US military shuts down Guantanamo secret prison unit, transfers prisoners

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The camp housed five men charged with war crimes for their alleged involvement in the 9/11 attacks

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A once-secret unit at the Guantanamo Bay detention center has been closed and its prisoners relocated after it fell into disrepair.

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The so-called “adjustment” does not compromise security or the ability to provide “safe, legal and humane care to” prisoners, the Miami-based Southern Command said.

Secret Camp 7 was originally opened in 2006 and was intended for prisoners who had previously been held in a “network of clandestine CIA detention centers”, reported the Associated Free Press (AFP). The army never allowed journalists to see inside the facility and the lawyers had to obtain a special order from the court to visit the premises. The army had also refused to acknowledge the exact location of the unit and the cost of building it.

The camp would have housed several prisoners “of great value” according to The New York Times. This includes the five men charged with war crimes for their alleged role in planning and logistical support for the September 11 attacks on the World Trade Center, as well as the Palestinian known as Abu Zubaydah. Zubaydah is known as the first prisoner to be waterboarded by the CIA after 9/11 – and has been held without charge for more than 14 years.

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In this file photo taken on October 16, 2018, the main gate of the Guantanamo prison can be seen at the US Naval Base Guantanamo, Cuba.
In this file photo taken on October 16, 2018, the main gate of the Guantanamo prison can be seen at the US Naval Base Guantanamo, Cuba. Photo by Sylvie Lanteaume /AFP/Getty Images

Earlier, officials said the maximum-security facility housed 14 men.

AFP reported that Camp 7 – which was not intended to be a permanent facility – suffered from structural problems. Plans to seek funding to repair and renovate the unit had been abandoned by the Pentagon.

US President Joe Biden has said he intends to close Guantanamo; however, the move will require congressional approval to move some of the prisoners to the continental United States for trial or continued detention. The project began under former President Obama – when Biden was vice president – but stalled due to political opposition.

White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said that a “solid” review should be done before Guantanamo closes, which would involve multiple agencies, including the Department of Defense and the Department of Justice.

Currently, there are 40 prisoners at Guantanamo.

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