held with out cost at Guantanamo.

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There was broad public consensus within the US on the finish of the presidency of George W Bush in 2008 that Guantanamo needs to be closed.

President Barack Obama declared he would shut the jail, however drew sharp criticism from Republicans and did not fulfil his guarantees after the US Congress moved starting in 2011 to impose limits on the switch of detainees.

Taking the White House in 2016, President Donald Trump opposed releases from Guantanamo and mentioned he would “load it up with bad dudes”.  In his 4 years in workplace, Trump launched just one individual.

“It’s a bipartisan lack of political will to close Guantanamo and do what would be sound from a policy standpoint. Administrations of both parties have failed to do what’s necessary,” Kassem informed Al Jazeera.

Detainees sit collectively in 2009 contained in the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, which US President Barack Obama sought to shut within the face of political warmth from Republicans in Congress [File: Brennan Linsley/Pool via Reuters]

Who remains to be being held at Guantanamo?

A comparatively small variety of 39 males are nonetheless being held at Guantanamo. They embody Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the alleged mastermind of the al-Qaeda assaults on the US on September 11, and 4 co-conspirators who face trial by navy commissions.

Ten of the detainees don’t face fees and have been accepted by US companies for launch however are nonetheless being held. Among them is Saifullah Paracha, a Pakistani man who at age 74 is the oldest detainee at Guantanamo and who has by no means been charged with a criminal offense.

Ten males face nonetheless face navy fee proceedings. One is nearing the tip of a navy sentence and is because of be launched in February. Others are being held indefinitely with out trial.

Who has been launched from Guantanamo?

The Bush administration transferred about 540 detainees out of Guantanamo by the tip of 2008, and the Obama administration transferred nearly 200 out of the ability by the start of 2017.

Among the challenges US authorities face in transferring detainees out of Guantanamo is acquiring agreements guaranteeing humane therapy from their home international locations, or getting a 3rd nation to comply with resettle them and forestall their return to hostilities in opposition to the US.

Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, the United Kingdom, Slovakia and Albania have been among the many largest recipients of nationals from different international locations.

In 2014, 5 Taliban prisoners have been transferred to Qatar in alternate for the discharge of American soldier Bowe Bergdahl, who was held captive for 5 years in Afghanistan and Pakistan after deserting the US Army. Four of these 5 are actually members of the new Taliban authorities in Afghanistan.

Two males have been launched since Obama left workplace in January 2017. Both have been returned to their home international locations.

After greater than 15 years at Guantanamo, Ahmed al-Darbi was returned to Saudi Arabia in 2018 to proceed serving a jail sentence for a 2002 bomb assault on an oil tanker off the coast of Yemen.

On July 19, the Biden administration launched its first detainee, Abdul Latif Nasser, a Moroccan, 4 years after he had been cleared for switch in 2016. Held for 19 years, Nasser was by no means charged with any crime.

The Biden administration transferred Abdul Latif Nasser out of  Guantanamo Bay, sending the Moroccan man again home years after he had been really useful for discharge by a overview board in July 2016 [File: Shelby Sullivan-Bennis via AP]

What are the navy commissions at Guantanamo?

The navy commissions are tribunals organised outdoors the framework of US and worldwide regulation by the US Department of Defense to carry fees in opposition to detainees at Guantanamo.

US constitutional protections of due course of don’t apply, permitting the federal government to take care of secret proof derived from torture and to carry detainees indefinitely.

“The commissions were created really to evade the normal rules that would constrain the operation of a regular civilian or military court, and specifically prohibitions on the use of tainted evidence,” mentioned Kassem.

Detainees are required to make use of the legal professionals assigned to them. They should not allowed to see all of the proof in opposition to them. Only two-thirds of a jury is required to convict, and even in circumstances of acquittal, launch isn’t assured.

Activists carrying jail jumpsuits and black hoods demonstrated in 2020 on the White House in opposition to torture on the Guantanamo Bay detention camp and known as for its closure [File: Mike Theiler/Reuters]

How have been detainees tortured by the US?

Many of the detainees at Guantanamo have been first held in black websites by the CIA or elsewhere by the US navy and have been tortured earlier than being transferred to Guantanamo.

Those information are largely nonetheless secret and legal professionals who symbolize detainees are required to enter non-disclosure agreements that stop them from publicly describing the torture suffered by their shoppers.

In June, a navy decide for the primary time publicly agreed to permit info obtained by way of torture for use in a navy case in opposition to Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, a Saudi accused of planning the bomb assault on the USS Cole in 2000 that killed 17 US Navy sailors.

“The military commissions from their inception were set up to accommodate the fact that men, especially the former CIA detainees, had been tortured and to cloak those abuses in secrecy,” mentioned Hina Shamsi, director of the nationwide safety challenge on the American Civil Liberties Union.

The US authorities has acknowledged torture occurred in a variety of circumstances, amongst them that of Abu Zubaydah, a Palestinian man captured by the US in Pakistan and tortured for years in a sequence of secret CIA prisons, as detailed in a US Senate report.

Another is Mohammed al-Qahtani, a Saudi whose navy fees have been dismissed as a result of he had been tortured at Guantanamo however who stays imprisoned regardless of psychological sickness.

What steps can Biden take to shut Guantanamo Bay?

Human rights advocates and legal professionals for detainees say the Biden administration shall be underneath rising stress to carry Guantanamo to a detailed.

“It’s going to be unsustainable for the Biden administration to make the argument that US involvement in Afghanistan has ended but it continues to have authority to detain men indefinitely at Guantanamo,” mentioned J Wells Dixon, a senior workers lawyer on the Center for Constitutional Rights in New York.

“You can’t have it both ways,” mentioned Dixon, who has represented a variety of Guantanamo prisoners together with Majid Shoukat Khan, a Pakistani who endured CIA torture and subsequently pleaded responsible to being a courier for al-Qaeda.

The White House introduced in February that it’s conducting an inside overview of tips on how to shut Guantanamo. One main step, advocates say, can be to dispense with the navy tribunals and permit the US Department of Justice to try to reach plea offers with the 9/11 suspects and others accused of crimes.

Biden can ask Congress to repeal its prohibitions on Guantanamo detainees getting into the US for functions of serving jail phrases.

Biden is contemplating naming a particular envoy on the US Department of State for closing Guantanamo, a place created by Obama however eradicated through the Trump administration.

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