Activists mark 21 years since Guantanamo Bay prison camp was opened

Thirty-five Muslim men remain locked up in remote prison on a US military base in Cuba

Outside the Supreme Court in Washington, a group of people dressed as prisoners protest against the Guantanamo Bay prison. Reuters
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Former inmates, campaigners and advocates on Wednesday marked the 21st anniversary of the opening of the US military prison camp in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, where 35 Muslim men remain locked up even though most have never been charged with a crime.

The notorious prison garners little attention in the US, even though it costs American taxpayers $13 million annually to house each detainee — a total cost of $540 million every year.

The first inmates, clad in orange jumpsuits, arrived in 2002 after the US-led invasion of Afghanistan. Many inmates were tortured when they first came.

According to Amnesty International, 20 of the remaining prisoners have been cleared for release but remain locked up. Many are from Yemen and cannot be sent back to their war-torn country.

Amnesty USA's director of Security with Human Rights, Daphne Eviatar, described how indefinite detention at Guantanamo has become the “iconic example of the abandonment of the rule of law”.

“This issue unfortunately doesn't get much attention in the US any more because it's considered old news,” Ms Eviatar said at an online rally.

“But for the 35 men still detained indefinitely without trial, it continues to be a present-day nightmare.”

The oldest inmate at Guantanamo is 73. Only a handful have been formally charged.

“None have received a fair trial, and more than 21 years later, there still has been no accountability for the 9/11 attacks,” rally organisers said.

Activists described the existence of the prison, now in its third decade, as a symbol of “institutionalised Islamophobia” in the US.

A group of people dressed as prisoners protest at the US Capitol. Reuters
Updated: January 11, 2023, 11:12 PM