Saturday, January 12, 2008

This week's anniversary

Friday marked the sixth anniversary of beginning of the Guantánamo Bay gulag. Here's a roundup of some commentary to mark the occasion, as we now enter the seventh year.

First, note that the above two images were nicked from Andy Worthington's blog - the first is a photo of prisoners of the war on terra en route to Guantánamo Bay; the second is of a few of these prisoners on January 11, 2002 upon their arrival. The author of The Guantánamo Files has a post up called Six Years of Guantánamo: Enough is Enough. Worthington writes:
In some ways, of course, there is more to celebrate today than there was on Guantánamo’s fifth anniversary. In the last year, a number of whistleblowers – former military officials who worked on the tribunals – have bravely stepped forward to condemn the tribunal process. Lt. Col. Stephen Abraham, who spoke out in June, described them as a sham, reliant upon vague, unsubstantiated and generic evidence, and designed merely to approve the detainees’ prior designation as “enemy combatants,” and in October an Army Major, speaking anonymously, added his complaints, revealing the deliberate exclusion of exculpatory evidence, the reconvening of tribunals when an unfavorable result was produced, and the pressure exerted on tribunal members from higher up the command structure.
Plans to scale down the prison population also continued throughout 2007. 492 detainees have now been released – 122 in the last year alone – and the majority of those have been freed on their return home, but the gross injustices of Guantánamo have not come to an end. Two detainees died at the prison last year (to add to the four who died in 2006), and five more detainees were transferred into the facility, even while the President was claiming in public that he wanted to close it down.
For the 281 detainees who remain, moreover, life is as hard as ever. Although a few are housed in Camp 4, which contains communal dorms, the majority are held in solitary confinement for up to 23 hours a day in the newest camps, Camps 5 and 6, and are deprived of the meager comforts – including access to TV, and some sort of a social life – that are routinely enjoyed by the majority of convicted criminals on the US mainland.
Others continue to be held in complete isolation, an unknown number are suffering from severe psychiatric disorders, and for the few dozen long-term hunger strikers the prison remains a torture center. Prevented from exercising the only power they still hold – the right to starve themselves to death in protest at their endless detention without charge or trial – twice a day they are held in restraint chairs, using 18 separate straps, and are fed through a thick tube inserted into the stomach through the nose, which is removed after each feeding in a deliberate attempt to “break” their will.
To compound the detainees’ misery, it’s unclear how some of them will ever be freed. Up to 70 have been cleared for release – some for more than two years – but the majority are still held because of international treaties preventing their return to their homelands – including China, Uzbekistan, Tunisia, Libya and Algeria – where they face the risk of torture. Attempts by the authorities to bypass these treaties through “memoranda of understanding,” guaranteeing the humane treatment of returned detainees, recently came unstuck after two returned Tunisians received jail sentences following dubious trials, and the decision by a District Court judge to prevent the return of a third Tunisian seems to have put the whole errant project on hold.
Another 80 are scheduled to face trial by Military Commission, a system of show trials concocted by Dick Cheney and his advisors in November 2001, but as these, like the tribunals, rely on secret evidence obtained through the torture, coercion or bribery of other detainees, and have yet to produce a single significant victory, it remains unclear if they will ever function adequately. As the uproar over the destroyed CIA tapes has demonstrated, the administration is desperate to conceal all evidence of torture by US forces, because it remains illegal under domestic and international law, and it seems inconceivable that military trials which conceal evidence of torture can ever be regarded a legitimate.
Moazzam Begg asks How Much Longer? and reminds us that
as long as it remains open there will be people calling unequivocally for it to close.
The title of a recent post sums it up: Close the Gitmo Gulag along with a reasonably straightforward comment:
I protest everything it represents: torture, kangaroo courts, suspension of Habeas Corpus, abnegation of U.S. treaty commitments, rejection of "innocent until proven guilty", and the very idea that some humans are not worthy of the rights we U.S. citizens claim for ourselves.
Over at, Anthony D. Romero says
Repressive regimes have cited America's example to defend their abysmal human rights practices; for instance, Malaysia's law minister insisted that his country's practice of detaining suspects without trial was "just like Guantánamo Bay."
In her latest column, Stains, Cindy Sheehan (who by way of reminder is running against Nancy "Impeachment is off the table" Pelosi in this year's Congressional election) says:
Our world is saturated with the blood-stains of millions of people who have been victimized by war. Death from war is one-hundred percent preventable and must be truly outlawed as any kind of way to solve problems; just, unjust; legal or illegal. The true criminals reside in places with lofty names like White House, palace and legislature.
Also, don't forget the importance of supporting the Center For Constitutional Rights' efforts on behalf of those who've been imprisoned at Gitmo, and make sure to check out their latest press release, which underscores just how much of an uphill battle we have in getting any justice at all for those who've been victimized by the war on terra.

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