Guantanamo Bay – Patrons’ Rights

Guantanamo Bay. This facility is considered illegal to some and to others a necessity. It may come as a surprise to some that they have a library.

Guantanamo's library

How are prisoners’ rights different in this facility compared to other facilities? The answer is that “The US military says the detainees at Guantanamo Bay have no legal rights under American law” (Guantanamo Bay Library). While the reigning law is that prisoners have no rights, several organizations do not agree.

The ALA’s Social Responsibilities Round Table adopted the following resolution on Guantanamo in 2008:

… therefor it be RESOLVED, that the Social Responsibilities Round Table of the American Library Association
1. calls on the President of the United States to begin the closure of the prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba;
2. strongly urges that, until such time that the prison is closed, all prisoners shall immediately be afforded the right to read and supplied with materials enabling them to do so by the United States Department of Defense and its libraries; and
3. recognizes that all people imprisoned as a result of the belligerent acts of the United States and other warring entities be afforded with all rights described by the Geneva Conventions Relative to the Treatment of Prisoners of War and any other rules of law pertaining to the humane treatment of prisoners.

The full resolution can be found in their newsletter archives.

For a further glimpse into this institution’s rules of prisoner communication to the outside world….

Prisoners wrote poems and sent them to their pro bono lawyer, Marc Falkoff, because it was the only communication they were allowed. Falkoff found himself with a collection of work from his clients and had a selection of these poems approved by the Pentagon (each line needed to get an okay) to be published in Poems from Guantanamo: The Detainees Speak.

Death Poem by Jumah al Dossari

Take my blood.
Take my death shroud and
The remnants of my body.
Take photographs of my corpse at the grave, lonely.

Send them to the world,
To the judges and
To the people of conscience,
Send them to the principled men and the fair-minded.

And let them bear the guilty burden before the world,
Of this innocent soul.
Let them bear the burden before their children and before history,
Of this wasted, sinless soul,
Of this soul which has suffered at the hands of the “protectors or peace.”

This institution’s library work is intriguing. In the next week or so, I’ll post more about Guantanamo and it’s library.


Falkoff, Marc. Poems from Guantanamo: The Detainees Speak. Iowa City: Iowa City Press, 2007.

Guantanamo Bay’s Library. Aug. 26, 2009. PRI’s The World.

Resolution on Guantanamo & the Rights of Prisoners to Read

This is post is the last in a series on exploring some prisoners’ rights that affect prisoners as patrons. Other blog posts include: