Failed Promise

Failed Promise

Although former US President Obama’s administration has achieved milestones correcting the previous regime’s botches, surely, closure of Guantanamo Bay has been neglected. Despite his efforts and condemnation, he could not fulfill his promise. President elect Trump has undertaken to keep the prison operational and make it “hell for American ISIS supporters”. The new policy would certainly be a nightmare for the remaining 55 prisoners and “forthcoming batch”.

In a leaked memo of CNN, Donald Trump – along with vowing to keep the prison open – has committed to reintroduce “waterboarding” and other torture methods. United Nations Convention Against Torture strictly prohibits the use of torture to extract information. Moreover, the signatories of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) are bound by Article 5, which states that, “No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment”. Statements by President Trump certainly question the regard US has for its international legal commitments.

Operating at a cost of USD 440 million and accommodating around 775 detainees over 12 years, Guantanamo Bay is infamous for its notorious and inhumane activities. Currently out of 55 prisoners, 19 have been approved for release and 26 are indefinitely imprisoned without charge. 7 prisoners are facing charges in military commission courts. Furthermore, there has been no apology to any of them for their time lost with families and for the years of torture and abuse.

Obama administration has, however, worked decently enough to fulfill its promise. Although Obama instructed the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) to conduct interrogations along the lines of the US Army Field Manual, it did not make any drastic improvement. Reports of “force-feeding” still surfaced. With no quality of dwelling for the inmates, some high value targets are still kept in isolation for weeks. Perhaps the most obnoxious characteristic that the prison has is the capture “without charge”, a highly uncivilized method contrary to international humanitarian law.

The most obvious reason for failure to deliver seems to be the lack of political will. Although Obama maneuvered the situation as effectively as he could (by amending Military Commissions Act 2009 where the right of habeas corpus was reinstated), it cannot be denied that Congress, and most importantly the US nation, was very reluctant to close down Guantanamo Bay prison. A Washington news poll in 2012 concluded that over 70% of their respondents wanted the prison to remain open. This surely indicates the attitude of American society and the traits of Islamophobia.

Respect for human integrity and life is at the core of human rights. Institutes like Guantanamo Bay destroy every aspect and essence of international law. All these remaining prisoners should be shown compassion. They should be allowed to leave immediately before Donald Trump takes over. They are now old and infirm and many of them need walking aids or wheelchairs. They have suffered enough. One could ascertain from the above discussion that there is no rule of law for the powerful. Although the international community has reacted very fiercely towards the prison and its management, it has been unable to achieve success. Unfortunately as usual, the United States has again reinstated its hegemony and dominance over such affairs and has justified its illegal acts without any accountability. Certainly with absolute power also comes absolute abuse. The elected US administration is determined to use torture, as is evident from utter disregard shown to the UN and its prestige, and in the words of Donald Trump who has unequivocally said, “Don’t tell me it doesn’t work—torture works. If it doesn’t work, they deserve it anyway, for what they’re doing to us.”


The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of or any organization with which he might be associated.

Hassan Sajjad

Author: Hassan Sajjad

The writer has graduated from the University of London. He is a criminal lawyer practising in Lahore as an associate at Khosa Law Chambers.

1 comment

Well my friend, at the international arenas there are no promises, the whole world cannot force the USA to close it, A man can move mountains or the power of a pen is greater than of the gun, these sentences were made just to make people fool so they can keep on dreaming and fighting something they can never win, the only way to close it is by force or there is any national interest for Uncle Sam, neither there is any country/Organization in the world which can bully USA to close it nor there is any self interest for the USA to close it, so i am not seeing any change, infact there wasnt any promise at all

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