The UK’s Guantánamo Gap

Twitter card image of Saifullah Paracha

By: Colette G. St-Onge, Head of Campaigns and Digital

59% of people in Britain think it’s wrong for the US to hold men without charge or trial in Guantánamo Bay – the notorious US prison in Cuba opened in 2002. Yet, 36% of Brits also say they still don’t know whether Guantánamo should be shut down.

That’s what we found out in a recent poll we commissioned through YouGov. [1] The campaigns team wanted to understand what the UK population thinks about the human rights violations still happening in Guantánamo.

While the majority of us recognise that holding men without charge or trial is wrong, the plurality of people surveyed weren’t sure whether or not to shut Guantánamo down. The gap between the recognition of one of the rights violated at Guantánamo and the need to shut down that institution where rights are violated is striking.

This speaks to the effect of the messaging by leaders like US President Donald Trump who claims that Guantánamo is a place for “really bad dudes.” But that messaging isn’t the reality on the ground.

Among those still held indefinitely in Guantánamo is 73 year old Saifullah Paracha. He has already been held without charge or trial for 16 years and is the oldest detainee there. He just suffered his third heart attack this summer – and the brutal truth is that Guantánamo doesn’t have the medical facilities to deal with Saifullah or the rest of its ageing population.

At its height, nearly 800 men were detained in Guantánamo. Only four men there have been convicted of a crime. Nine men have died while in custody there and 31 men held without charge, trial, or prospect of release – including Saifullah.

The Reprieve community has already helped get over 80 people out of Guantánamo. Now, we need to speak up for those still there, and remind everyone that Guantánamo needs to be shut down.

To join the campaign, add your name here.

[1] We asked two YouGov questions. The first was whether Guantánamo should continue to operate –  37% said it should be closed down, 36% were not sure and 27% said it should continue to operate. The second question was whether it was wrong for the US to hold men there without charge or trial – 59% said it was wrong to hold men there, 25% said they didn’t know and16% said it was right.