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Guantanamo Bay

Aerial view of Guantanamo Bay

Guantanamo Bay (Abbreviated as GTMO, "Gitmo") is located at the south-eastern end of Cuba, in the province of Guantanamo, and contains a United States Naval Base (116 km2). The base was established in 1898 when the US obtained control of Cuba from Spain at the end of the Spanish-American War. The US government obtained a permanent lease for the base on February 23, 1903 from the newly independent Cuban state. As of 2003, it is still occupied by the US. The lease was arranged through two agreements signed in 1903 and a treaty of 1934. The terms hold the US, for the purposes of operating coaling and naval stations, has "complete jurisdiction and control" of the area, while the Republic of Cuba is recognised to retain ultimate sovereignty. The agreement holds further that the US will pay 2000 dollars in gold coin of the USA each year in rent. The US agreed to return fugitives from Cuban law to Cuban authorities and Cuba agreed to return fugitives from US law, for offences committed in Guantanamo Bay, to US authorities.

The US control of this Cuban territory has never been popular. The Cuban Government strongly denounces the treaty on grounds that the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties, 1959 declares in its article 52 that a treaty is void if its conclusion has been procured by the threat or use of force. In this case by the inclusion, in 1903, of the Platt Amendment in the Cuban Constitution. The Cuban Convention was warned not to modify the Amendment and was told that the US troops would not leave Cuba until its terms had been adopted as a condition from US to grant independence.

The Cuban government cut off water to the base causing the United States to first import water from Jamaica and then to build desalination plants. Even though the United States pays about four thousand dollars of rent to the Cuban government each year, the Cuban government never cashes the treasury check because it views the base as illegitimate. A few Cubans are still crossing the fence daily to work in the base but the Cuban government does not allow new recruitment.

Beginning in 2002 the base has been used to house suspected al-Qaeda and Taliban prisoners captured in Afghanistan and elsewhere (see Camp X-Ray), and has also been used in the past to house Cuban and Haitian refugees who have been intercepted on the high seas. The peculiar legal status of Guantanamo Bay aids in these uses. Because sovereignty of Guantanamo Bay ultimately resides with Cuba, persons detained at Guantanamo are legally outside of the United States and do not have the Constitutional rights that they would have if they were held on United States territory (see Cuban American Bar Ass'n, Inc. v. Christopher, 43 F.3d 1412 (11th Cir. 1995)). The U.S. has classified the prisoners held at Camp X-Ray as illegal combatants rather than prisoners of war, which would also have given them protection through the Geneva Conventions.

In fiction, Guantanamo Bay was the setting for the movie A Few Good Men.

Compare with other foreign establishments: Subic Bay, Gibraltar, Hong Kong, Macao.

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