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Video helps Gitmo detainees connect with families

January 20, 2011 - 0 Comments

The Guantanamo Bay Naval Base in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba has included a detainment camp for suspected terrorists and other individuals accused of being threats to homeland security since 2002.

The detention camp has had a somewhat negative reputation during its use, and its future has been in doubt on multiple occasions. The Obama Administration has fought for the closure of the detainment camp and transfer of its detainees to prisons and other facilities within the United States on multiple occasions.

However, Congress has blocked the move in the past, and the President recently signed the 2011 Defense Authorization Bill which prevents its prisoners from being transferred to the mainland or other countries. This has effectively stopped the closure of the facility for the time being.

In addition to the uncertainty of the detention center, the futures of the prisoners within have also been in question. The Bush Administration claimed that as captured enemy combatants, they were not entitled to protections from the Geneva Convention. This was overruled by the Supreme Court. Later, it sounded as if some prisoners would be brought to the mainland to face trial, but Congress blocked the funding.

To connect detainees with their families, the International Committee of the Red Cross has been facilitating video teleconferencing (VTC) sessions. By enabling VTC sessions, the Red Cross is allowing these detainees, many who haven’t spoken with their families in a decade, to see wives and other loved ones without either party having to travel.

The VTC sessions are more than a simple humanitarian gesture, however. The ability to speak with their families has improved the mental health of the prisoners. It also has made the environment more secure for staff.

According to ABC News, the first of these calls began approximately one year ago. These calls were arranged for detainees who hailed from Afghanistan and Pakistan. The calls have recently been extended to detainees from Yemen, which represents the largest population of detainees.

The calls can last up to one hour in length, and are paid for by the Red Cross.

VTC is breaking down the walls separating these detainees and their loved ones at home, while simultaneously making the detention center at Guantanamo Bay safer for staff. Now that’s a new way of working.

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