Today we're launching a new series called Behind the Bars, which will feature collections of stories about prisons and the people inside them. Upcoming installments will focus on prisoners in the UK, Russia and beyond, but part one of this series focuses on the inmates of the planet's most notorious detainment camp: Guantánamo Bay.
These prisoners have loomed large over America, its allies and its enemies since the day the prison was built. To human rights campaigners, they are an exemplar of contemporary cruelty; to the brutal forces of Al Qaeda and the Islamic State, they are an excuse for crimes aimed at the West.
After working with the lawyers at Reprieve, a global human rights organisation who represent many of the inmates, we have managed to get original writing by three current detainees. All three of them – Shaker Aamer, Emad Hassan and Younous Chekkouri – have been cleared for release having never been charged with any crime. Yet, for various reasons – some of which are explored by Ramzi Kassem here – they remain within Guantánamo.
This project also includes work from journalists, academics, authors and former employees of the detainment camp.
The Banned Books of Guantánamo library includes work by an assortment of authors, academics and public figures – from Irvine Welsh, to John le Carré. They've been through the list of books that are reportedly banned from GTMO – including their own – and tried to work out why.
Thanks to all involved,
– Alex Miller
Global Editor, VICE
Header illustration by Krent Able