Skip to main content

Sign up for our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values. Direct to your inbox.

Guantanamo Bay officials are seeking contractors to build a new compound with wheelchair-accessible cells for prisoners who will presumably be kept in the prison for the rest of their lives, despite never being formally charged or given a trial. (Photo: Joint Task Force Guantánamo Bay/Flickr/cc)

Plans for Wheelchair-Accessible Cells at Gitmo Paint 'Chilling Picture' of Detainees Held Without Trial For Rest of Their Lives

"President Trump appears to be planning to detain men—the vast majority of whom have never been charged with a crime or faced a trial—until they die."

Julia Conley

Newly-revealed plans for expanding the Guantanamo Bay prison confirm that the future of the facility focuses on keeping detainees there well into old age—and likely for the rest of their lives.

A decade after President Barack Obama signed an executive order calling for Guantanamo Bay to be shuttered, prison officials are seeking contractors to build a wheelchair-accessible 5,000-square foot compound at the detention center, according to reports by the Middle East Eye andthe Miami Herald.

Human rights advocates on Thursday decried the move.

"Building wheelchair accessible prison cells at Guantanamo paints a deeply chilling picture," said Maya Foa, director of the British human rights organization Reprieve. "President Trump appears to be planning to detain men—the vast majority of whom have never been charged with a crime or faced a trial—until they die."

The new wing will contain three handicapped-accessible cells—suggesting that the prison is planning to provide end-of-life care to detainees, many of whom have not been formally charged with any crime or been afforded a trial.

"Indefinite detention has no place in a democratic society. The men who have been cleared for release must be returned home and the prison should be shut once and for all." —Maya Foa, Reprieve

Lt. Jason Tross, a Guantanamo Bay official, told the Middle East Eye that the new handicapped-accessible cells are indeed planned because the prison is "facing an ageing detainee population."

Of the 40 men who are currently being held at the prison in Cuba, 26 are considered "forever prisoners," having never been tried. Five have been cleared for release in recent years but remain imprisoned. Some prisoners have been at Guantanamo Bay since the say the facility opened in 2002.

A number of detainees are now in their 50s and 60s, and the oldest inmate is 71 years old and in poor health after having been detained for 14 years.

President Donald Trump has said multiple times that he wants the current prisoners to stay at Guantanamo indefinitely and that he is open to sending more detainees there. Administration officials have said they may detain captives suspected of fighting for ISIS there.

The Herald and Middle East Eye reports came weeks after Reprieve released a study of the Periodic Review Board (PRB), which has repeatedly denied release to the 40 remaining prisoners.

The PRB, the group said, "occupies the space that rightfully should belong to the criminal courts" but is focused on assessing prisoners' so called "threat levels" instead of proving they are guilty of an actual crime and sentencing them to a specific amount of time behind bars.

The "rigged system," the study argued, "fails to meet any standards of independence and impartiality and instead acts as a conduit for decisions which ultimately lie with the executive branch—a branch currently led by a President who has publicly declared that 'there should be no further releases from Gitmo.'"

"Indefinite detention has no place in a democratic society," said Foa on Thursday. "The men who have been cleared for release must be returned home and the prison should be shut once and for all."


Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.

We've had enough. The 1% own and operate the corporate media. They are doing everything they can to defend the status quo, squash dissent and protect the wealthy and the powerful. The Common Dreams media model is different. We cover the news that matters to the 99%. Our mission? To inform. To inspire. To ignite change for the common good. How? Nonprofit. Independent. Reader-supported. Free to read. Free to republish. Free to share. With no advertising. No paywalls. No selling of your data. Thousands of small donations fund our newsroom and allow us to continue publishing. Can you chip in? We can't do it without you. Thank you.

'Bloodbath': At Least 6 Dead, Dozens Wounded in Mass Shooting at Illinois July 4th Parade

"What freedom do we have if we fear being gunned down at a parade?" asked one progressive politician horrified by the reported carnage.

Brett Wilkins ·


On This July 4th, Abortion Rights Movement Says 'We're Not in the Mood for Fireworks'

"If we don’t have the ability to make decisions about if, when, and how to grow our families—we don't have freedom."

Brett Wilkins ·


Deadly Glacier Collapse in Italy 'Linked Directly to Climate Change'

At least seven people were killed when a glacier slid down a mountainside near a popular climbing route in the Alps on Sunday.

Julia Conley ·


'Organized Whitewash': US Claims Israeli Military's Murder of Journalist Not Intentional

"The odds that those responsible for the killing of Shireen Abu Akleh will be held to account are all but nonexistent," said the human rights group B'Tselem in response to findings of U.S. State Department.

Brett Wilkins ·


Hundreds March in Akron Enraged by Police Killing of Jayland Walker

"The police can do whatever they want," said one local resident through tears. "They can take our children's lives and think it's okay."

Julia Conley ·

Common Dreams Logo