September 11: Guantanamo prison, a cumbersome legacy of the George W. Bush years

A legal black hole from its inauguration and a symbol of the excesses of George W. Bush’s “war on terror”, the American prison at Guantanamo has gradually disappeared from political debate. It remains however still in service, whereas the war which justified it, in the eyes of the American authorities – the war in Afghanistan – is officially over.

Another forty inmates

Inaugurated in January 2002 to accommodate “Illegal fighters” captured in Afghanistan, the American prison at Guantanamo still has 39 detainees. In total, 780 men and minors passed through this place designed by the Bush administration to lock up, far from American soil, prisoners to whom the United States did not recognize the status of prisoners of war. At the height of the “war on terror”, 675 people were held in Guantanamo.

In July, the Biden administration made its first transfer. Abdul Latif Nasser, a Moroccan detained since 2002, had been accused of collaborating with the Taliban. However, no charges were brought against him and he had been declared “released” in 2016.

Under Donald Trump, Abdul Latif Nasser’s case had not progressed, however. In the end, it took him five years, and the departure of the Republican president, to be released and return to his country of origin.

Five detainees accused of being involved in the September 11 attacks

Among the 39 detainees still present at Guantanamo, ten are in the same situation as Abdul Latif Nasser: they were also deemed to be released by a commission bringing together the main American agencies (FBI, CIA, etc.). Eighteen others are behind bars, without any charges being brought against them.

→ READ. “Designated guilty”, one of the forgotten Guantanamo

Among the last prisoners of the American base in Cuba, only eleven have been formally charged. Five are accused of having participated in the organization of the attacks of September 11, 2001. Captured in 2002 and 2003, they are accused, among other things, of terrorism, and risk the death penalty.

Indicted in 2012, they are awaiting trial. But the procedure, before military courts, gives rise to many disputes between prosecution and defense, which partly explains the slowness of justice at Guantanamo. One of the delicate points is in particular the admissibility of the evidence for the prosecution, in particular because of the very controversial interrogation techniques of the Bush years.

Joe Biden wants to end Guantanamo … like Barack Obama before him

Since his arrival at the White House, Joe Biden has expressed his desire to close the Guantanamo prison. But how ? In January 2009, as soon as he arrived at the White House, Barack Obama signed a decree ordering the closure of the symbol of the Bush years. A signature remained unanswered, Congress opposing the repatriation of detainees on American soil.

Even though he has publicly expressed his desire to shut down Guantanamo, Joe Biden is more cautious than his Democratic predecessor. His administration nonetheless promptly reinstated the commissions in force under Barack Obama and charged with studying the possible transfer to another country of the detainees against whom no charges were brought.

According to the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR), which defends detainees in court, the cost of Guantanamo prison can be estimated at $ 540 million per year – a current cost of over $ 13 million per inmate. Which would make it, again according to the CCR, the “Most expensive prison in the world”.


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