RT in Gitmo: Is there end in sight for US ‘Gulag’ 12 years after opening?

Thirty-eight of the most respected retired generals and admirals have urged the US Senate to close Guantanamo Bay. America’s most notorious military detention facility has reached its 12th anniversary, despite pressure and promises to shut it down.

In a letter to American senators, the retired generals and admirals wrote that they believe it is “imperative” for Congress to address Guantanamo.

We have always believed that our detention policies should adhere to the rule of law, and that we as a nation are more secure when we do. Guantanamo is a betrayal of American values. The prison is a symbol of torture and justice delayed,” the letter reads.

Reporting from inside Guantanamo Bay, RT’s Anastasia Churkina explained what may be in store for the prison, which has already survived global scrutiny and dealt with torture scandals and hunger strikes.

A total of 779 detainees have been held at Guantanamo Bay since it was established on November 13, 2001, just two months after the 9/11 terror attacks. Today, 164 people remain. Over half of them have been long cleared for release, but remain locked up. A total of six people are currently under trial.

It’s the policy of the US not to hold anyone longer than necessary, but we also know that whenever we release someone, we assume a risk,” Captain Robert Durand, Guantanamo’s director of public affairs, told RT.

Over a period of more than a decade, the majority of detainees held in the facility have been set free.

If the men at Guantanamo were really these super-human monsters, ‘the worst of the worst’ to quote Dick Cheney, they wouldn’t have been released,” Guantanamo defense lawyer Ramzi Kassem said.

Most of those still locked up have not been charged and are being held indefinitely.

What sort of a black hole of a limbo are we existing in, where the President of the United States simply refuses to say they’re innocent,” former detainee Moazzam Begg said.

Reuters / Bob Strong

‘It’s very easy to end Gitmo, but only the president can do it’

However, US officials say that the law of war reigns behind the barbed wire.

The idea is that in a war, when you capture folks, you as a capturing authority are permitted to hold people during the duration of hostilities. When hostilities end, or if there is no longer any legitimate purpose to hold the men, they must be released,” Guantanamo detainee lawyer Martha Rayner.

But the war on terror has no geographic borders, with men once held in Gitmo repatriated to a wide array of countries.

The rules that are applied in Guantanamo are only specific to Guantanamo. You couldn’t even have a Guantanamo case heard on the US mainland, because it would be unconstitutional and illegal,” a former inmate by the name of Begg said.

The war on terror also has no end in sight, and national security is used as an excuse to ignore the law, according to Kassem.

Despite the rhetoric, it really isn’t about national security, or prisoners being so dangerous that they can’t possibly be released,” he said. That just “can’t be true.”

After being locked up, the legal process moves at a glacial pace.

According to Captain Durand, last year “five detainees were transferred, two had completed their military commission sentence, two were court ordered released detainees who had been repatriated, and one was a suicide.”

Over the years, there have been countless detainee claims of mistreatment and abuse, as well as the loss of patience and hope. Prisoners have undergone mass hunger strikes, and dozens have attempted suicide. Just this year, the majority of the prison population refused to eat for six months straight, prompting Guantanamo medical staff to force-feed them.

Washington has appointed a new envoy to close the prison camp after a mass hunger strike returned the world’s attention to the place that some have dubbed the “Gulag of our times.”

It’s very easy to end Guantanamo. You release the men that you are not prosecuting. As you said, only six men are being prosecuted right now. The military prosecutor has made clear that he intends to prosecute a few more, but he has also made clear that it won’t be more than a few more,” Rayner told RT.

President Barack Obama promised to close the notorious facility on the first day of his presidency. He is now in his second term.

It’s only a president who can do it. The idea that it’s the Congress’ fault is just not correct,” Rayner said.  “It is the president that is holding these men in detention.Some president has to come in and end this.

For now, it remains unclear how long the American military detention center, which is located on Cuban soil, will remain open.