Guantanamo jail in Manchester

October 07, 2003

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MANCHESTER, Oct 6: A British artist is building a life-size copy of Guantanamo Bay’s Camp Delta in a bid to make Britons aware of the conditions in which detainees are being held at the US military base on Cuba.

The camp will cover an area about the size of a soccer pitch on wasteland in the northern city of Manchester.

Like the original, it will have a guards’ mess, a prisoners’ dormitory, a parade ground, floodlights, a sentry post and a perimeter fence topped with barbed wire.

Loudspeakers will be used to play the US national anthem each morning and the Islamic call to prayer three times a day.

Nine volunteers, one for each of the nine British prisoners believed to be held at Guantanamo Bay, will be kept under guard in the camp for nine days.

They will be fed soup, beans and rice — prepared in accordance with Muslim Halal law — and will be interrogated in sessions which will be broadcast live on local radio.

When the camp is unveiled later this week, the public will be able to walk around it and peer at prisoners through the fence. Jai Redman, the artist behind the project, says he wants to see how people react when they see a replica Camp Delta with their own eyes rather than television images of the real camp.

“It’s designed to reflect not the actual place but the media’s representation of the camp,” he told Reuters as he hacked away at the stony ground where the camp is being built.

“It’s a mirror of a mirror.”

The real Camp Delta, formerly known as Camp X-Ray, has become a controversial symbol of what many see as the draconian measures the US government has taken in its self-declared war on terror. The Americans are holding around 600 detainees in the camp, most of them arrested in Afghanistan and Pakistan during and after the fight to topple the Taliban regime in Kabul.

The US describes the detainees as “enemy combatants” rather than prisoners of war and has denied them their legal rights under the Geneva Convention. It says, however, it is treating the detainees humanely.

Two of the prisoners at the real Camp Delta are from Manchester.

“We’ve trying to contact the families of the prisoners to invite them here but we don’t want to tread on toes,” Redman said.

“If they think this can help in their campaign to free their sons then it would be great, but I don’t want to be seen as speaking for other people or indeed satirising something that is actually very serious.”

Redman said that while he had tried to recreate Camp Delta as accurately as possible, he has had to make allowances for Manchester’s notoriously inclement weather.

“Obviously Cuba is a lot warmer,” he said. “If we kept our inmates in open cages like they do in Guantanamo Bay we’d probably kill them overnight, which isn’t really the aim.”—Reuters