US war in Afghanistan nears end, but last vestige of conflict lingers at Guantanamo Bay | US News

A row of colorful family homes with palisade gardens and a junkyard overlook the site of one of the most controversial chapters in recent American history.

Weeds and vines are now wrapped around rings of barbed wire, wooden watchtowers are decomposing, and signs warning of a restricted area are torn in half.

This is the site of the former Camp X-Ray at Guantanamo Bay.

The X-Ray camp has been closed for a long time

Images of men in orange jumpsuits, chained, blindfolded and kneeling in outdoor cages in the sweltering heat are what most people around the world still associate with Guantanamo.

This part of the detention center has been closed for a long time although it cannot be destroyed due to ongoing criminal investigations.

But what happened here still casts a dark shadow over this US naval base, which existed for nearly a century before September 11 but is now synonymous with torture and inhuman treatment.

The first detainees captured at the start of the War on Terror – suspected terrorists – were brought to Camp X-Ray in January 2002 and it was never intended to be a temporary site.

Martha Kelner Guantanamo
Signs for the old Camp X-Ray

But since then, a series of reports have revealed what happened here and the techniques used during interrogation, including beating, waterboarding and other forms of torture.

No journalist had been allowed to enter Guantanamo Bay in the past 500 days due to the coronavirus pandemic, so we weren’t sure what to expect when we arrived at the Joint Base Andrews (JBA) military terminal two days earlier for the flight to Cuba.

JBA is a half hour drive outside Washington DC and is used by the military and the president and vice president.

The day of our departure Kamala harris fly to Michigan the airstrip is therefore closed for half an hour for safety reasons.

Martha Kelner Guantanamo
The US detention center in Cuba is the most controversial on the planet

We had been warned in advance that the rules governing how journalists operate in Guantanamo are incredibly restrictive.

At all times as we move around the base we are accompanied by an escort and all of our photographs and videos must pass a security inspection to ensure that they do not reveal any classified sites or information.

A small corner of Cuba, about 45 square miles, has been a US naval base since 1903, but for the past two decades it has housed the most expensive and controversial prison on the planet.

For the 5,500 people who reside here, everyday life is a world away from the detention center beyond the hills on the outskirts of the city center.

There is a McDonalds, Irish bar, outdoor cinema and bowling alley.

The new boss of the naval base, Captain Samuel White, wants to make it clear that Guantanamo is more than a prison camp.

Capt Samuel White, commanding officer of the Guantanamo Bay naval base
Commander of the Guantanamo Bay Naval Base, Captain Samuel White

“This facility has been around for over 100 years. The exposure it received at the base of the detention center is understandable, but that is not the only function of this facility,” he said.

We are not allowed to film, or even see, the current detention center, but it costs the American people around £ 10million each year for each of the 39 prisoners who remain at Guantanamo.

There have been 780 detainees here since 2002, but only eight have been sentenced and four have had those sentences overturned.

Abd al Hadi al Iraq, real name Nashwan al Tamir
Abd al Hadi al Iraqi, real name Nashwan al Tamir, accused of being an Al Qaeda commander

Many have been waiting for more than 15 years for a trial.

We are here for a preliminary hearing from Abdul Hadi al-Iraqi, who says his real name is Nashwan al-Tamir.

He is accused of being a Al-Qaeda commander in Afghanistan, accused of being involved in the planning or financing of insurgent attacks which have left several dead.

The judicial process does not take place in the US federal system as many believe, but in Camp Justice, an area of ​​Guantanamo Bay surrounded by sniper nets and barbed wire, overseen by a military judge.

Martha Kelner Guantanamo
Camp Justice is where the Guantanamo court cases take place
Martha Kelner Guantanamo
The entrance to the courtroom at Camp Justice

Mr. Hadi has been held at Guantanamo since 2007 and was previously held by the CIA, but his trial has yet to begin.

His case is now presided over by four different judges and several advocates, a typical experience of a court process that many see as inadequate.

Its current lawyer, Susan Hensler, said the withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan should mean the permanent closure of the Guantanamo Bay detention center and the repatriation of Mr. Hadi, an Iraqi national and Afghan citizen.

Susan Hensler, Defense Counsel
Defense lawyer Susan Hensler

“This case is basically the dispute over the war in Afghanistan and the war in Afghanistan is now over,” she said. “President Biden told us last week.

“The United States has reached a peace agreement with the Taliban a year and a half ago and certainly at this point, Guantanamo Bay should not be the only place where the war in Afghanistan is fought. My client should be released and sent home. “

Former president Barack obama tried and failed to shut down Guantanamo and the Biden administration is now working quietly in the background to shut down the prison.

Omar Ashwamy, former prosecutor of Guantanamo
Former Guantanamo District Attorney Omar Ashwamy

Former Guantanamo prosecutor Omar Ashmawy has switched sides and now believes prison is an unacceptable legacy of the war on terror.

“Basically it was wrong to take people and put them in a cage and throw away the key. If there was ever a genuine intention to have a fair trial, it had to happen quickly,” he said. -he declares.

With the preliminary hearing of the five suspects in the 9/11 case set to continue later this summer, there is no evidence of an imminent Guantanamo shutdown.

As America’s “Eternal Wars” draw to a close, the last vestige of this conflict lasts.

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