What does 11 years of unlawful imprisonment at a closed detention facility outside of North America, but run by the US government, look like? According to Amnesty International, it looks like a total of 779 admitted inmates, 9 of whom died in custody, 7 of which were death by suicide. It looks like 12 children under the age of 18 who were taken from their families and deported to an inaccessible island. It looks like a mere 7 convictions after 11 years of what the US military admits were inhumane conditions that included torture, sometimes for years on end.
In November, The New York Times called for the closing of the prison. By signing the National Defense Authorization Act, President Obama instead kept it open, four years after vowing that shutting it down would be his first act as President.
In a Democracy Now! exclusive video, Sami al-Hajj, the only journalist held at Guantánamo, speaks out about his six years in captivity, and the torture he endured. Nine former British inmates also gathered to share their experiences.
Human rights groups have called for the immediate closing of Guantanamo, as have international news outlets, while much of the global press corp remains amazed it was ever allowed to open in the first place.
As we acknowledge Guantánamo’s 11 year history of detainment, torture, and illegal practices, the defense team has released letters and communications from Mohammed Rahim al-Afghani, who five years ago became the last prisoner to be sent to Guantánamo. In them, he discusses popular culture, the song “Gangnam Style,” and the banana rat – a rodent frequently seen on the island – that he keeps as a pet. It serves as a vital reminder that the de-humanizing nature of the silence around the faceless men in the prison hides hundreds of real people, with real stories and lives.