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Rant: Guantanamo Bay – (way past) time to close it!

Standing Guard at Camp Delta, Guantanamo Bay

Here in the UK, at least one senior minister (Peter Hain) has also called for the camp to be closed and has intimated that Downing street is – at the very least – uncomfortable with what is happening in Guantanamo.

For the rest of the thinking population throughout the supposed “free world” Guantanamo has come to symbolise the worst hypocrisy of the current US administration.

The US constitution includes the following amendment (V):-

No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the Militia, when in actual service in time of War or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offense to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.

The only exception to this rule appears to be when a state war exists and this is the critical factor; if a state of war DOES exist (as the White House would undoubtedly argue) then the prisoners at Guantanamo need to be granted Prisoner of War status in line with the Geneva Convention. This of course will never happen because the White House argues that the detainees are terrorists, not soldiers (although judging from what has been happening in Abu Ghraib the line between “soldier” and “terrorist” has been blurred considerably in recent times).

If on the other hand the detainees are indeed terrorists, they should be subject to civil law as criminals and tried in an open US court of law. The ongoing refusal by US authorities to file Habeas Corpus on behalf of each of the detainees, makes a complete mockery of the concepts of “Freedom” and “Justice” that the White House is ever keen to expouse, but is seldom willing to demonstrate.

Which is of course why Guantanamo was chosen by the White House as a location for the prisoners in the first place!

Guantanamo Bay allows the White House to deliberately blur the legal status of the detainees; the detainees are being held outside internationally recognised US borders, which allows the US govt to avoid it’s US constitutional article V amendments. The continued US military presence in Cuba against the will of the Cuban govt (which is still considered by some to be an act of illegal occupation, though it is in compliance with a treaty signed by both governments) is even in itself an issue of some contention.

The prison camp therefore exists in a kind of legal and political limbo, which has helped the Bush regime avoid the clear classification of the prisoners as either criminals or POW’s.
In the early days of the Post 9/11 attacks there was a certain amount of international sympathy towards the whole issue of prisoner detention in Guantanamo Bay. This was largely based on the belief that as the foremost proponent of the concepts of liberty, truth and justice (not to mention the largest and most well-funded intelligence gathering infrastructure the world has ever known) the US government would be able to collate and present fairly conclusive evidence against the detainees in a matter of weeks – or at most months, but NOT years!

How would the US government react to it’s citizens being detained on foreign soil for years without trial?

In an interview with BBC’s Radio 4 breakfast crew today, Archbishop Tutu rightly condemned Guantanamo Bay and the US governments long-term use of the facility, comparing it (and the 90-day detention proposals by the UK) directly to the draconian measures invoked by the Apartheid government of 1980′s South Africa.

If the US government wants to have any chance of being taken seriously with it’s views on peace, freedom and civil liberties, it must lead by example. Either place the detainees on trial and present the evidence against them, or release them. If with all their resources, the US govt still does not have sufficient evidence for a conviction, then they will never have it!

The alternative is that the international community will come to see the US as just another dictatorship…with a slightly hipper rap!

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