Online Encyclopedia Search Tool

Your Online Encyclopedia


Online Encylopedia and Dictionary Research Site

Online Encyclopedia Free Search Online Encyclopedia Search    Online Encyclopedia Browse    welcome to our free dictionary for your research of every kind

Online Encyclopedia

Guantanamo Bay

Guantánamo Bay (abbreviated as GTMO or "Gitmo") is located at the south-eastern end of Cuba, in the Guantánamo Province, at 19° 54' N. Lat., 75° 9' W Lon. and contains a United States Naval Base (116 km²).



See also timeline of Guantánamo Bay

The base was established in 1898, when the U.S. obtained control of Cuba from Spain at the end of the Spanish-American War, following the 1898 invasion of Guantánamo Bay. The U.S. government obtained a perpetual lease that can only be broken if both parties mutually consent to terminate the lease that began on February 23, 1903 from the newly independent Cuban state. As of 2004, it is the only U.S. base in operation on communist soil and is still occupied by the U.S. with over 3,000 troops. The U.S. continues to adhere to lease terms arranged through two agreements signed in 1902 and 1903, and a treaty of 1934. These terms hold that the U.S., for the purposes of operating coaling and naval stations, has "complete jurisdiction and control" of the area, while the Republic of Cuba is recognized to retain ultimate sovereignty. The agreement holds further that the U.S. will pay 2,000 gold coins (more than $4,000 in today's money) each year in rent.

Aerial view of Guantanamo Bay.
Aerial view of Guantanamo Bay.

Since coming to power, Fidel Castro has only cashed one rent check, while steadfastly refusing to cash the others because he views the base as illegitimate. Although diplomatic relations do not exist between the U.S. and Communist Cuba, the U.S. has agreed to return fugitives from Cuban law to Cuban authorities and Cuba agreed to return fugitives from U.S. law, for offenses committed in Guantánamo Bay, to U.S. authorities.

The U.S. control of this Cuban territory has never been popular with Cubans. The Cuban government strongly denounces the treaty on grounds that the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties in 1969 declares in its article 52 that a treaty is void if its conclusion has been procured by the threat or use of force—in this case by the inclusion, in 1903, of the Platt Amendment in the Cuban Constitution. The Cuban Convention was warned not to modify the Amendment and was told that the U.S. troops would not leave Cuba until its terms had been adopted as a condition from U.S. to grant independence.

The Cuban government cut off water to the base, causing the United States to first import water from Jamaica and then to build desalination plants. Today the base is self-sufficient producing its own water and electricity. A small number of Cubans, all elderly, still cross the base's North East Gate daily to work on the base; but the Cuban government does not allow new recruitment.

Detention of prisoners

This article or section is about a current or ongoing event.
Information may change rapidly as the event progresses.

In the last quarter of the 20th century, the base was used to house Cuban and Haitian refugees who have been intercepted on the high seas. Beginning in 2002, however, a small portion of the base was used to house suspected al-Qaeda and Taliban prisoners captured in Afghanistan and elsewhere at Camp X-Ray, Camp Delta and Camp Echo . The most recent transfer of prisoners occurred September 22, 2004 when 10 prisoners were brought from Afghanistan. Eventually several hundred alleged terrorists, some captured in Afghanistan, were imprisoned without charge at the base.

The peculiar legal status of Guantánamo Bay was a factor in the choice of Guantánamo as a detention center. Because sovereignty of Guantánamo Bay ultimately resides with Cuba, the U.S. government argued unsuccessfully that people detained at Guantánamo were legally outside of the U.S. and did not have the Constitutional rights that they would have if they were held on U.S. territory (see Cuban American Bar Ass'n, Inc. v. Christopher, 43 F.3d 1412 (11th Cir. 1995)). In 2004, the Supreme Court rejected this argument in the case Rasul v. Bush with the majority decision and ruled that prisoners in Guantánamo have access to American courts, citing the fact that the U.S. has exclusive control over Guantánamo Bay.

The U.S. claims to have classified the prisoners held at Camp Delta and Camp Echo as illegal combatants, but has not held the Article 5 tribunals that would be required by international law for it to do so. This would grant them the rights of the Fourth Geneva Convention (GCIV), as opposed to the more common Third Geneva Convention (GCIII) which deals exclusively with prisoners of war. On November 9, 2004 US District Court Judge James Robertson ruled that the Bush Administration had overstepped its authority to try such prisoners as enemy combatants in a miltary tribunal and denying them access to the evidence used against them.

Three British prisoners released in 2004 without charge have alleged that there is ongoing torture, sexual degradation, forced drugging and religious persecution being committed by U.S. forces at Guantánamo Bay and have released a 115-page dossier detailing these accusations [1] . They also accuse British authorities of knowing about the torture and failing to respond. Their accounts have been confirmed by two former French prisoners and a former Swedish prisoner. In response to accusations, US Navy Secretary Gordon England has claimed that a Navy inspector general has performed a review of the practices at Guantánamo and concluded that it was "being operated at very high standards."

Press reports regarding the incarceration and apparent torture of a British prisoner currently being held at Guantanamo Bay Moazzam Begg have caused widespread outrage in the UK.

On November 30, 2004, The New York Times published excerpts New York Times
from an internal memo leaked from the US administration, referring to a report from the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC). The report points out several activities which, it said, were "tantamount to torture": exposure to loud noise or music, prolonged extreme temperatures, or beatings. It also reports the existence of a behavior science team (BSCT), also called "Biscuit", and the fact that the physicians of the base communicate confidential medical information to the interrogation teams (weaknesses, phobias, etc.), resulting in the prisoners losing confidence in the medical team of the base. Access of the ICRC to the base was conditional, as is normal for ICRC humanitarian operations, to the confidentiality of their report; sources have reported that heated debates had taken place at the ICRC headquarters, as some of those involved wanted to make the report public, or confront the US administration. The newspaper said the administration and the Pentagon had seen the ICRC report in July but rejected its findings. AP (Guardian),1280,-4645430,00.html , Reuters . The story was originally reported in other newspapers when the report was leaked in May. [2],,1213640,00.html . The ICRC reacted to the article ICRC comments

See also Camp_X-Ray

Fictional representations of Guantánamo

See also

External links

  • — Professor Alfred de Zayas' private site, including the texts in English, French and German, of serveral studies on various legal and historical aspects of the Guantánamo complex — including the law review article "The Status of Guantánamo Bay" in 37 University of British Columbia Law Review pp. 277-341, and articles in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung and Tribune de Genève
  • U.S. Naval Base Guantánamo Bay website
  • Texts of United States - Cuban agreements and treaty of 1934
  • Statement by The Government of Cuba to the National and International Public Opinion
  • An Op-Ed Column criticizing the use of military tribunals to try "illegal combatants"
  • Web site dedicated to criticizing U.S. treatment of prisoners in Guantánamo Bay

Last updated: 02-07-2005 01:28:51
Last updated: 02-25-2005 14:48:13