The most controversial military prison in the world – Guantanamo Bay – is marking its 12th birthday. Despite the fact that US President Obama pledged to close down the detention camp as far back as in 2009, 155 detainees still remain at Gitmo.
Guantanamo Bay’s official slogan is “Honor Bound to Defend Freedom”. But freedom, like terror, is a slippery word. What is its meaning amidst Gitmo’s cameras and razor wire? Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person – that’s what the Universal Declaration of Human Rights tells us. But when it comes to people who the United States considers a threat to the country’s security, international laws and conventions are of no use as the mere existence of the Guantanamo camp proves, says Michael Ratner, the President Emeritus of the Center for Constitutional Rights in New York and the Chair of the European Centre for Constitutional and Human Rights in Berlin.
“Some people have been there for 11 years and they are not guilty of anything! They’ve never been tried for anything, our administration admits that they are not guilty, so it is completely illegal. Imagine this, people that have been there for 11-12 years, one of them said his wife was pregnant when he was picked up, his daughter is 12 years old, she’s never seen her father, she’s never hugged him, nothing,” Michael Ratner said.
In the past 12 years nearly 800 men have been imprisoned in Guantanamo. Nine have died. Hundreds were send home to Afghanistan, Yemen, Iraq or Saudi Arabia without charges and possibly without even knowing what guilt had cost them a decade in one of the most rigorous places on Earth. Murat Kurnaz, former Guantanamo detainee, claims he was literary sold for a $2,000 bounty to the American Government as a possible terrorist. He believes most of his fellow prisoners ended up in Gitmo the same way.
“I’m sure that most of them are, like 90%, are innocent because I know that many homeless people, especially in Pakistan, got collected by soldiers and police and got sold to the American Government as possible terrorists because they would get a $3,000 bounty and that is a lot of money in Pakistan. And that’s why they just collect homeless people and sell them to the Americans as possible terrorists,”Murat Kurnaz said.
The majority of Guantanamo detainees come from what we used to call the Third World countries but they know exactly how much the right to life, liberty and security costs in the developed countries praising democratic values. Even if one of these stories is true, “Honor Bound to Defend Freedom” should never be written on the walls of the world’s most notorious prison.