Global Ethics Corner: What’s Going on in Guantanamo Bay?

Apr 22, 2013

With over half of the detainees on a hunger strike, tensions are worse than ever at Guantanamo Bay. Is it finally time for the United States to close this detention camp? Or does it still serve a purpose in the country's ongoing wars?

At Guantanamo Bay detention camp, tensions are worse than ever.

As of Aprill 22, over half of the camp's 166 detainees were on hunger strike to protest their treatment and indefinite detention at the American military base. On April 13, 2013, several detainees attacked guards trying to move prisoners into individual cells. And on April 14, The New York Times published an op-ed written by a hunger-striking detainee who has been held at Guantanamo for 11 years without trial. The Yemeni national wrote, "I just hope that because of the pain we are suffering, the eyes of the world will once again look to Guantanamo before it is too late."

The Guantanamo Bay detention camp was established in 2002 under President George W. Bush to house prisoners connected to the Global War on Terror. In a 2004 report, the International Committee of the Red Cross concluded that prisoners were being tortured at the camp. These allegations have since been confirmed by released detainees.

Acting on a campaign promise to shut the facility, President Barack Obama signed an executive order in 2009 mandating that Guantanamo Bay be closed within a year. He said the United States does not have "to continue with a false choice between our safety and our ideals."

But relocating all the detainees has proven much more difficult than expected, and Obama has since signed legislation keeping the facility open indefinitely. He also closed the State Department office responsible for resettling detainees who have been cleared for release. The prisoners' current hunger strike is, in part, a response to the Obama administration’s apparent reversal of its promise to shutter the facility.

What do you think? Can and should the U.S. finally close Guantanamo Bay, as promised? Or does Guantanamo serve a purpose in America's continuing wars?

For more information, see:

Peter Finn, "Guantanamo Bay detainees and military clash; hunger strike continues," The Washington Post, April 13, 2013

Greg Botelho and Barbara Starr, "Detainees, U.S. guards clash at Guantanamo Bay," CNN, April 15, 2013

"Obama signs order to close Guantanamo Bay facility," CNN, January 22, 2009

Carol Rosenberg, "U.S. troops detail skirmish with Guantanamo captives," The Miami Herald, April 16, 2013

Ryan J. Reilly, "Guantanamo Bay Hunger Strike Numbers Grow," The Huffington Post, April 15, 2013

Samir Naji al Hasan Moqbel, "Gitmo Is Killing Me," The New York Times, April 14, 2013

Photo Credits in Order of Appearance:
U.S. Navy [also for pictures 3, 5, 6, & 8]
Bit Boy
Executive Office of the President of the United States
U.S. Customs and Border Protection
Christoph Koettl
U.S. Marines
Debra Sweet
The National Guard

You may also like

MAY 31, 2023 Article

To Engage or Not Engage: Ethical Challenges and Tradeoffs for U.S. Statecraft in 2023

Approaches for policymakers to consider when grappling with the ethical questions of whether and how to engage with authoritarian or increasingly illiberal states and actors.

MAY 31, 2023 Podcast

C2GTalk: How can the world put justice at the heart of governing climate-altering technologies? with Kumi Naidoo

Governing climate-altering technologies fairly will be very challenging, because of a democratic deficit, a transparency deficit, a coherence deficit, and an accountability deficit in global ...

MAY 30, 2023 Podcast

Expectations, with David Robson

In this episode, host Hilary Sutcliffe explores . . . expectation from another angle. Her guest David Robson delves into the science of expectation in his award-winning new ...