This past weekend while 15 detainees were packing their bags for their one-way flight from Guantanamo Bay to the United Arab Emirates (UAE) for resettlement, much of the rest of the remote island prison was business as usual. I was at the base from about noon on Saturday to noon on Sunday, 13 and 14 August, and nothing seemed out of the ordinary. Then, the prison population dropped 20% in size with a plane load of detainees released.
This weekend, most detainees in Guantanamo Bay camps 5 and 6 ate their meals on schedule, enjoyed indoor and outdoor recreation, interacted with each other in communal areas or isolated in their cells, and prayed facing Mecca 5 times each day. I was able to see a few detainees through the one-way mirrors between detainees in Camp 6 and the cell’s hub, where guards may keep a watchful eye unseen by the detainees. Detainees were presumably unaware that someone other than guards were in the hub, observing and taking photos. I understand that they can see camera flashes from the inside looking out, which is why flashes are prohibited on cameras.
The Muslim detainees being held at Guantanamo Bay are permitted openly to prayer as they wish, but no fewer than 5 times per day. Arrows on the floor of cells, communal rooms, and other facilities point towards Mecca. Prayer rugs are provided to each detainee, as as copies of the Koran in Arabic and other languages. Court sessions, hearings, and other activities are halted at pre-determined prayer times each day.
Sunrise at Guantanamo Bay
My driver picked me up at 5:30 on Sunday morning. I wanted to try to catch the sun rise over the Camp Delta, where the majority of the 61 remaining detainees are being held.
I angled for a shot that would show the depth of the camp, which extends many yards into the distance, and capture the barbed wire in the foreground and guard posts, vanishing in the pinpoint perspective, with the early morning sun rays piercing through the clouds.
Prison population down from 76 to 61
On Sunday, 14 August 2016, I was able to speak with Rear Admiral Peter Clarke, who briefed on the state of affairs at Guantanamo, answering a series of questions from 5 media representatives. Admiral Clarke is responsible for all 2,100 men and women serving at JTF-GTMO, which is charged with “Safe, Humane, Legal, and Transparent care and custody of law of war detainees”
Admiral Clarke did not mention that plans were in place for the imminent release of 12 Yemeni and 3 Afghan detainees, all bound for resettlement in the United Arab Emirates (UAE).
While I was at Guantanamo Bay this weekend, the prison population dropped by 20%, with the 15 detainees released to the UAE. When I arrived at Guantanamo on Saturday noon on the 13th, the prison held 76 detainees. The current population stands at 61, of whom 7 face charges, 20 are cleared for release, 1 is convicted, and others who have not been cleared for release after a new hearing or have not yet faced a new hearing.