October 11, 2017 - mh9868a

Guantanamo Bay Prison: Keep It Open or Shut It Down?

Defining the Problem

Guantanamo Bay Detention Center, located on a United States naval base in Cuba, is perhaps one of the most famous prisons in the world. In her Encyclopedia Britannica article entitled “Guantanamo Bay Detention Camp,” Jeannette L. Nolen explains that, although the United States has been renting the land for the naval base for over one hundred years, the base was only converted into a maximum security prison in January of 2002 after the Islamic extremist terror attack on the United States on September 11, 2001.  

This photo is a map of the southern part of Cuba where Guantanamo Bay is located.

In fact, Guantanamo Bay Prison, often abbreviated to Gimo, is famous for its horrific treatment of terrorists held there after 9/11. Often, the detainees held at Guantanamo were tortured for any information they could possibly have on the past and potential future attacks on the United States. Basically, the treatment of detainees was a problem because their treatment violated the Geneva Conventions. According to another Encyclopedia Britannica article called “Geneva Conventions 1864-1977,” Malcolm Shaw defines Protocol II of the Geneva Conventions as a human rights law that protects criminals from, “prohibited collective punishment, torture, the taking of hostages, acts of terrorism, slavery, and ‘outrages on the personal dignity, in particular humiliating and degrading treatment, rape, enforced prostitution and any form of indecent assault.’” Still, Nolen explains, the Bush administration claimed ignored the backlash of the torture methods on its detainees because the prison was not on American soil, and therefore, American laws had no legal standing.

However, as details of the prison’s detainee treatment emerged over time, the opposition to Guantanamo increased. Many Americans and US government officials called for the prison’s closing. However, closing the Guantanamo is not an easy task because there are many problems that come with closing the prison. Some of these issues include; where to put the forty-one remaining prisoners, how to move them, holding trials if they are put on US soil. However, Guantanamo Bay Detention Center should be closed because of the blatant humanitarian violations of the Geneva Conventions that occur there.

Why Guantanamo Bay Detention Center Should Close

One reason Guantanamo Bay Detention Center should be closed is accusations of the prison violating Protocol II of the Geneva Conventions. In her piece, “The United States, International Humanitarian Law, and the Prisoners at Guantanamo Bay,” Catherine Moore argues that Guantanamo Bay Detention Center has several violations of the Geneva Conventions. First, she writes that the cells prisoners are held in are, “8×8-foot chain-link metal cages.” In fact, Moore writes that detainees spend most of their time in those cells. Detainees are only allowed outside of their small cells to exercise for a short time twice a week. According to Moore, these animal-like holding conditions violate Article 21 of Protocol II in the Geneva Conventions. More specifically, Article 21 states that prisoner should be held in small quarters only if it benefits their health or if there are special circumstances. Overall, Moore’s writing clearly shows that officers at Guantanamo Bay did not abide by Geneva Convention regulations.

This photo depicts the entrance to the detention center in Cuba.

A second violation of Protocol II of the Geneva Conventions is Guantanamo’s use of torture as an interrogation method. In Gregory A. Prince’s essay, “A Failure of Moral Imagination: Guantanamo, Torture, the Constitution, and Mormons— An Interview with Brent N. Rushforth,” he finds that abusive interrogation methods were certainly used on detainees at the detention camp. In this article, Prince interviews Brent N. Rushforth, a Washington, DC lawyer specializing in white-collar defense litigation, about the basic morality of Guantanamo Bay Detention Camp. Rushforth admits that Guantanamo was perfect for housing terrorists because it was a, “legal black hole.” That is, there was no clear evidence that American laws and habeas corpus applied to prisoners taken there because the prison was not on American soil. Therefore, theoretically, officers at Guantanamo could torture prisoners with limited to no consequences. Rushforth admitted to horrific treatments such as, “nudity, religious abuse, beatings, and quite graphic sexual abuse.” Furthermore, Rushforth goes on to discuss waterboarding, or simulated drowning, which was perhaps the most horrific way to get information of stubborn detainees. All of these methods of abusive and torturous interrogation at Guantanamo Bay show why the prison should be shut down.

More specifically, personal testimonies to the humanitarian rights violations at Guantanamo Bay Detention Center provide compelling evidence of violations of the Geneva Conventions. For example, in her essay called, “Hamdan v Rumsfeld: Reviewing the Geneva Convention Rights of the Unlawful Enemy Combatants Contained at Gitmo,” Amy Quimby outlines a 2006 court case specifically dealing with mistreatment of Guantanamo Bay Prison detainee named Salem Ahmed Hamdan. In the United States Supreme Court Hamdan fought for his right of habeas corpus and argued that his detainment at Guantanamo violated Common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions. The Supreme Court recognized the case and held a trial for Hamdan. As a result, most of the Supreme Court justices agreed that Guantanamo violated the Geneva Conventions. In fact, Quimby writes that in Justice Kennedy’s decision reasoning he stated that Common Law 3, “is part of a treaty [that] the United States has ratified and [must be] accepted as binding law.” However, on the other side of the argument Justice Scalia’s dissenting opinion cites that military necessity was at play at Guantanamo. Overwhelmingly though, the Supreme Court ruled that the Bush Administration’s treatment of detainees at Guantanamo Bay did in fact violate Common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions. Unfortunately, the decision of the illegal nature of Guantanamo Bay Detention Center was found over ten years ago, but the prison still remains open in 2017.


Guantanamo Bay Detention Center, a United States naval base in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, should be closed because of its documented violations of the Geneva Conventions of 1949. Since  the prison’s opening in 2002, officials at Guantanamo Bay Detention Center have engaged in illegal treatment of foreign criminals and torturous interrogations. Both of these humanitarian horrors violate an international treaty that the Unites States signed, and therefore needs to adhere to. However, despite the evidence of  violations of the Geneva Conventions, QRC article entitled “Closing Guantanamo,” says that, “experts are doubtful about the potential for reaching an international consensus on how to deal with the captured nonstate combatants.” Thus, despite the illegal activity going on there, closing Guantanamo Bay Detention Center will be nearly impossible in the near future.

Although there has been photographic and written evidence from detainees, not much has been done to close the prison. However, 44th President of the United States Barack Obama, in his 2016 speech at the White House called, “Let’s Close the Detention Facility at Guantanamo Bay,” attempts to convince Americans of the necessity of closing the prison. President Obama discusses that his attempts to close Guantanamo were halted by partisan issues in Congress. Despite Obama’s struggle to actually close the prison, he worked hard to decrease the number of detainees to below 100. Additionally, Obama announces that he and Congress are going, “to find a secure location in the United States to hold remaining detainees.” Basically, if he can’t actually close the detention center, he wants to relocate as many current detainees as possible during his remaining time in office. Obama’s progressive attempts to relocate lasting Guantanamo prisoners is a step forward to closing the detention camp for good.



“Closing Guantanamo.” SAGE Publications, QRC Researcher, 26, no. 34 (September 30, 2016): 793–816.

Moore, Catherine. “The United States, International Humanitarian Law, and the Prisoners at Guantanamo Bay.” Accessed September 28, 2017. http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/pdf/10.1080/13642980308629706.

Nolen, Jeanette. “Guantanamo Bay Detention Camp | United States Detention Facility, Cuba.” Encyclopedia Britannica. Accessed September 28, 2017. https://www.britannica.com/topic/Guantanamo-Bay-detention-camp.

Obama, Barack. “Let’s Close the Detention Facility at Guantanamo Bay.” Vital Speeches of the Day 82, no. 4 (April 2016): 107–9.

Prince, Gregory A. “A Failure of Moral Imagination: Guantanamo, Torture, the Constitution, and Mormons— An Interview with Brent N. Rushforth.” Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought 42, no. 4 (Winter 2009): 69–98.


Shaw, Malcolm. “Geneva Conventions | 1864-1977.” Encyclopedia Britannica. Accessed September 28, 2017. https://www.britannica.com/event/Geneva-Conventions.


Essays gitmo / guantanamo / guantanamobay / internationalrelations / IR /

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *