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Guantanamo Bay Information Page

Torture, Trials and Calls for Closure


The Guantanamo Bay Detention Facility, or "Gitmo," was set up in 2002 to house members of the Taliban and Al Qaeda captured in the War on Terror. But the detention of innocents, lengthy detentions without trial, and interrogations that included torture turned the facility into a symbol of U.S. aggression and hypocrisy throughout the world.

Guantanamo Bay Facility Opens

Guantanamo Bay lookout
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The Guantanamo Bay Detention facility was established in 2002 at a U.S. Naval Center in Cuba in 2002. According to Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld, the camp was to hold suspected Taliban and Al Qaeda suspects.

Allegations ... then Evidence ... of Torture

Protests against Mukasey
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The slide toward torture at Guantanamo began with a 2002 Department of Justice Memo arguing that detainees didn't warrant protection against torture afforded by Geneva Conventions. The memo had various logical flaws, among them the presumption that those detained actually were members of terrorist organizations. We now know that many were innocent people at the wrong place at the wrong time. Khaled Sheikh Mohammad, known as the 'mastermind' of the 9/11 attacks, was among those subjected to 'waterboarding' acknowledged as a form of torture.

Special Military Tribunals

Hamdan Trial
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The 2006 Military Commissions Act established special military courts for Guantanamo detainees. The act denied the 'enemy combatants' basic due process rights, such as the right to challenge the charges leveled by an accuser.


Omar Khadr Pre-Trial
Janet Hamlin-Pool/Getty Images

Detainees challenged the legality of their detention and the legality of the special tribunals from the outset. The U.S. Supreme Court and circuit courts in various U.S. districts weighed in whether 'enemy combatants' are protected by Geneva Conventions, whether various charges were appropriate, and the proper jurisdiction for a trial.

Close It!

Guantanamo Protest
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Although Americans may have had little awareness of Guantanamo Bay's significance in 2002, it was of immediate notoriety elsewhere in the world, especially in countries with sizeable detainee populations there. Indefinite detentions and evidence of torture eventually prompted Americans, as well as others, to call for the Center's closing.

  • Closing Gitmo No Simple Matter
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