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Guantanamo: Biggest Hostage Taking Of 21st Century

The longest and biggest hostage taking of the 21st century enters its 4th year: guantanamo, a violation of right and sovereignty

On this Monday, January 10th, the detention by the USA of 545 citizens from 42 countries at the concentration camp of Guantanamo, located on the territory of the Republic of Cuba, enters its 4th year. 202 other detainees have so far been released or repatriated.

The expression Œconcentration camp¹ has not been invented by the Nazis or by the Soviet rulers, but by the Spanish Royal authorities on the same Cuban territory some 120 years ago, when they locked up farmers and guerilleros fighting against the colonial occupation. That Spanish word was translated into German by the German colonial authorities in South-West Africa, then by the British colonial authorities in South Africa. Guantanamo adds to this sinister tradition, to which the Empire of Good provided terrifying innovations, namely the use of torture called Œtorture lite¹.

Do we have the right to characterize the detention of Œenemy combatants¹ or Œunlawful combatants¹ as hostage taking? Yes, and this for several reasons:

1. Some of the men deported to guantanamo have literally been kidnapped on Afghan territory by the Uzbek General Rachid Dostum¹s militia men, a proven war criminal, and rendered against payment to the US army. Others were kidnapped by Pakistani security forces on sovereign Pakistani territory and were also rendered to the US army with no respect for the country¹s ruling legal procedures on extradition.

2. None of the clauses of the Geneva Conventions on the treatment of prisoners of war has been respected by the US army.

3. The US Government refuses to comply with the judicial order of the highest
judicial authority in the country, the US Supreme Court, that in its sentence pronounced on June 28th, 2004, ruled that the detainees have the possibility to challenge their detention in front of ordinary tribunals in the United States. In order to hide this disregard of law, they created a body without any legal asset, the socalled ³status reveiw panels² , which ³reviewed² 539 detainees. Only two detainees has been ³judged² as able to be freed so far.

These last days, the US executive power crossed a new frontier by designating as Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, author of memorandums addressed to the White House and recommending the use of torture on Œterrorists¹ captured in Iraq and elsewhere. The serious acts of torture of prisoners at Abu Ghraib in Iraq, revealed by the scandalous photos are tightly linked to the concentration camp of Guantanamo. In fact, the military police charged for abuses at Abu Ghraib only obeyed orders given by the intelligence services in charge of interrogating detainees. That collaboration between guards and interrogators was first established at Guantanamo before being applied under the commandment of General Geoffrey Miller, in charge of US prisons in Iraq after having been in charge at Guantanamo.

According to testimony given by several released detainees the British detainees who were freed and by the Australian David Hicks and the Briton Moazzam Begg, who are still in detention the prisoners at Guantanamo are tortured, but the worst of torture is the total uncertainty about their fate. Everything seems to point to the fact that the US authorities have the intention to keep the hostages in captivity for life, for at least the 30 years to come.

This mass detention is a violation of law of all international agreements, not only of human rights and of humanitarian law, but also of relations between sovereign states. What is the possible recourse against this scandal, labeled as a Œlegal black hole¹ by experts? There is not much. The recourse to the International Court of Justice or to the Interamerican Court of Human rights seems to be excluded for reasons of absence of competence, unless member countries of the United Nations ask their advice to the International Court of Justice in de Hague. The USA knowingly chose Guantanamo, as it is shielded form the universal judicial authorities.

Not being experts on international law, it nevertheless seems to us that the only recourse not yet considered by the defenders of the detainees is the Cuban justice. In fact, the treaty establishing the military naval base of Guantanamo in 1903 explicitly recognizes the ³eminent sovereignty² of the Republic of Cuba on the territory of the naval base. The judicial body of the Republic of Cuba should open an inquiry on illegal detention against the USA. Even if this has no immediate practical consequences, it would add some additional weight to the legal and political universal fight against the guantanamo scandal.

Based in France, the Collectif guantanamo would like to attract some attention to the fate of 7 French Guantanamo detainees: 4 have been freed last summer from guantanamo to be then jailed in France. The case held against them seems rather thin to us. Once again France has distinguished itself: it is in fact the only European country having accepted the conditions imposed by Washington to Œfree¹ its nationals, i.e. to imprison them in their own country. All the other countries have freed their nationals: Great Britain, Denmark, Sweden, Spain and even Russia. Morocco has also decided to prosecute on its territory 5 repatriated Guantanamo detainees, but their trial drags on from one adjournment to the next in Casablanca, where the justice seems to be torn between the consideration of the injunctions from Washington - by means of the Royal Palace - and the determination of a lack of proof and serious evidence hinting at the guilt of the accused.

As for the 3 French prisoners still detained at Guantanamo, the least we can say is that the French Government does not seem to be in a hurry to obtain their repatriation, surely because it knows quite well there would be no reason to prosecute them, and once repatriated, it would thus be forced to purely and simply set them free, much to the dislike of Washington.

In conclusion, the Collectif Guantanamo can only launch an appeal to the public opinion, to the organized grassroots movements, to states concerned by law, to act so that the Guantanamo scandal should stop.

So we appeal to the sense of righteousness and to the conscience of the Cuban and French policy makers.

We remain at the disposal of everyone wishing to contribute to any initiative aimed at throwing light into this dark hole.

The Collectif guantanamo France, 10 janvier 2005

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