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No Right Turn: Guantanamo Delenda Est

No Right Turn

Guantanamo Delenda Est

Guantanamo must be closed, and its prisoners either released or given a fair trial in the United States under US law. That is the recommendation of an investigation conducted by the United Nations Commission on Human Rights. Why? Apart from general principles of justice and a respect for human rights, the UN has three reasons. Firstly, the US has failed to adequately determine whether those it is holding are in fact "enemy combatants" - or whether they are merely taxi drivers. Secondly, it is detaining people primarily for the purpose of interrogation rather than preventing them from taking up arms, in violation of international law. And thirdly, the techniques used to conduct those interrogations, and the some of the conditions of detention, "must be assessed as amounting to torture". These are strong words - but entirely justified.

The conditions the investigators object to include the force-feeding of detainees on hunger strike (torture in the guise of "medical treatment"), excessive violence during prisoner transfers, and interrogation techniques such as

prolonged solitary confinement, exposure to extreme temperatures, noise and light; forced shaving and other techniques that exploit religious beliefs or cause intimidation and humiliation

Many would pooh-pooh this treatment as torture. I suggest they read the following accoun t from an FBI agent [PDF] (released under the US FOIA) of those techniques in action:

On a couple of occassions, I entered interview rooms to find a detainee chained hand and foot in a fetal position to the floor, with no chair, food, or water. Most times they had urinated or defacated on themselves, and had been left there for 18 - 24 hours or more. On one occassion, the air conditioning had been turned down so far and the temperature was so cold in the room, that the barefooted detainee was shaking with cold. When I asked MP's what was going on, I was told that interrogators from the day prior had ordered this treatment, and the detainee was not to be moved. On another occassion, the A/C had been turned off, making the temperature in the unventilated room probably well over 100 degrees [Fahrenheit = 38o C]. The detainee was almost unconscious on the floor, with a pile of hair next to him. He had apparently been literally pulling his own hair out throughout the night...

(Original spelling mistakes replicated to the best of my ability)

The purpose of this treatment is to inflict severe physical and mental pain and suffering in an effort to force the detainee to cooperate - and that is the very definition of torture in international law. No, it's not amateur dentistry, or violent beatings, or electrodes to the genitals - for a start, it leaves no marks (which I suspect is part of the point) - but it is still torture, and it cannot be justified even by the "war on terror". As Article 2 of the Convention Against Torture states,

No exceptional circumstances whatsoever, whether a state of war or a threat of war, internal political in stability or any other public emergency, may be invoked as a justification of torture.

The US signed up to that when they ratified the CAT in 1994. Is it too much to expect them to keep their word?

Guantanamo violates international law. It is a site for some of the worst abuses of human rights by a western country in living memory. It is a stain on the conscience of the world. And there is only one solution to this: Guantanamo delenda est. Guantanamo must be closed.


Scoop Image: Matt Robson. ALSO - International Law: Robson Calls On Govt To Back Guantanamo Closure Call - Matt Robson writes: Journalist David Rose has made an invaluable contribution to the cause of universal human rights for all by this exposure of the grave human rights violations occurring on a daily basis at the United States prison camp at Guantanamo Bay Cuba. See... NZ Should Join Call For End To Guantanamo Bay
Scoop Audio.Audio: Manning & Pound on Guantanamo Bay.

  • Scoop Report - NZ MPs Prove Quiet On Guantanamo Bay
  • Greens - NZ Silent on Guantanamo
  • Amnesty Magazine Feature - Tortured Logic: Thumbscrewing International Law
  • ENDS

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