Exactly twenty years ago, to the day, on January 11, 2002, the first Taliban prisoners arrived at the Guantanamo base. The prison is created on this naval base in the southeast of Cuba. In 20 years, 780 prisoners, in orange jumpsuits, chained, have passed through Guantanamo prison.
In January 2002, the journalist of Europe 1 Patrice Thomas tells the conditions of detention of the prisoners of Guantanamo. “Chained to their seats, hooded and handcuffed, the detainees arrive after more than twenty hours of flight. 13,000 kilometers from Kandahar to Guantanamo with a secret stopover. A hundred cells are ready. Four mesh walls, a cement floor and a wooden ceiling. The whole thing is surrounded by two fences and brand new barbed wire”, he says at the microphone of Europe 1.
20 years and 780 prisoners
In 20 years, 780 have passed through Guantanamo prison. Among the first prisoners, there are two French, confirms a few days later Hubert Védrine, the Minister of Foreign Affairs. “Perhaps French nationals should be tried in France. This is a question to be further explored,” he said. “But in any case, we ask the American authorities that all prisoners, whatever their legal status, benefit from all the guarantees recognized by international law, which naturally includes their conditions of detention.”
20 years of torture at Guantanamo
Two years later, for the first time, the United States Supreme Court allowed Guantanamo prisoners to be defended by lawyers. But the more the years will pass, the more we discover what is happening inside Guantanamo.
The soldiers who monitor the prison tell, as in 2006, at the microphone of François Clémenceau, this general who commands the center explains how the prisoners continue to deliver important information every day. “You will not be surprised to learn that a number of detainees here lived in London before spreading across Europe. And they allow us, six months after the attacks last summer, to know who is still on the run, who is being trained to replace those who did the hit and who are their mid-level leader,” he said.
“Delivered to the US Army, sometimes for money”
This same year 2006, a court decision in the United States obliges the Pentagon to publish a list of Guantanamo prisoners. We discover that some detainees have no direct link with terrorism, says Olivier Roy, research director at the CNRS. “There are a lot of Afghans. So obviously these are people who were in the wrong place at the wrong time and who were handed over to the American army, sometimes for money, for that matter,” says- he.
President Barack Obama promises in 2009 to close Guantanamo, but he will not. This same year 2009, the first prisoner released from Guantanamo, Lakhdar Boumediene, speaks. Cleared after seven years in prison, he then tells Europe1 the torture he suffered. “They questioned me for Al-Qaeda, for Osama bin Laden, they beat me, they started with the torture, the interrogations were night, day, afternoon, morning, it was like a nightmare”, he says.
Today, 39 prisoners remain at Guantanamo, including a Pakistani considered one of the masterminds of 9/11.