THE current situation in Guántanamo Bay in Cuba is an affront to the American Republic. That’s the first and most diplomatic thing to be said.
“All men are created equal” rings very hollow when a state committed to running its affairs by the rule of law ‘arrests’ people from across the globe and then imprisons them beyond the reach of its own system of justice.
Around 680 men and boys (some as young as 13) have been held in the US base in Cuba in atrocious conditions which have been condemned by human rights bodies across the world.
The detainees can be held indefinitely, have no access to legal representation and face military trials. At these trials their defence will be appointed by the US military and the judges will be US military figures.
That is, of course, if they get a trial. The prisoners are being held contrary to the Geneva Convention which forbids the interrogation of prisoners-of-war. According to the relevant piece of international law, the Third Geneva Convention, the status of these prisoners should be decided by an independent tribunal. The US has point-blank refused to abide by this law and assumed to itself as the arbiter of their status. The accurate word here is ‘kidnapping’.
The extent to which the Bush regime has departed from the normal rule of law is truly frightening. Three of the detainees were actually arrested on US soil and have been spirited out of the jurisdiction of the US courts. One suspect, Ali Saleh Kahlah al-Marri, was arrested in America and was facing criminal charges. Suddenly the charges were dropped and he was handed over to the US military as an ‘enemy combatant’. He now loses all the safeguards of the American constitution and can be held indefinitely without any legal representation.
These are dangerous times. The Bush regime is out of control. At the time of writing the US Supreme Court is deciding whether the regime has overstepped the mark. Let’s hope the Court does the right thing.
America and Torture
Are the Americans torturing suspects? The answer, on a technicality, is no. But they are using every ‘physical pressure’ short of the definition, including sensory deprivation, playing very loud noises, forcing captives into intolerable physical positions and so on.
Are the Americans responsible for the torture of suspects? The answer is almost certainly yes.
Captives have been passed by the US into the hands of security services such as Egypt, Morocco and even Syria where they have been severely ill-treated. American agents have reportedly sat in on these ‘interrogations’.
The Washington Post reported in March that people in the custody of the US have been handed over to middle-east intelligence agencies without any formal extradition hearings.
One US diplomat was quoted: “It allows us to get information from terrorists in a way we can’t do on US soil”.
Chilling, isn’t it?