A detainee climbs upstairs to the second floor of the blocks at Camp Six. (Ricardo Mir de Francia)

In February 2016 President Obama called for the closure of the Guantanamo Bay detention facility. Soon after Ricardo Mir de Francia, a journalist for the Barcelona newspaper El Periodico de Catalunya, and ten other journalists traveled to Cuba on a trip organized by the Pentagon. Mir de Francia was struck by how similar the naval base felt to the suburban America he had seen in the States– a McDonald’s close by, an open air cinema at night, a beach on which to lounge on a day off. The military personnel told him what he could do and what he could not do in Guantanamo. Yes to interviewing Rear Admiral Peter Clarke, the 16th prison commander since 2002, or Zaki, the Jordanian-born “cultural advisor”; No to visiting Camp 5 or Camp 7 where the detainees held in isolation lived. Several soldiers accompanied Mir de Francia wherever he went, always professional and courteous except when deflecting uncomfortable questions with a subtle intimidation. “The commander believes that the reputation created by the media is not fair or accurate,” says Mir de Francia who returned to Washington D.C. after two days and a “review process” in which military personnel reviewed his photographs and erased the ones deemed to contain confidential details. “Most of the people held there have not been to trial. It is a lawless place.”


The Guantanamo Bay Naval base has a “downtown” including a McDonald’s restaurant, a chapel, a grocery store, a souvenir shop and an open air cinema. (Ricardo Mir de Francia)

A soldier stands in the doorway of a prison cell in Camp 6. Cells are painted yellow and typically have a bed, a toilet, a mirror and a table. Detainees are provided with  linens, a toothbrush, toothpaste, soap, “maximum security” deodorant, shampoo, toilet paper, a bottle of water, earplugs, headphones, a pad of paper, a prayer rug, and the Koran. (Ricardo Mir de Francia)

A guard talks to one of the prisoners at Camp 6. According to the military, guards have suffered “more than 300 assaults in the last two years,”including spitting, biting, kicking or verbally threatening the officers. Lawyers working with the NGO, Reprieve, claim that the detainees are beaten when they disobey orders by the Emergency Reaction Force or Immediate Reaction Force, a squad of military police officers who are on constant stand-by to respond to emergencies. (Ricardo Mir de Francia)

A prisoner fixes his scarf as he walks on the first floor of a block in Camp Six. Detainees here are considered “highly-compliant.” (Ricardo Mir de Francia)

The communal area in Camp Six has a communal table and a television set. The detainee glimpsed here is looking at a book held in the hands of another detainee. (Ricardo Mir de Francia)

Posters about suicidal signs (left) and the chapel’s worship schedule hang next to the lobby where visitors check-in to spend the night. (Ricardo Mir de Francia)

A soldier talks to sunbathers on Cable Beach, one of several beaches at Guantanamo Bay Navy Base in Cuba. Some soldiers go swimming or snorkeling when they are off-duty. (Ricardo Mir de Francia)

Rows of fences and barbed wire divide the different areas at Camp Delta, opened in April 2002 to replace the infamous Camp X-Ray, where the first prisoners were held in cages, shackled, and hooded. Camp Delta is empty now except for the administrative offices and the prisoner library that remain open. (Ricardo Mir de Francia)

Two soldiers stand in front of the watch tower at the entrance of Camp 6, where most of the prisoners are held these days. (Ricardo Mir de Francia)