September 18, 2006

Stirrings on Guantanamo Bay & Extraordinary Renditions

I wanted to share a few articles that I came across recently which should put the recent debates on Guantanamo Bay prisoners and secret prisons into perspective for all of us. Let us not forget that we are speaking of individuals who have not been convicted and most have no evidence against other than being in the wrong place at the wrong time, as Abu Bakker Qassem writes in a New York Times Op-Ed yesterday.
I have been greatly saddened to hear that the Congress of the United States, a country I deeply admire, is considering new laws that would deny prisoners at Guantánamo Bay the right to challenge their detentions in federal court.

I learned my respect for American institutions the hard way. When I was growing up as a Uighur in China, there were no independent courts to review the imprisonment and oppression of people who, like me, peacefully opposed the Communists. But I learned my hardest lesson from the United States: I spent four long years behind the razor wire of its prison in Cuba.

I was locked up and mistreated for being in the wrong place at the wrong time during America’s war in Afghanistan. Like hundreds of Guantánamo detainees, I was never a terrorist or a soldier. I was never even on a battlefield. Pakistani bounty hunters sold me and 17 other Uighurs to the United States military like animals for $5,000 a head. The Americans made a terrible mistake.

Also is the news recently is a similar type of secret imprisonment, extraordinary rendition, which I blogged about before regarding the case of Canadian Maher Arar. Extraordinary rendition occurs when "terror suspects are transferred from U.S. control into the control of foreign governments, so that interrogation methods that are not permitted under U.S. law may be applied to the suspects."

Outlawed is a new documentary film that addresses the issue of rendition by telling "the stories of Khaled El-Masri and Binyam Mohamed, two men who have survived extraordinary rendition, secret detention, and torture by the U.S. government working with various other governments worldwide." Democracy Now's Amy Goodman highlighted this documentary film on her show last week which is produced by the international human rights organization Witness. [You can read the transcript or download the episode here.] This is an excerpt from the interview:
BINYAM MOHAMED: [read by his brother] “I refused to talk in Karachi until they gave me a lawyer. I said it was my right to have a lawyer. The FBI said, ‘The law has changed, there are no lawyers. You can cooperate with us the easy way or the hard way.’ On the first day of the interrogation ‘Chuck’ said, ‘If you don’t talk to me you are going to Jordan. We can’t do what we want here. The Arabs will deal with you.’”

CONDOLEEZZA RICE: The United States has not transported anyone and will not transport anyone to a country when we believe he will be tortured. Where appropriate, the United States seeks assurances that transferred persons will not be tortured.

BINYAM MOHAMED: [read by his brother] “They would say, ‘There is this guy who would say you are a big man in Al Qaeda.’ I would say, ‘It is a lie.’ They would torture me. I would say, ‘OK it is true,’ they would say, ‘OK tell us more.’ I would say, ‘I don’t know more,’ they would torture me again. The guards would say, ‘America’s really pissed off at what happened, and they have said to the world, “either you are with us or against us.” We Moroccans say, “We are with you,” so we will do whatever they want.’”
You can watch the full length film which is available on Google Video. I recommend that everyone watch this brief film to get a realistic perspective on the issue. Imagine being abducted while on vacation, taken half way across the world, tortured, and forced to confess to a crime that you have nothing do with. Your family has no idea where you are. They move out of your home and back to their country. The full story with all of the gruesome details are in the film.

Fortunately, some of our senators have come to realize the dangers and risks involved in this type of criminal and inhumane activity and have recently protested the passage of legislation endorsed by President Bush with regards to the rights of detainees. Many Americans are speaking out in support of these senators as they still have a conscience and still believe in the rule of law [see these letters to the editor].

Most of these congressmen will be up for re-election in a few weeks, and this issue should be a top priority for every American that cares about the freedoms which this country was founded upon and cares about the reputation of the US in the international community. We cannot continue to promote democracy and freedom in parts of the world while secretly jailing innocent and not-yet-proven-guilty suspects and allowing the governments of third world countries to torture them indefinitely on our behalf.

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At 12:24 PM, Blogger kilamxx said...

Bush and the people propping him up want "tougher interrogations" which violate the Geneva Conventions. Tell the American people what this administration actually mean - they want to torture people and not have to worry about being brought to justice later.

At 11:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

If given the choice between being tortured by the American government, or Islamic militants, I'd take the American gov. anyday... as would any sane person. I'm not justifying here, but hundreds/thousands of people are being tortured by their fellow Muslims everyday/week, and when it's all over, if they are still alive, those people are a site worse off than the people released from Cuba.

At 9:50 PM, Blogger moi said...

kilamxx-- This is what the US tried to avoid when it opted out of the International Criminal Court. It subsequently created bi-lateral agreements with most countries that ratified the ICC charter forcing them to agree that they will not hand over US officials/military who may be involved in activities on their soil. This way, nobody can hold US officials/military accountable for any crime, no matter how grave it is.

Anon-- The problem with your argument is that you are comparing "Islamic militants" with the American government. The former are not a recognized force in the international community and therefore cannot be held to the same standards as a country like the US would be. I'm not saying that they should go around doing whatever they want, but I find it troublesome when you compare the most powerful country in the world, the one that champions human rights and freedom, to some criminals who happen to be Muslim. The US government should ideally be held to higher standards and therefore should not be engaged in shadowy practices as are Guantanamo Bay and other secret prisons.


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