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How Many Prisoners Are In Guantanamo Bay

Guantanamo Bay, also known as Gitmo, is a controversial military prison located within Guantanamo Bay Naval Base in Cuba. The prison was established in 2002 to hold detainees from the war in Afghanistan and later Iraq. Since its opening, Guantanamo Bay has imprisoned 779 men, the majority without charges or trial. The legal status and treatment of prisoners at Guantanamo Bay has been heavily criticized.

This article will provide an extensive overview of how many prisoners are currently detained at Guantanamo Bay. It will look at the total number of prisoners over time, the number of transfers and releases, current prisoner nationalities, and the legal status of remaining detainees. Key questions around current and past prisoner numbers will be addressed.

Total Number of Prisoners Over Time

Guantanamo Bay reached its peak population in 2003, when it held approximately 680 prisoners. Since then, the number has steadily declined through transfers and releases. Below is a table showing the total number of prisoners by year since 2002:

YearNumber of Prisoners

As of September 2022, there are reportedly only 37 prisoners remaining at Guantanamo Bay. This represents a massive reduction from the peak population. However, closing the controversial facility entirely remains politically challenging.

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Number of Transfers and Releases

The decline in prisoner numbers is primarily due to transfers and releases, alongside some deaths in custody.

Approximately 731 prisoners have been transferred or released from Guantanamo Bay since 2002. Below is a breakdown:

  • 532 prisoners were released under the Bush administration
  • 196 prisoners were transferred to other countries under the Obama administration
  • 9 prisoners were transferred to other countries under the Trump administration
  • 1 prisoner repatriated under Biden

The Obama administration significantly ramped up transfers aimed at closing the facility. However, transfers dropped to minimal levels under Trump. Most former prisoners have been repatriated to their home countries. But some were transferred to third party nations when repatriation posed too significant a security risk.

Current Prisoner Nationalities

Today’s remaining 37 Guantanamo prisoners come from several different countries:

  • 13 from Yemen
  • 8 from Pakistan
  • 5 from Saudi Arabia
  • 3 each from Libya and Afghanistan
  • 2 from Algeria
  • 1 each from Kenya, Morocco, and Somalia

Yemenis were previously the largest nationality by far, but most have since been transferred or released. Afghanistan and Saudi Arabia also previously had large numbers of citizens imprisoned.

Legal Status of Remaining Prisoners

The 37 prisoners still held at Guantanamo fall into three categories based on their legal status and prospects for release:

1. Cleared for Transfer

  • 17 prisoners have been cleared for transfer by a government review board.
  • However, legal and political obstacles have prevented their repatriation or transfer to a third country.
  • Most cleared prisoners are Yemeni nationals.

2. Awaiting Trial

  • 7 prisoners have been charged by military commissions.
  • They are awaiting trial or sentencing. Some have faced significant trial delays.
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3. Law of War Detention

  • 13 prisoners have not been charged but are being detained under the law of war.
  • The government considers them too dangerous to transfer or release but lacks evidence to prosecute.
  • Some have undergone parole-board style hearings to determine their ongoing threat level.

This breakdown shows that less than half of the remaining prisoners have any prospect of transfer or release. The rest are essentially in indefinite detention with little legal recourse.

Key Questions

How many prisoners have been released from Guantanamo Bay?

Approximately 731 prisoners have been released or transferred from the facility since it opened in 2002. 532 were released under Bush, 196 under Obama, and 9 under Trump.

How many prisoners have died in Guantanamo Bay?

There have been 9 total deaths of Guantanamo prisoners in custody. 6 were reported as suicides. Guantanamo officials also reported the deaths of 4 men after transfer to other countries.

How many Guantanamo prisoners were minors or juveniles?

The Department of Defense reported that 15 juveniles under age 18 were held at Guantanamo Bay between 2002 to 2008. Some detainees reported being as young as 12 or 13 when first imprisoned.

What was the largest number held at one time?

The peak population at Guantanamo Bay was 684 detainees, reached in June 2003. This created extremely crowded and harsh conditions.

When might the prison close?

There is no definite timeline for closing Guantanamo Bay, though pressuring Biden. Transfers and repatriations have slowed dramatically under Trump, though Biden has pledged to close Gitmo. Political and legal obstacles remain challenging despite the low detainee population.

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Guantanamo Bay remains a controversial legacy of the war on terror that emerged after 9/11. Since opening in 2002, it has held 779 prisoners – mostly without charge or trial. Questionable interrogation techniques and indefinite detentions fueled criticism. The remaining 37 prisoners may be detained for years to come. However, recent history shows the number can be reduced through transfers and releases. Closing Guantanamo entirely remains complex given legal barriers and ongoing political disputes. But the recent 20th anniversary of 9/11 focused renewed attention on resolving the fate of this problematic prison.

Prison Inside Team

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Welcome to ‘Prison Inside,’ a blog dedicated to shedding light on the often hidden and misunderstood world within correctional facilities. Through firsthand accounts, personal narratives, and insightful reflections, we delve into the lives of those who find themselves behind bars, offering a unique perspective on the challenges, triumphs, and transformations that unfold within the confines of these walls.

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