Thursday, February 26, 2009

Change of regime in the US does not necessarily mean change for the better in Gitmo

Pardon me if I seem rather skeptical about the various promises about "change" when it comes to US perpetration of torture.

Cernig at Newshoggers:

Reuters reports complaints from Gitmo detainees via their lawyers that human rights abuses by guards at the camp have escalated since President Obama was elected and carried through on his campaign promise to order Gitmo closed.

Abuses began to pick up in December after Obama was elected, human rights lawyer Ahmed Ghappour told Reuters. He cited beatings, the dislocation of limbs, spraying of pepper spray into closed cells, applying pepper spray to toilet paper and over-forcefeeding detainees who are on hunger strike.

...He stressed the mistreatment did not appear to be directed from above, but was an initiative undertaken by frustrated U.S. army and navy jailers on the ground. It did not seem to be a reaction against the election of Obama, a Democrat who has pledged to close the prison camp within a year, but rather a realization that there was little time remaining before the last 241 detainees, all Muslim, are released.

"It's 'hey, let's have our fun while we can,'" said Ghappour, who helped secure the release this week of Binyam Mohamed, a British resident freed from Guantanamo Bay after more than four years in detention without trial or charge.

Reuters also notes that Admiral Patrick Walsh, the author of a recent report saying that Guantanamo Bay is fully in compliance with the Geneva Conventions, looked at 20 allegations of abuse - 14 of which were substantiated. "Fully" now means 25%, when the fox is asked to exonerate its own doings in the henhouse and has no real fear of being held to account.

Ghappour said he had spoken to army guards who, unsolicited, had described the pleasure they took in abusing prisoners, whether interrupting prayer or physical mistreatment. He said they appeared unconcerned about potential repercussions.

Of course they don't. They've been assured by Holden and Pannetta that there will be no prosecutions for those who just followed orders, no matter how gleefully they did so!

Meanwhile, Prof. Mark Denbeaux and the folks at Seaton Hall Law are now blogging from Gitmo. In their most recent post they discuss the implications of the Supreme Court's refusal to allow innocent Uighur detainees to be released onto US soil.

Perhaps the single most distressing aspect of the Uighur decision was a footnote, seemingly gratuitously added into the decision which says that Obama may need the permission of congress to release detainees to American soil.

The entire Guantanamo Bay Bar spent the night talking about the implications. The group contained a number of pessimists and almost the same number of optimists. The distinction seems to be consistent with age. The older of us feel as if we have seen this situation before and that somehow the United States comes through someway.

Some of that discussion involved a statement attributed to Churchill which said that America always makes the right decision when all other options have failed.

The younger lawyers recognized the fact that if it was true that the Courts could not order detainees who had won their habeas corpus decisions to be released to US soil, and we either could not or would not find appropriate other countries, then the decision in Boumediene was a meaningless gesture because it provided no remedy against unauthorized detention.

...Almost everyone believes that the Uighurs are the key. They are concededly not dangerous, can’t go home to China and have no other place until the war on terror is over and no one believes that that war, whatever it is, has an end in sight.

Despite Obama's closure order all is still very far from right in that American corner of Cuba.

Lenin's Tomb puts it a bit more bluntly:
And, though he has thankfully ordered the closure of that Guantanamo hellhole, the fact that he insists it is a humane institution should cast some doubt on his statement that "the United States of America does not torture". This is being treated as a promise, but it sounds like denial. In fact, it is the exact wording Bush used in his denials, while the US was in fact torturing prodigiously. And given that renditions will continue, and that most of the secret prisons are being maintained, there is no reason to believe that the global gulag will stop mutilating genitals, much less waterboarding.
Richard, at American Leftist adds his own two cents:
Meanwhile, the Obama administration is still proceeding with plans to expand a detention facility at the Bagram air base in Afghanistan, so that so that it can increase the number of people imprisoned there from 700 to 11,000.

[snip]

Similarly, the administration also authorized the continuation of renditions. But don't worry, incoming CIA director Leon Panetta is going to make sure that these detainees aren't going to be subjected to torture like Mohammed. Hence, in the new Orwellian world of Obama progressivism, given the prohibition of such practices in his executive order, we can obviously conclude that there's no need to provide them with access to the courts either.

Let's just say the obvious: Obama is smarter than Bush, and doesn't want to undertake travels abroad with his family under a cloud of war crimes charges after leaving the White House, so he's creating a paper trail to create a defense of plausible deniability. After all, you wouldn't want them to be afraid to enjoy themselves in Madrid, Barcelona, Paris or London, would you? A few weeks after he leaves office, the media will then feel free to expose the horrors of what he permitted on his watch.

Change you can believe in? Give me a break!

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