Failed justice: Guantanamo by the numbers

By David Bowker and David Kaye

Six years ago, President George W. Bush granted American armed forces sweeping authority to detain and interrogate foreign members of Al Qaeda and their supporters and to use military commissions to try them. By doing so, the president set in motion the creation of military commissions and the detention camp in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba.

The Bush administration may legitimately claim certain benefits from the Guantánamo system. Some dangerous men are held there, and valuable intelligence has probably been gathered, perhaps even some that has enabled the government to disrupt terrorist activities. But the costs have been high: Guantánamo has come to be seen worldwide as a stain on America’s reputation.

The number of detainees has steadily dropped to a little over 300, from its peak of more than 700, no more than 80 of whom are likely to face any kind of American prosecution. Not a single defendant has gone to trial, and only one has pleaded guilty.

It’s time to take a close look at this system of detention and prosecution and establish viable alternatives. The following data provide a historical snapshot:

– Number of “high-value detainees” now at Guantánamo – 15

– Approximate percentage of detainees found to have committed “hostile acts” against the United States or coalition forces before detention – 53

– Approximate number of countries of which detainees are citizens – 40

– Most represented countries – Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan, Yemen

– Cost of building Guantánamo high-security detention facilities – about $54 million

– Estimated annual cost of operating Guantánamo – $90 million to $118 million

– Cost of “expeditionary legal complex” for the military commission (under construction) – $10 million to $12 million

– Number of books in the Guantánamo detention library – 5,143

– Number of Korans issued to detainees from January 2002 to June 2005 – more than 1,600

– Number of daily calories per detainee – Up to 4,200

– Average weight gain per detainee – 20 pounds

– Number of pills dispensed per day – 1,000, to 200-300 detainees

– Number of apparent suicides – 4

– Number of apparent suicide attempts: 41, by 25 detainees (as of May 2006)

– Number of detainee assaults on guards using “bodily fluids” – more than 400

– Date of first visit to Guantánamo by the International Committee of the Red Cross – Jan. 18, 2002

– Approximate number of visits by lawyers to Guantánamo detainees this year – 1,100

– Month of first habeas corpus petition filed to challenge detention at Guantánamo – January 2002

– Number of habeas corpus petitions filed in federal courts on behalf of detainees – roughly 300

– Number of detainees designated by the president as “eligible” for trial by military commission – 14

– Number actually charged with crimes (for example, murder and material support for terrorism) – 10

– Number of pending cases – 3

– Number of convictions: – 1 (an Australian who pleaded guilty to material support of terrorism and was sentenced to nine months of confinement in his home country)

– Estimated number of detainees who may be charged in the future – 80

– Date of first release of a detainee – May 2002 (one detainee repatriated to Afghanistan because of an “emotional breakdown”)

– Approximate number of detainees released – 445

– Approximate number of current detainees found eligible for transfer or release – 70

– Countries to which Guantánamo detainees have been transferred – Albania, Afghanistan, Australia, Bangladesh, Bahrain, Belgium, Britain, Denmark, Egypt, France, Germany, Iran, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Libya, Maldives, Mauritania, Morocco, Pakistan, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Spain, Sweden, Sudan, Tajikistan, Turkey, Uganda, Yemen

– Most recent announced transfer of detainees from Guantánamo – Nov. 4 (eight to Afghanistan, three to Jordan)

– Personal items provided to detainees upon departure – a Koran, a denim jacket, a white T-shirt, a pair of blue jeans, high-top sneakers, a gym bag of toiletries and a pillow and blanket for the flight home

– Number of detainees said by Pentagon to have resumed hostile activities against the United States after release – at least 30

– Number of U.S. senators who voted in favor of a nonbinding resolution that Guantánamo detainees “should not be released into American society, nor should they be transferred stateside into facilities in American communities and neighborhoods” – 94

– Number of bills in Congress calling for the closing of Guantánamo – 3

– Number of members of the House of Representatives who signed a letter to Bush in June 2007 urging him to close Guantánamo and move the detainees to military prisons in the United States – 145

– Number of Republicans who signed the letter – 1

– Democratic presidential candidates who are on record supporting closing Guantánamo – 8

– Republican presidential candidates who are – 2 (John McCain and Ron Paul)

– Closest American allies that have called for Guantánamo’s closing – Britain, France, Germany

– Next scheduled legal test of the Guantánamo system – Boumediene v. Bush, a challenge to the denial of habeas corpus, set for argument before the U.S. Supreme Court on Dec. 5

David Bowker, a lawyer in New York, and David Kaye, the acting director of the Program on International Human Rights Law at the University of California, Los Angeles, were staff lawyers at the U.S. State Department during the Clinton and Bush administrations.

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