GUANTANAMO BAY US NAVAL BASE, Cuba, (AFP) - The US military prison at Guantanamo Bay, now set to close within a year, became a symbol of the excesses in the "war on terror" waged by former president George W Bush. More than 800 men and teenagers have passed through Guantanamo since it was opened on January 11, 2002 and about 245 remain there, most having languished for years without ever being charged. The open-air cages which housed the first 23 prisoners - who were widely photographed wearing orange jumpsuits and black bags over their heads - have now been abandoned, invaded by wild grass and iguanas. In May 2002, inmates were housed in the first solid prison built there. Two extra buildings modelled on a US federal high-security prison also house inmates in individual cells. The prisoners leave their permanently lit cell for only two hours a day of recreation in a space that is hardly much bigger. The most dangerous among them wear orange jumpsuits, but most wear beige and the most cooperative are dressed in white. Around 60 were labelled "enemy combatants", which the Pentagon said justified their detention. However, they remain imprisoned unable to return to their countries of origin, either because their home nations won't take them back or, as Washington says, they risk persecution. They are housed in another part of the prison with dormitories and a common dining room. Guantanamo is also known for its interrogation rooms where detainees have met different interrogators every day. According to testimony from those freed from the base, they were subjected to ill-treatment that their lawyers say amounted to torture: sleep deprivation, exposure to extreme temperatures and loud music, and forced to remain in uncomfortable positions for hours. Though Cuba says US troops and the base are on its land against Havana's will, the US maintains it is in Guantanamo legally renting under an old treaty. The prison remains out of view from most of the inhabited areas around Guantanamo Bay. Beside the 750 military men and women at the base, more than 2,500 foreigners, most of them Filipinos and Jamaicans, work there, especially in the prison. Three Cuban immigrants also live on the base. Seven years after the prison's opening, some 20 prisoners have been accused of war crimes. But only two have been tried and convicted, and a third, Australian David Hicks, pled guilty in a deal which saw him serve out his sentence at home. At the end of his term, Bush said several times that he aimed to close the detention centre. His secretary of defence Robert Gates, who has been kept on by President Obama, shared his opinion. Signing an executive order Thursday, Obama said he was setting in place a process by which Guantanamo "will be closed no later than one year from now." "The message that we are sending around the world is that the United States intends to prosecute the ongoing struggle against violence and terrorism," Obama said as he also signed an order banning torture in terror interrogations. "We are going to do so vigilantly; we are going to do so effectively; and we are going to do so in a manner that is consistent with our values and our ideals."