Guantanamo Bay was leased to the US by Cuba on February 23, 1903, as part of the Cuban-American Treaty. Although the US maintained a military presence at Guantanamo Bay since the Spanish-American War, the perpetual lease allowed the US military to construct a permanent naval base on the site. The base has been in regular use since the early twentieth century and has been a source of consistent tension between the American and Cuban governments. The facilities at Guantanamo Bay have taken on a special significance since 9/11. The base houses detention facilities used to incarcerate individuals captured by the US military during the War on Terror. The first prisoner arrived at Guantanamo Bay a decade ago, on January 11, 2002.
Engendering both domestic and international concern, the detention center has caused deep controversy since its opening. The legal status of the detainees is hotly contested as is the prisoners' lack of access to US legal rights such as habeas corpus, due process and a speedy trial. Allegations of mistreatment and torture by US military officials have surfaced as well. Even the fate of the prisoners remains uncertain as attempts to close the facilities, transfer the detainees abroad, or bring the detainees to trial on US soil have been unsuccessful.
Proponents of the detention facilities at Guantanamo Bay argue that its existence serves the necessary purpose of allowing the US to adequately fight terrorism abroad by providing a secure location for interrogating and imprisoning suspected terrorists. However, critics accuse the US of both violating international law and traditional prisoners' rights.