40 males Guantanamo has kept roughly 800 prisoners over the years, but presently just 40 men are incarcerated there, and approximately three-quarters of them have never been prosecuted legally. They are referred to as "forever prisoners," and they are being held eternally. Some of them have been there for over two decades.
When President Obama took office in 2009, he promised to close the prison at a rate of 30 a year. As of January 2017, there were still 130 prisoners at Guantanamo. This number includes 10 American citizens who have been held without trial since 9/11.
Guantanamo has been described as an "open-air prison" because it is located on an isolated island accessible only by ferry or helicopter. In 2007, the Pentagon estimated that it cost $750,000 per year to keep each prisoner at Guantanamo. That makes Guantanamo's annual budget $30 million. In 2016, Congress voted to prohibit the transfer of any more prisoners from the facility.
Guantanamo was established in 1898 after the Spanish-American War to hold Puerto Rican nationalists and their leaders. Over the next few years, it would become the default place where America went when it wanted to hold a foreign prisoner without charging them with a crime.
The first 11 prisoners transferred from Guantanamo came home for burial in 2010.
First, can you remind me how many detainees are still held at Gitmo? Guantanamo has kept roughly 800 prisoners over the years, but presently just 40 men are incarcerated there, and approximately three-quarters of them have never been prosecuted legally. This is different from the CIA's detention program, which was designed for temporary purposes and allowed almost 700 individuals to be released.
The United States government does not consider these men criminals, but rather it claims that they were engaged in combat with the United States military, so they should not be granted rights as ordinary civilians. However, no formal charges have ever been filed against any of these men, and none of them have had any opportunity to face a jury or an impartial judge.
There is also a small group of Cuban citizens who have been imprisoned in the United States since the 1959 revolution. These people have been denied access to legal counsel and have never been charged with a crime. They have been held in solitary confinement for decades at a time without trials or convictions.
Finally, there are four Americans who were arrested in Pakistan and brought to Gitmo. They are being held indefinitely without charge or trial. None of these men have ever been charged with a crime and none of them have ever been given the chance to see if they could be tried in an American court.
Approximately three-quarters of the 40 detainees currently detained at Guantanamo are "forever inmates," meaning they have been kept without charge or trial for over two decades. Six of them have been approved for release, some for more than a decade, yet are still detained. Nashir and Abdullah are among the six inmates who have been released. However, their cases are now before the U.S. courts system and it is uncertain when, or if, they will be allowed to return to their home countries.
Guantanamo has been described as a "legal black hole" by several scholars because there are no clear procedures for trying suspects held there. As a result, many have spent years waiting for their day in court while some have died awaiting trial.
In March 2015, President Obama signed into law a measure requiring him to review all cases against suspected terrorists from the 2001 terror attacks before he leaves office in January 2017. If he decides not to move forward with prosecuting them, then they can be freed. But if he does decide to go ahead with charges, then they would have to be tried in federal court. The president has the power to veto any bill setting criminal charges against a detainee held at Guantanamo, but he has not done so thus far.
The prison camp at Guantanamo was built to hold foreign terrorists accused of being threat to the United States, but now holds only men who were captured abroad and deemed ineligible for trial.