19 Years of Guantanamo: Incoming administration has the opportunity to make history and shut down prison camp
The incoming Biden administration must shut down the detention center in accordance with the United States’ international human rights obligations
11.January.2021

Washington, D.C. January 11, 2021.- On the 19th anniversary of the opening of the Guantanamo Bay detention facility, the Center for Justice and International Law (CEJIL) urges the incoming Biden administration to shut down the detention center in accordance with the United States’ international human rights obligations.

So far, forty men remain detained at Guantánamo. Twenty-five of them have never been charged and remain as “indefinite detentainees”, and six have been unanimously cleared for release by all relevant agencies. None have had access to a fair trial that meets international human rights standards.

In May 2020, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) issued its final report on the human rights violations committed against former detainee and Algerian citizen Djamel Ameziane. This was the first decision ever made by an international Human Rights body regarding the human rights violations committed at the Guantanamo Bay prison camp.

Beyond the conclusions and recommendations that indicated the United States should provide "adequate material and moral reparations" for the detention, torture and ill-treatment suffered by Mr. Ameziane for his 12 years of confinement, the report established that the United States should set up a truth commission to investigate the prison camp and prosecute all those implicated in acts of torture between 2002 and 2008, among other broad measures applicable to the center. 

Additionally, in 2006 and 2011, the IACHR issued two resolutions which determined that the U.S. caused irreparable damage to detainees and that Guantanamo must be shut down immediately. Furthermore, in a joint declaration issued in 2014 by the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture, several other UN agencies, and the Commission, the United States was urged to “adopt all legislative, administrative, judicial, and any other types of measures necessary to prosecute, with full respect for the right to due process, the individuals being held at Guantanamo Naval Base or, where applicable, to provide for their immediate release or transfer to a third country.”  In addition, in August 2015, the IACHR published a thematic report titled “Towards the Closure of Guantanamo” that discussed Ameziane’s case at length and detailed widespread human rights violations at Guantanamo. 

These decisions and reports provide a roadmap with regards to Guantanamo’s closure that the incoming administration will need to follow. In 2021, President-elect Biden must comply with the United States’ international obligations and shut down the detention center. Additionally, the U.S. will need to guarantee due process to those who remain in detention as well as their right not to be returned to countries where they fear persecution, torture or ill treatment. Finally, the U.S. must investigate, prosecute and punish those responsible for the torture and ill-treatment of Guantanamo detainees, providing adequate reparations to all who suffered in this emblematic expression from the War on Terror.