February 17, 2006

Shutdown the Gitmo!

The past week was the 4th anniversary of the opening of the controversial Guantanamo Bay security prison by the US. From the beginning, this highly secured detention facility has been under scrutiny by various human rights organizations and has faced a lot of criticism from the international community. However, none of the pressure has been enough to shut down the prison or even bring that possibility to serious consideration by US officials.

The problem with the prison facility (Camp Delta) is that it is located off the coast of Cuba, not on US territory and not really international territory either. Its a "black hole" in terms of the American judicial system, in addition to the fact that detainees are listed as "enemy/illegal combatants" and not "prisoners of war", which the US claims do not have the same rights under international law (this is disputed).

This naval base is not new. It was 1898 when the US obtained control of Cuba from Spain, and occupied this bay area. Although the Cuban and US government signed a treaty on the issue of Gitmo bay, the Cuban government says it was forced into signing this treaty and that it should be considered null and void. Ironically, Cuba is one of the few countries that does not have diplomatic ties with the US.

In 2002, the US began using part of the Camp Delta prison facility to hold suspected al-Qaeda militants captured in Afghanistan, Pakistan, and later in Iraq. Prisoners in this facility are being held without any charges, and until now do not have the right to a military or judicial hearing.

As of July 2005, the US was holding 510 "foreign terrorism suspects"-- 100 or more are from Saudi Arabia, about 80 are from Yemen, about 65 are from Pakistan, about 50 are from Afghanistan, and 2 from Syria (Wiki). Some are citizens of the UK and other European countries were detained without charges and some later released.

Many prisoners have attempted suicide in protest of the inhumane treatment they have been facing. Various human rights organizations have attempted to visit prisoners and find out more about the conditions which they live in, but US officials have prevented most from entering the facilities. Nevertheless, the UN (pdf), ICRC, and Amnesty International have all released reports condemning the facility, decrying its 'black hole' status, and calling for the immediate closure of the camp.

Camp Delta on Gitmo Bay should be close immediately. The nature of the detentions and the ambiguous legal status of detainees is an embarassement at the least and a human rights violation at best. It is a sad fact that the world's superpower and the champion of democracy and human rights continues to operate such a facility that is marred by accusations of torture and other HR violations. The American PR machine should remember the influence that such images have on the rest of the world, and specifically the Arab and Muslim world, before pouring millions into projects such as failed radio and tv stations which are seen as American propaganda machines. The Bush administration needs to wake up! Rumsfeld has disgraced this country for the past 5 years and needs to be fired.

Enough is enough! But it's not enough to just read this post, or sing a petition on Amnesty's website. We need to speak out. Those who 'support the troops' need to know that these images hurt the troops and put them in danger. The credibility of the US is on the line. Our senators and congressman need to step up the plate, and *check* the power of the executive branch that is taking our country down a dangerous path. Call them, email them, fax them, and write to them. They need to know that we care. We need to know the truth. This has to stop...or else every American will be responsible for the consequences of these shameful policies...and it will be too late anyway.

BBC Q&A on Gitmo Bay
BBC Anniversary Report
Amnesty International-- Guantanamo Page
Wikipedia Guntanamo Bay
JURIST article--Why Americans Should Care About Gitmo
Kuwaiti Prisoners in Gitmo Bay
Photos from Gitmo Bay


At 3:53 PM, Blogger guess who said...

Very interesting article. But thinking about this along with Abu Garib prision scandal, salman rushdie and now cartoon controversy it seems like europeans and americans are bend on causing irreversable hatered. Why would you abuse Koran at Gitmo, why would you make muslim men sit naked on top of each other, why would you force muslim women in to doing forbidden acts that they beg their fellow muslim men to kill them in prision and yeah why would you publish cartoon over and over again. WHY!

At 10:55 AM, Blogger Rami said...


I was surprised to hear America has 76 bases in Iraq, each with its own prison facility, and another seperate 100 prisons that it runs around the counry. Abu-Ghraib is a distraction, really from the fact that America has two counries (and 2 more on the way) as prisoners.


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