U.S. President Barack Obama recently expressed that if he were given a do-over from the first day of his first presidency, he would make closing down the Guantanamo Bay military prison his first order of business.
"I think I would have closed Guantanamo on the first day," he said during a speech at the City Club of Cleveland, answering a seventh-grader’s question. "I didn’t at that time because we had a bipartisan agreement that it should be closed."
Obama championed closing the facility in 2008 during his presidential campaign. He has repeatedly talked about shutting down the controversial prison but never succeeded in fulfilling those promises.
"I thought we had enough consensus where we could do it in a more deliberate fashion," the president continued. "But the politics of it got tough, and people got scared by the rhetoric around it. Once that set in, then the path of least resistance was just to leave it open, even though it's not who we are as a country and it's used by terrorists around the world to help recruit jihadists."
Located at a U.S. naval base in southern Cuba, the detention camp has drawn international criticism for its inhumane treatment of inmates. The military prison is known for force-feeding and torturing the prisoners in most notorious of ways. Since 2002, 779 men and boys – all of them Muslim – have been imprisoned at Gitmo. Over the years, some were released while others died or were convicted. As of January 2015, 122 detainees remain there.
Even though Obama’s statement received a round of applause from all those present at the event, his remorse doesn’t make much of difference in the lives which have been unjustly ruined.
Take a look at some detainees of Guantanamo Bay who are waiting for justice amidst all this political chaos.
1. Shaker Aamer:
A Saudi-born, legal U.K. resident with a British wife and four British children, Shaker Aaamer was volunteering for a charity in Afghanistan in 2001 when he was abducted and sold for a bounty to U.S. forces. He was tortured for days, after which he confessed whatever his captors accused him of doing. U.S. forces then took him to Guantanamo Bay where he is fighting for his freedom. It is said that Shaker is still imprisoned because he witnessed U.S. and U.K. agents torturing men while he was in U.S. detention.
2. Saifullah Paracha:
Sixty-seven-year-old Pakistani-born U.S. businessman Saifullah Paracha was seized in Thailand while on a business trip. He was interrogated at Bagram Airbase for more than a year before being taken to Guantanamo Bay, where he has been held for over a decade without any charges. Paracha has suffered three heart attacks during his detention and is denied proper medical care.
He is father of four children and had studied at the New York Institute of Technology.
3. Abu Zubaydah:
Abducted in Pakistan in March 2002, Zubaydah was suspected of being a high-value member of al-Qaeda. A recent Senate report on torture stated that “the CIA later concluded that Abu Zubaydah was not a member of al-Qaeda.’” Zubaydah has never been charged with a crime but is still detained at Guantanamo. During his confinement, he was viciously tortured – both physically and psychologically, according to Reprieve.
During his presidency, Obama outlined the plans to close the facility multiple times and even called it a "sad chapter in American history,” but given that he reportedly never consulted Pentagon lawyers, it’s unclear how he could’ve managed to act on those plans.