President Barack Obama on Thursday reaffirmed his 2008 campaign promise to close the military-run prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, where terror suspects have been held since 2002, and begin the transfer of some prisoners to other countries. A look the facility’s history:
— JANUARY 2002: U.S. transfers the first 20 prisoners from holding cells overseas to the naval base at Guantanamo Bay. The men are hooded, shackled and wearing orange jumpsuits, and initially held in open-air chain-link cages that had been used in the 1990s to hold Haitian refugees.
— JUNE 2003: The detainee population at Guantanamo reaches a peak of approximately 680 prisoners.
— JUNE 2004: U.S. Supreme Court rules that the prisoners held at Guantanamo, as “enemy combatants,” have the right to contest their status before a judge or other neutral decision maker.
— AUGUST 2005: Start of the largest and longest hunger strike, a protest that will lead the military to adopt a policy of strapping prisoners down to be force-fed a liquid nutrient mix to prevent starvation.
— JUNE 2006: Three prisoners found dead in what the military later determines to be coordinated suicides.
— SEPTEMBER 2006: President Bush announces that 14 terrorist leaders have been transferred from secret CIA prisons overseas to the U.S. base in Cuba. The prisoners include Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and four other men accused of orchestrating and aiding the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. They will later face trial by military commission.
— MARCH 2008: The arrival of the last prisoner transferred into Guantanamo, an Afghan accused of helping Osama bin Laden elude capture.
— JANUARY 2009: President Barack Obama orders the detention center, now holding about 240 prisoners, to close within a year. Prisoners who cannot be released or transferred to other countries would be tried in the United States, but there is fierce opposition to trying the men accused in the Sept. 11 attacks in New York.
— JUNE 2009: Congress adopts the first in a series of legislative measures aimed at making it difficult for the administration to either transfer prisoners to other countries or send them to the U.S. for trial. Eventually, lawmakers prohibit the use of funds to transfer Guantanamo prisoners to the United States.
— JANUARY 2010: Obama issues a presidential moratorium against releasing any Yemeni detainees, including more than 50 already approved for transfer, after a Yemeni-trained Nigerian attempts to set off a bomb hidden in his underwear on a Detroit-bound jet on Christmas Day 2009. The moratorium, combined with restrictions imposed by Congress, brings releases and transfers to a virtual halt and increases tensions at the prison.
— MAY 2012: After the Obama administration gives up on moving the case to civilian court, Mohammed and four fellow Guantanamo prisoners are arraigned before a military commission on charges that include nearly 3,000 counts of murder for their alleged roles orchestrating and aiding the Sept. 11 attacks. The death penalty trial is still likely years away.
— FEBRUARY 2013: Prisoners launch a new hunger strike over their conditions and indefinite confinement. The number of participants is a source of dispute but the military says it grows by May to include 103 of 166 prisoners. In April, guards and prisoners clash when officials decide to move prisoners from a communal housing area back to single cells for covering up the security cameras used to monitor them.
— APRIL 2013: During the ongoing hunger strike, Obama says he will “re-engage with Congress” and resume efforts to close the prison.