MUST READ:  Report on Guantanamo Bay Detainees: An Analysis

The U.S.’s Guantanamo Bay detention camp, also known as Gitmo, has been controversial since its inception in 2002.  Bush’s Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld said the prison camp, in Cuba, was established to house dangerous prisoners, interrogate prisoners in an optimal setting, and to prosecute prisoners of war crimes.  But the camp has become a beacon of human rights infringements according to detainees lawyers and rights groups.  Many prisoners have reported abuse and torture and Amnesty International called the camp the “Gulag of our times” and a “human rights scandal” and the UN wanted the camp to be closed.

A judge noted that “America’s idea of what is torture…does not appear to coincide with that of most civilized nations.”

Despite denials by many officials, Susan Crawford, appointed by President Bush to review the Department of Defense practices used at the camp and oversee the military trials told the Washington Post in 2009 that there was in fact torture occurring there.  There are currently at least 164 people imprisoned in Guantanamo Bay and at least 48 were deemed “not feasible for prosecution” in 2010.  Despite President Obama’s push to close the camp early in his first term, he has backtracked and instead in 2011 signed a bill that placed restrictions on taking prisoners out of the camp.

“The prospects for closing Guantanamo as best I can tell are very, very low given very broad opposition to doing that here in the Congress,” U.S. Secretary of Defense Gates told the U.S. Senate Armed Services Committee in 2011.

Many of those detained have been cleared for release (since 2009) and not charged with crimes, but continue to be detained.  In addition, the government has an “indefinite detainees” list, which clearly insinuates no need for people to have their day in court.  Many of the prisoners are foreign nationals, but have been given limited rights under the Geneva Convention and the U.S. Constitution by the U.S. Supreme Court.  Even though, the camp was never supposed to hold Americans because of their Constitutional rights, the camp has held at least 99 Americans since the war on terror began.

No one at Guantanamo Bay has been given anything, but the most minute due process.  It is assumed on good faith that there is either evidence sufficient enough to assume guilt or that indefinite imprisonment is a just punishment for unconfirmed crimes.  Is that fair?

Because of a lack of judicial oversight, prisoners cleared for release still remain imprisoned and those given military trials have faced trials in violation of the Nuremburg Principles.  The U.S. Constitution demands that people be given an impartial trial to determine guilt and be presumed innocent.  As well as a ban on torture and these codified rights have been largely reiterated in international laws and treaties we as a nation are supposed to uphold.

Supporters of the controversial methods used in the camp claim that the people imprisoned there shouldn’t get Geneva protections because they are not uniformed soldiers who are part of a chain of command, wear insignia, bear arms openly, or abide by the rules of war.  Many say that despite declaring war on terrorists, they shouldn’t be recognized by the conventions of war.  Critics respond that making a distinction between “prisoner of war” and “illegal combatant” is not an excuse to violate conventions.  In 2009, Secretary of State Colin Powell’s chief of staff Lawrence Wilkerson told the Associated Press that,

“There are still innocent people there.  Some have been there six or seven years.”

“It did not matter if a detainee were innocent. Indeed, because he lived in Afghanistan and was captured on or near the battle area, he must know something of importance,” Wilkerson said, intelligence analysts hoped to gather “sufficient information about a village, a region, or a group of individuals, that dots could be connected and terrorists or their plots could be identified.”

“U.S. leadership became aware of this lack of proper vetting very early on and, thus, of the reality that many of the detainees were innocent of any substantial wrongdoing, had little intelligence value, and should be immediately released.”

Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and Vice President Dick Cheney fought efforts to address the situation, Wilkerson said, because “to have admitted this reality would have been a black mark on their leadership.”

In 2006, ABC did a report on five innocent men who were imprisoned at Guantanamo Bay.  The men had to move to Albania because no other country would let them live there.

[READ:  ABC: Guantanamo’s Innocents: Newly Released Prisoners Struggle to Find a Home]

“Many of Guantanamo’s prisoners proclaim they’re innocent. What’s different about these men, Muslims from China’s Uighur minority, is that even American authorities said they were innocent, referring to them as “no longer enemy combatants” or “NLEC.” Nevertheless, they remained imprisoned more than a year after their names were cleared — after the U.S. government determined they did nothing wrong and posed no terrorist threat to America,” the report said.

“We spent a pointless four-and-a-half years in Guantanamo,” Abu Bakkir Qassim said.

In December 2005, a U.S. federal judge said of the men’s detainment, “…indefinite imprisonment at Guantanamo Bay is unlawful.”

When asked what the prison was like, Qassim said,

“Guantanamo is like a hell where there is no justice or respect for human dignity. Our life there was very, very miserable, especially the last one year after being told that we are innocent and still living behind wired walls…Being innocent people, we were told that we have no rights but shelter, food, water and a place to pray.”

A recent court hearing at Guantanamo dealt with national security so secret that the accused are not allowed to know the information that pertains to their cases.  It was the last day in a week of pre-trial hearings in the case of Abd al Rahim al Nashiri.  He is accused of being the mastermind behind the bombing of the U.S.S. Cole.  The prosecutors motion was so classified, even the title was blacked out.  The military released a transcript of the hearing that lasted 78 minutes, but it is so heavily redacted it might as well be completely blank.

The parts that are readable do admit that Nashiri was subjected to waterboarding and mock executions during interrogations during his 4 years of imprisonment.  Nashiri’s lawyers argue that like many Gitmo cases, this capital case is tainted by torture and mistreatment.  In the transcript, the government says it will turn over information to the defense about Nashiri’s time in CIA custody, but only “relevant” legal memos and summaries.  The defense expressed their dissatisfaction with the documents they were given by the prosecution and said, “the real truth…” the rest of the defense’s statement was blacked out.  Despite the fact the defense is given security clearance, they still aren’t allowed to have all the information the prosecution gets.

The judge, James Pohl, had authorized the closed session over the objections of the defense, which claimed that Nashiri’s exclusion from the courtroom that day violated a litany of laws and rights. In arguing that the session needed to be secret, government prosecutors repeatedly pointed to cases in federal court where defendants had been excluded.  The transcript makes only one issue clear:  the blacked out parts are shared with the trial of the five men accused of plotting the 9/11 attacks.  Judge Pohl said he would wait until the conclusion of that argument to rule.



Join the Discussion

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s