Recently, the United States announced the closure of the secret "Camp 7" in the top-security prison of Guantanamo, where terror suspects have been kept for decades (this is the same prison from the sensational film "The Mauritanian"). Prisoners from the classified unit were moved to another block - "Camp 5."
There are many secrets around the unit. Officially, it was closed to "improve operational efficiency and effectiveness." It is not specified when exactly this happened, and the authorities also do not say how many prisoners were transferred.
We will tell you what this mysterious "Camp 7" is, why there is so much noise around the isolated place of detention.
Behind bars without formal charge
The prison at Guantanamo Bay differs from the usual conditions of detention. It is located on the island of Cuba and is isolated by the ocean. All prisoners are in solitary confinement, and the prisoners themselves are not more than 50 people.
After the terrorist attacks in the United States on September 11, 2001, the George W. Bush administration declared a "war on terrorism." He argued that the need to counter terrorism and ensure the safety of people went beyond the obligation to respect human rights. Guantanamo was founded in January 2002 as a place where the US authorities are holding people who are considered "enemy combatants" in this war.
The prison is guarded by 2,000 soldiers. The prisoners have been imprisoned for years with the thought of possible execution. There were three camps in the prison: the fifth, the sixth, and the seventh. The fifth and sixth contain prisoners who are not of particular interest to intelligence. Camp 5 was mostly empty and is located next to Camp 6 where other prisoners are being held.
The seventh camp is intended for "prisoners of special interest" - suspected of organizing the September 11 attacks. Where this camp was on the island, who is being held there, and what the future of these people is the strictest secret.
How many people were imprisoned in "Camp 7" is also not known exactly. Officials have previously stated that Camp 7 held about 14 people.
Prisoners have spent days and nights in isolation for years since their arrest and interrogation by the CIA following the September 11, 2001 attacks. Each was locked up alone in a cell, at times plunging into darkness. During the period of their detention in the network of secret CIA prisons ("black areas"), they lived on dry rations, were subjected to harsh interrogation methods.
In 2006, the secret "Camp 7" for "dangerous criminals" was opened in Guantanamo, and the prisoners were transferred from the CIA "black sites" to the prison. The prisoners were kept in isolation for most of the day. When they were released from their cells, the guards put them in short shackles and chains. Most of these people, suspected of organizing the attacks, have been in the camp for decades without formal court charges.
Times have changed now. The military now allows prisoners to exit their cells in two separate blocks, known as Alpha and Bravo, into enclosed outdoor recreation areas. There they can pray and dine in groups of six or eight. Some of the inmates in the Bravo block have fashioned a ping-pong table.
Torture and trial by the military commission
Throughout its history, 779 people have been delivered to the institution. Of these, only seven were convicted, including five as a result of pre-trial agreements, according to which they pleaded guilty in exchange for the possibility of release from the base. These people were brought before the "military commission."
According to Amnesty International, the court did not meet standards. Only one detainee from Guantanamo was taken to the mainland for a civil hearing.
Shaker Aamer was one of the first detainees to arrive at Guantanamo in 2002. He was detained in Afghanistan in November 2001, where he worked for a Saudi charity.
After 13 years at Guantanamo Bay without charge or trial, thousands of miles from his family, Shaker Aamer was finally released and returned to his family in the UK in October 2015. In fact, he received permission to transfer from Guantanamo in 2007, indicating that the US authorities did not intend to bring him to justice.
Shaker Aamer's lawyer claims that he remained in detention for so long because he witnessed how US and UK agents tortured men. Amer claimed that MI5 officers were in the room when he was tortured.
Government relations and attempts to close the prison
Guantanamo Bay has become a stain on the reputation of the United States for human rights activists and many journalists because the United States is known for a judicial system where laws and human rights must be respected.
Former US President Barack Obama tried to close Guantanamo Bay for his entire term in office. Donald Trump, on the other hand, refers to Guantanamo as a symbol of national security. In 2018, he announced that he intends to send new prisoners there.
President Joe Biden has announced that he intends to close Guantanamo, which will require a decision by Congress to implement this. Until then, he will seek to reduce the number of prisoners.