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Guantanamo Bay Detention Camp

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Guantanamo Bay Detention Center is located in southeastern coast of Cuba and is known as a detainment facility for enemy combatants of the United States.



Guantanamo Bay Detention Camp has been seeped in controversy for most of the twentieth century. Located on the southeastern coast of Cuba, in the Oriente Province, the base is about 400 air miles from Miami, Florida. The 45-square-mile site was originally used as a coaling station for U.S. Navy ships.[1] Although this naval base received some international recognition, those days have been outshone by its role as a detention center.

The detention camp consists of two subdivisions, each 2 1/2 miles-wide. The airfield is located in the Leeward side and the main base is on the Windward side. You can reach the center via ferry service across Guantanamo Bay. Originally, the Bay's mission was to serve as a strategic logistics base for the Navy's Atlantic Fleet and support anti-drug operations in the Caribbean. Since early 2002, the beginning of the War on Terror, the base was used as a prison for those suspected of being al-Qaeda members or supporters.

In 2002, President George W. Bush made it the central prison for suspects considered unlawful enemy combatants in the War on Terror.


On January 11, 2002, the first group of 30 detainees, deemed enemy combatants, arrived in Guantanamo Bay's Camp X-Ray, where they were housed in open air cages with concrete floors.[2] Eventually, this population of detainees peaked at 680 detainees by May 9, 2003.[3] As enemy combatants, they were denied due process under the U.S. Constitution and were unprotected by the prisoner of war statutes of the Geneva Conventions.

By passing the Military Commissions Act, President George W. Bush authorized alternative means of trying the detainees through the utilization of military tribunals.[4] In cases where detainees were found guilty, this Act justified the use of physical coercion (viz. waterboarding) as a means of interrogation.

Although only enemy combatants were allegedly held at Guantanamo, studies revealed the detention of many noncombatants with no ties to al-Quaeda or the Taliban.

Geneva Conventions and International Law

International law consists of four Geneva Conventions (which are treaties) intended to ensure humanitarian treatment of victims of war. The Third and the Fourth Conventions apply directly to the detainees at the Guantanamo Bay detention camp due to the circumstances of their imprisonment.[5] The Third Geneva Convention is entitled "Treatment of Prisoners of War" and the Fourth Geneva Convention is entitled the "Protection of Civilian Persons in Times of War". Id. By their terms, the Geneva Conventions apply in times of international and non-international armed conflict. Id. According to the Conventions, international armed conflict is defined as "any difference arising  between two States and leading to the intervention of armed force... ." Id. By this definition, the War on Terror beginning in 2001 is an international armed conflict.

In times of international armed conflict, Article 5 of the Third Geneva Convention mandates a competent tribunal determine the detainee's status as either a prisoner of war or a civilian. Id. However, no detainee at Guantanamo was provided a Article 5 hearing.Id. Furthermore, Article 3 (found in all four conventions) requires prisoners of war be tried in courts "affording all the judicial guarantees which are recognized as indispensable by civilized peoples". Id.

U.S. Supreme Court Cases

Noteworthy U.S. Supreme Court cases involving Guantanamo Bay detainees include:

  1. Rasul et al. v. Bush, President of the United States, et al. (decided on 6/28/04);
  2. Hamdan v. Rumsfeld, Secretary of Defense, et al. (decided on 6/29/06); and
  3. Boumediene et al. v. Bush, President of the United States, et al. (6/12/08).


  1. http://hnn.us/articles/11000.html
  2. http://www.globalsecurity.org/military/facility/guantanamo-bay_delta.htm
  3. http://projects.washingtonpost.com/guantanamo/timeline/
  4. http://www.atlanticfreepress.com/news/1/1038-military-commissions-act-headed-for-supreme-court.html
  5. http://www.humanrightsfirst.org/us_law/inthecourts/supreme_court_hamdan_bg.aspx

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