Camp X-Ray

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Camp X-Ray, shown here under construction, was a temporary holding facility for detainees held at U.S. Naval Base Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

Camp X-Ray was a temporary detention facility located at the Joint Task Force Guantanamo on the U.S. Naval Base in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. It was named Camp X-Ray because various temporary camps in the station were named sequentially from the beginning and then from the end of the NATO phonetic alphabet. On June 28, 2004, the United States Supreme Court ruled that detainees in this facility could turn to U.S. courts to challenge their confinement. Camp X-Ray is sometimes considered to be a concentration camp; on May 25, 2005, Amnesty International released a report calling the facility the "gulag of our times" (,1,671415.story?coll=chi-newsnationworld-hed).



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Detainees at Camp X-Ray, January 2002

As of April 29, 2002, the official Camp X-Ray was closed and all prisoners were transferred to Camp Delta. However, the term "Camp X-Ray" has come to be used as a synonym for the entire facility where prisoners from the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan are detained.

Care of detainees at Camp X-Ray was handled by Joint Task Force 160 (JTF-160), while interrogations were conducted by Joint Task Force 170 (JTF-170).

JTF-160 was under the command of Marine Brigadier General Michael Lehnert until March 2002, when he was replaced by Brigadier General Rick Baccus. In November 2002, Baccus was replaced as commander by Major General Geoffrey Miller. He was in turn replaced by Brigadier General Jay Hood in March 2004 while Miller was sent to deal with the Abu Ghraib prisoner abuse in Iraq. U.S. Army Lieutenant Colonel Bill Cline serves as the commander for security forces. Since Camp X-Ray's closure and the subsequent opening of Camp Delta, JTF-160 and 170 have been combined into Joint Task Force Guantanamo (JTF-GTMO).

The U.S. government has classified the detainees in Camp X-Ray as "illegal combatants," rather than prisoners of war (POWs), which they claim means that they do not have to be conferred the rights granted to POWs under the Geneva Conventions (at least under that convention). The U.S. government justifies this designation by claiming that they do not have the status of either regular soldiers nor that of guerrillas, and they are not part of a regular army or militia. In July of 2003, about 680 alleged Taliban members and suspected Al-Qaeda terrorists from 42 different countries were housed there. None have been allowed to meet with attorneys.

The human rights organization Human Rights Watch has criticized the Bush administration over this designation in its 2003 world report, stating: "Washington has ignored human rights standards in its own treatment of terrorist suspects. It has refused to apply the Geneva Conventions to prisoners of war from Afghanistan, and has misused the designation of "illegal combatant" to apply to criminal suspects on U.S. soil."

On April 23, 2003, the U.S. military reported that "a handful" of the Afghan war prisoners held at Camp X-Ray had been identified as juveniles and were separated from the adult prisoners.

On July 23, 2003, U.S. Major General Geoffrey Miller said that three-quarters of the roughly 660 detainees had confessed to some involvement in terrorism. Many have informed about friends and colleagues. According to Miller, the confessions were acquired through rewards that included extended recreation time, extra food rations to keep in their cells, or a move to the prison's medium-security facility. However, some have questioned the value of the confessions, given the conditions under which they were obtained. The general's statement, if it is true, also means that a quarter of the detainees have not been proven to be terrorists or involved in terrorism.

As of August 2003, at least 29 inmates of Camp X-Ray had attempted suicide in protest for the detention conditions. The U.S. officials would not say why they had not previously reported the incident. Mass Guantanamo suicide protest ( (BBC) After this event the Pentagon reclassified suicides as "manipulative self-injurious behaviors" because it is alleged by camp physicians that detainees do not genuinely wish to end their lives. The prisoners supposedly feel that they may be able to get better treatment or release with suicide attempts. Daryl Matthews, a professor of forensic psychiatry at the University of Hawaii, who examined the prisoners stated that given the cultural differences between interogators and prisons such a classification was difficult if not impossible. Depression is common in Guantanamo with 1/5 of all prisoners taking antidepressants such as prozac.[1] (

In late January 2004, U.S. officials released three children aged 13 to 15 and returned them to Afghanistan. In March 2004, twenty-three adult prisoners were released to Afghanistan, five were released to the United Kingdom (the final four British detainees were released in January 2005), and three were sent to Pakistan.

On August 4, 2004, the three ex-detainees who were returned to the U.K. (who were freed by the British authorities within 24 hours of their return home), filed a report in the U.S. claiming persistent severe abuse at the Camp, of themselves and others. (See The Guardian newspaper article (,,1275478,00.html).) They claimed that false confessions were extracted from them under duress, in conditions which amounted to torture. They alleged that conditions deteriorated when Major General Geoffrey Miller took charge of the camp, including increased periods of solitary confinement for the detainees. They claimed that the abuse took place with the knowledge of the intelligence forces. Their claims are currently being investigated by the British Government.

There are five British residents remaining: Bishar-al-Rawi, Jamil-al-Banna, Shaker Abdur-Raheem Aamer, Jamal Abdullah and Omar Deghayes. All these men have close family members who are British citizens and have themselves lived in the UK for many years: Moazzam Begg Speaks about his experience at Guantanamo ( In addition there are 'ghost prisoners' undeclared by the State, some of whom may be British or British resident.

Many of the released prisoners have complained of enduring beatings, sleep deprivation, prolonged constraint in uncomfortable positions, prolonged hooding, sexual and cultural humiliation, forced injections, and other physical and psychological torture during their detention in Camp X-Ray.

The U.S. government has denied all charges, but on May 9, the Washington Post obtained classified documents that showed Pentagon approval of using sleep deprivation, exposure to hot and cold, bright lights, and loud music during interrogations at Guantanamo [2] ( One soldier, posing as a prisoner during training exercises at the camp, was beaten so severely that he suffered a brain injury and seizures. [3] ( In June 2004 the New York Times reported that of the nearly 600 detainees not much more than two dozens were closely linked to Al Quaida and that only very limited information could have been gotten from questionings. The only top terrorist is reportedly Mohamed al-Kahtani from Saudi Arabia, who is believed to have planned to participate in the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. [4] (

The International Committee of the Red Cross inspected the camp in June 2004. In a confidential report issued in July 2004 and leaked to the New York Times in November 2004, Red Cross inspectors accused the U.S. military of using "humiliating acts, solitary confinement, temperature extremes, use of forced positions" against prisoners. The inspectors concluded that "the construction of such a system, whose stated purpose is the production of intelligence, cannot be considered other than an intentional system of cruel, unusual and degrading treatment and a form of torture." The United States Government has reportedly rejected the Red Cross findings. Reuter (, New York Times (, ICRC comments (

Abdul Ghaffar, captured in Afghanistan in December 2001, was one of the twenty-three prisoners released from Camp X-Ray in late January 2004. After his release, he rejoined the remnants of the Taliban and was killed in a gunfight in late September 2004[5] (

Abdullah Mehsud, also captured in Afghanistan in December 2001 after surrendering to Abdul Rashid Dostum, masterminded the kidnapping of two Chinese engineers in Pakistan's South Waziristan region as well as returning to his position as an Al-Qaeda field commander. Mehsud has also claimed responsibility for the bombing at Islamabad’s Marriott Hotel in October 2004. The blast injured seven people, including a U.S. diplomat, two Italians and the Pakistani prime minister’s chief security officer.

International conventions

The Hague Convention of 1907 established the following rules for recognizing legal belligerents:

The laws, rights, and duties of war apply not only to armies, but also to militia and volunteer corps fulfilling the following conditions:

  • To be commanded by a person responsible for his subordinates;
  • To have a fixed distinctive emblem recognizable at a distance;
  • To carry arms openly; and
  • To conduct their operations in accordance with the laws and customs of war.

In countries where militia or volunteer corps constitute the army, or form part of it, they are included under the denomination "army." (Chapter I, "The Qualifications of Belligerents, Article 1)

The Third Geneva Convention: Article 4.A of the Geneva Convention Relative to the Treatment of Prisoners of War revision of 12 August 1949 clarified the status of irregulars:

Prisoners of war, in the sense of the present Convention, are persons belonging to one of the following categories, who have fallen into the power of the enemy:
(1) Members of the armed forces of a Party to the conflict, as well as members of militias or volunteer corps forming part of such armed forces.
(2) Members of other militias and members of other volunteer corps, including those of organized resistance movements, belonging to a Party to the conflict and operating in or outside their own territory, even if this territory is occupied, provided that such militias or volunteer corps, including such organized resistance movements, fulfil the following conditions: (a) that of being commanded by a person responsible for his subordinates; (b) that of having a fixed distinctive sign recognizable at a distance; (c) that of carrying arms openly; (d) that of conducting their operations in accordance with the laws and customs of war.
(3) Members of regular armed forces who profess allegiance to a government or an authority not recognized by the Detaining Power. [...]
(6) Inhabitants of a non-occupied territory, who on the approach of the enemy spontaneously take up arms to resist the invading forces, without having had time to form themselves into regular armed units, provided they carry arms openly and respect the laws and customs of war.

Mercenaries do not have the full protection of the Third Geneva Convention.

The legal question on which the United States and many of its allies differ is the status of al-Qaida members captured in combat. Taliban members could be and were released from U.S. custody, but the U.S. does not recognize al-Qaida members as falling under this convention. According to the Conventions, a competent tribunal must determine whether the Guantanamo detainees have prisoner-of-war status or not. The U.S. has not done so as of date.

Under international law, POWs can be held until the armed conflict has ended. The US claims to be applying the same duration to the people it is detaining. Once the war on terrorism has ended, the U.S. is obliged to return them to their countries of origin or charge them with crimes. Since the "war on terror" is not a declared war, but simply a phrase used to describe military-led anti-terrorist operations, the U.S. may believe that it can hold detainees indefinitely.

One reason why detainees have not been declared as POWs is that under the Hague and Geneva Conventions, prisoners of war are not required to give any more information than name, rank, serial number, and date of birth - which are required for registering POWs with the International Committee of the Red Cross. However, the U.S. holds intelligence gleaned from the detainees at Guantanamo at high value. Without the Geneva Convention legal protections, and without falling under the penumbra of United States criminal law and the Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination, the US wants to make the detainees talk.

International concern about the conditions in the camp

Physical conditions for detainees at Camp X-Ray are claimed to meet basic standards for maintaining health, but the prisoners are held in small, mesh-sided cells with little privacy, and lights are kept on day and night. Detainees are said to have rations similar to American forces, with consideration for Muslim dietary needs. James Yee, a Muslim chaplain from the U.S. Navy, provided religious services, but has now resigned after unproven allegations were brought against him. He states that he resigned because no apology was given, nor was there an acknowledgement of error.

Detainees are kept in isolation most of the day, are blindfolded when moving into Camp X-Ray and from place to place within the camp, and forbidden to talk in groups of more than three. American doctrine in dealing with prisoners of war state that isolation and silence are effective means in breaking down the will to resist interrogation. There have been allegations of torture, including sleep deprivation, the use of so-called truth drugs, beatings, locking in confined and cold cells, and being forced to maintain uncomfortable postures.

Member states of the European Union and the Organization of American States, as well as non-governmental organizations such as Amnesty International have protested the legal status and physical condition of detainees at Guantanamo. In addition, British and American courts have been approached by relatives and friends of detainees to request a legal determination favorable to detainees.

Lord Steyn, a prominent British judge, was quoted in the British newspaper The Independent on November 26, 2003 regarding the planned trial of the prisoners by military tribunal:

As a lawyer brought up to admire the ideals of American democracy and justice, I would have to say that I regard this a monstrous failure of justice. The military will act as interrogators, prosecutors and defence counsel, judges, and when death sentences are imposed, as executioners. The trials will be held in private. None of the guarantees of a fair trial need be observed.

At the beginning of December 2003, there were media reports that military lawyers appointed to defend alleged terrorists being held by the US at Guantanamo Bay had expressed concern about the legal process for military commissions. The UK's Guardian newspaper [6] (,3604,1098523,00.html) reported that a team of lawyers was dismissed after complaining that the rules for the forthcoming military commissions prohibited them from properly representing their clients. New York's Vanity Fair magazine reported that some of the lawyers felt their ethical obligations were being violated by the process. The Pentagon strongly denied the claims in these media reports.

The Washington Post in a May 8, 2004 article ( describes a set of interrogation techniques approved for use in interrogating alleged terrorists at Guantanamo Bay which are said by Kenneth Roth, executive director of Human Rights Watch, to be cruel and inhumane treatment illegal under the US Constitution.

On June 15 Brigadier General Janis Karpinski at the centre of the Abu Ghraib prisoner abuse in Iraq said she was told from the top to treat detainees like dogs "as it is done in Guantanamo". The former commander of Camp X-Ray, Geoffrey Miller, was the person brought in to deal with the inquiry into the alleged abuses at Abu Ghraib in Iraq during the Allied occupation. Ex-detainees of the Camp have made serious allegations, including alleging Geoffrey Miller's complicity in abuse at Camp X-Ray.

This concentration camp is also unpopular in the U.S. Columnist Thomas Friedman urged George W. Bush to "just shut it down (":

[The Camp X-Ray] has become worse than an embarrassment. I am convinced that more Americans are dying and will die if we keep the Gitmo prison open than if we shut it down. So, please, Mr. President, just shut it down.

Later, another New York Times editorial [7] ( supported Friedman's proposal:

What makes Amnesty's gulag metaphor apt is that Guantánamo is merely one of a chain of shadowy detention camps that also includes Abu Ghraib in Iraq, the military prison at Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan and other, secret locations run by the intelligence agencies. Each has produced its own stories of abuse, torture and criminal homicide. These are not isolated incidents, but part of a tightly linked global detention system with no accountability in law. Prisoners have been transferred from camp to camp. So have commanding officers. And perhaps not coincidentally, so have specific methods of mistreatment.

Relevance of location

The location of Camp X-Ray is significant because Guantanamo Bay is leased from Cuba and is nominally subject to Cuban sovereignty, United States courts have ruled that persons detained in Guantanamo Bay do not have the access to American courts that a person detained within the United States has. The original rulings were made for Cuban and Haitian refugees found on the high seas and sent to Guantanamo where they attempted unsuccessfully to apply for asylum and administrative hearings to avoid repatriation, but the rulings are applicable to other prisoners in Camp X-Ray according to legal precedent.

People with American citizenship are currently not detained at Camp X-Ray and have been intentionally kept away from Camp X-Ray. This is possibly because the US administration feared that holding American citizens at the site would increase the chances that United States Courts would be ruled to have authority to review the detentions of all people within the site as the Supreme Court eventually decided in June 2004.

Legal proceedings

United States Supreme Court

On November 10, 2003, the United States Supreme Court announced that it would decide on appeals by Afghan war detainees who challenge their continued incarceration at the Camp as being unlawful.

On 10 January 2004, 175 members of both houses of Parliament in the UK had filed an amici curiæ brief to support the detainees' access to USA jurisdiction.

On June 28, 2004 the Supreme Court ruled that "illegal combatants" such as those held in Guantánamo can challenge detentions but can also be held without charges or trial.

Further proceedings

On November 8, 2004, a federal court halted the proceeding of Salim Ahmed Hamdan, 34, of Yemen. Hamdan was to be the first Guantanamo detainee tried before a military commission.

Judge James Robertson of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia ruled that a competent tribunal had not found that Hamdan is not a prisoner of war under the Geneva Conventions.

On the 31st of January, Washington federal judge Joyce Hens Green ruled that the military trials held to acertain the status of the prisoners in Guantanamo as "illegal combatants" were "unconstitutional", and that they were entitled to the rights granted by the Constitution of the United States of America.

See also

Topic perspective


There are also an unknown number of 'ghost prisoners', prisoners whose identies and number are not declared by the US government both in Camp X-Ray and in Us prisons around the world: CIA's 'ghost prisoners' spark rights concerns (

General principles

Confirmed violations

External links and references

U.S. sources

Miscellaneous sources

Supreme Court case and UK parliamentarians' amici curiæ

fr:Prison de Guantanamo


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