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Human Rights Issues in Guantanamo Bay Critical Essay

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Updated: Jul 1st, 2019

Written by Daniella Schneider, the article “Human Rights Issues in Guantanamo Bay” tackles various issues regarding detention and treatment of prisoners at the Guantanamo Bay. The article examines both political and legal issues surfacing due to the continued detentions. Currently, the prevailing political condition has degraded and gone against laws relating to international and human rights.

This aspect has resulted to in-depth debates on the legality of the detention that has up to date denied more than 660 people the freedom they once enjoyed. However, this move has led to the Federal Government of the United States pronouncing that Guantanamo is in breach of the Geneva Convention that took place in 1949.

The US government appreciates that even though the Taliban and Al-Qaeda are not recognized by the Convention, there have been no attempts to verify the legal rights of those detained, even by means of a tribunal. In the verge of trying and granting detainees their rights, the article examines several conventions, laws, and regulations regarding human rights that have been passed by the international community.

However, there are quite a lot of difficulties surrounding the legal status of these detainees in Guantanamo Bay. Moreover, the US government received strong opposition from the international community when it preferred trial of these detainees through military commission. It is expressed in the article that although the detainees are international criminals, the move by the US to detain them at the Guantanamo Bay is an abuse of international laws on the human rights.

Guantanamo Bay, having been established in 2002, was used by the US as a prison camp where the first victims were some people brought into the custody of the US from Afghanistan and elsewhere. Two years down the line, some international organizations have come up to challenge the legality of such detentions.

For instance, the Amnesty International was the first international body to point out that the detention was against international standards. In 1949, the Geneva Convention was adopted and it provides a framework of dealing with detainees. The convention stipulates that a detainee is subject to humane treatment and should not be punished unless found guilt.

They are detained to restrain them from joining the enemy’s side and laying fresh ambushes. In addition, the convention also stipulates that a detainee shall not wait for trial for more than 3 months. The convention also defines who a detainee is; that is, a member of the armed or militia forces. Although the Al Qaeda is an international criminal group, it does not qualify for a prisoner of war (POW) status.

Therefore, the detention of such members amounts to illegal detention. This element was not the case with the Taliban group as it was once an Afghanistan’s military group. However, the international community was concerned why the US did not use conditions stipulated by the POW to determine whom to detain at the Guantanamo Bay.

Strong opposition by the international community to allow trial by a military judge was to secure recognition of the application of the Convention. Detainees were treated with a lot of cruelty and various articles of the Convention were breached while dealing with detainees. The US defended itself by stating that the detainees had no initial POW status and granting them freedom would compromise the on-going interrogations. The US would hold them for as long as possible to obtain sufficient information.

Various laws relating to the protection of the detainees were evaluated. Under the fourth Geneva Convention, detainees were entitled to protection, although they were not entitled to the POW status. Article 5 of the Convention moved ahead to stipulate that unlawful combatants would be subject to humane treatment and retain their rights of fair and regular trial.

The Al Qaeda fighters would be subject to minimum treatment as stipulated by article 71-76 of the 4th Convention, while civilians retain their status as civilians. Although the US government breached most of the Convention’s stipulations, it tends to apply it to some extents. For instance, treating detainees as POW and detaining them until the war is over. However, this compliance was seen as a way of silencing the international community.

In accordance with the stipulations laid by the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), the US had breached two of the human rights. For instance, the US treated detainees with a lot of inhumanity and declined to any legal mechanism in dealing with victims. Under this convention, detainees were subject to a fair trial as stipulated by Article 9. Article 7 of the same Convention prohibits torture and inhumane treatment.

However, applications by the US to have detainees tried through a military commission were criticized by the international community. It was seen to breach provisions of both Conventions stipulated above. Arguably, detainees would not argue for justification of their detention due to the existence of stringent conditions within a military court. The US defended this move by stating that it would take quite a long time for the standard courts to rule of the case of detainees.

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1. IvyPanda. "Human Rights Issues in Guantanamo Bay." July 1, 2019. https://ivypanda.com/essays/human-rights-issues-in-guantanamo-bay/.


IvyPanda. "Human Rights Issues in Guantanamo Bay." July 1, 2019. https://ivypanda.com/essays/human-rights-issues-in-guantanamo-bay/.


IvyPanda. 2019. "Human Rights Issues in Guantanamo Bay." July 1, 2019. https://ivypanda.com/essays/human-rights-issues-in-guantanamo-bay/.


IvyPanda. (2019) 'Human Rights Issues in Guantanamo Bay'. 1 July.

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