Guantanamo Bay: Example of US oppression or restraint?

A highly outspoken article says that treatment by the UK and the US of its detainees at Guantanamo Bay is serving to “legitimise repression internationally on an ever-increasing scale.” (Keep in mind, its author is the attorney to three Gitmo detainees.)

Two years ago today, Feroz Abbasi, a British citizen arrested in Afghanistan, was one of the first detainees to be transferred hooded, shackled and manacled by the US military to Camp X-Ray in Guantanamo Bay. His mother, Zumrati, who lives in Croydon, was informed about five days later – by the media. It took a further six days for a British government official to contact her. Significantly, she was assured that her son did not need a lawyer.

Two years on, it is clear that the British government has betrayed the most fundamental responsibility that any government assumes – the duty to protect the rule of law. This abnegation of the essence of democratic government goes much further than a failure to protect the nine British citizens who are incarcerated in this legal black hole. It is nothing less than a collusion in an international experiment in inhumanity, which is being repeated and expanded around the world.

I am no lawyer, and I admit I’ve been perplexed by this topic. On the one hand, I think there is justification in calling for military tribunals and prisoner-of-war status for the prisoners, as this clearly was an act of war.

But everything else about Guantanamo Bay appears to be botched — the obvious sneering at habeas corpus, the refusal to allow counsel, the government’s overblown and later discredited accusations of treason and espionage against workers there, and the government’s unwillingness to address this situation with the public. What’s it all about, and is this the way America is supposed to work? (The writer’s main complaint is that the UK is now vigorously replicating this model of alleged injustice.)

This is one of those charged issues, where one has to be wary of arguments on both sides. I do not believe, at least not yet, that these prisoners have been “tortured,” but I also don’t believe this is a smart or effective method of serving justice. I am outspoken on China’s love of detaining people without explanation, and I have to criticize America for it, too. That’s government at its most scary.

I suppose this isn’t so much a post as it is a question. If anyone can explain why it is in our interest to treat these uncharged prisoners like this, I am willing to listen. But something does seem kind of crazy. Is there a method to the madness?

The writer-attorney ends on a melodramatic note, but I suppose she is just doing her job.

What can an ordinary person do about a world turned on its head, where governments that claim to be democratic engage in repression, coercion and even torture on an international scale? Everyone needs to protest – peacefully, but as loudly and as persistently as they are able. Every act counts. And let everyone be certain of this: those who experiment in inhumanity will have no appetite to stop unless there is such protest.

The Discussion: 6 Comments

Well, that’s a coincidence, but I was just looking for the definition of ‘war crimes’ for a note, and I am afraid the detention of these people in Guantanamo would arguably qualify as war crimes:

“unlawful deportation or transfer or unlawful confinement of a protected person”

Yes, they are not exactly the kindest guys on earth, but by acting illegally, you discredits yourself.

January 10, 2004 @ 7:16 pm | Comment

Thanks for that BBC link. I only wished it dealt more with 911, which i potentially more confusing an example compared to the Milosevic genocide or the crimes agaianst humanity of the Nazis.

January 10, 2004 @ 7:25 pm | Comment

Executive Lies: the Iraq WMD sham

So we have not found the weapons, but we have at least learned that it was all a hoax carefully designed in Washington for low political reasons, and to have an opportunity to go on a hunt for Saddam (…) by using illegal methods yourself, this discre…

January 10, 2004 @ 10:50 pm | Comment

Seems to me that the only reason (excluding the kneejerk ‘if it makes us safe, good!’ reaction) this seems acceptable to *anybody* is that there’s an implicit assumption that the US, being the US, won’t torture people and so on. Imagine the reaction if it were any other country doing this (and the US wasn’t).

January 11, 2004 @ 2:06 pm | Comment

Something about it sure makes me uncomfortable. I’m trying to give the government the benefit of the doubt, and in at least one case (Hambali or something like that?) I truly understand why they want to hold him. But in most cases, it seems so out of keeping with what America’s all about. And you’re quite right — if it were, say, France doing this and holding US citizens indefinitely without right of counsel or a writ of habeas corpus, damn right that Americans would be up in arms, literally and figuratively.

January 11, 2004 @ 2:18 pm | Comment

Yes, I concur with this last comment, and even our internal opposition would.

I am somewhat surprised by the total absence of reaction from the Democrats on this. Must be the traditional American consensus on this kind of issues, but it actually leaves the administration totally unchallenged on many issues.

January 11, 2004 @ 3:24 pm | Comment

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