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Guantanamo: Five years of illegality

No Right Turn

Guantanamo: Five years of illegality

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New Zealanders in Christchurch express their dismay that Guantanmo Bay still exists in 2007 – image courtesy of Meg Blackmore

Five years ago today, the US shipped its first load of prisoners - drugged, shackled, and in total sensory deprivation - to its Caribbean gulag in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Since then, the place has become a synonym for everything that is wrong with America's "war on terror", a legal no-man's land where "enemy combatants" - less than half of whom are even accused of committing hostile acts against the US or its allies - are detained arbitrarily and indefinitely on "evidence" which is charitably described as "laughable", subjected to a Kafkaesque mockery of the judicial process, abused and tortured until they go mad or commit suicide. The place is an obscenity, an affront to our fundamental principles of justice which demand that everyone, no matter what they are accused of, is entitled to a fair trial, and that no-one, no matter what they have done, should be detained arbitrarily or tortured. Once upon a time, the US was a proud upholder of those principles. Now it has joined the Saudis, the Chinese, the Iranians, North Koreans, Uzbeks, Burmese, and a dozen other despotic, totalitarian abusers in pissing all over them. Where it differs from the others, however, is that it doesn't even have the decency to be properly ashamed about it.

Guantanamo has become a symbol of America's post-9/11 madness and its abandonment of the values it once held dear. And it is a warning that even governments which purport to uphold human rights can backslide - as our own has done with the shameful imprisonment without trial of Ahmed Zaoui, or the indefinite detention of Thomas Yadegary and at least six others (one of whom will soon be "celebrating" their third anniversary behind bars). It is a warning that governments can abandon their citizens, look the other way, and maintain a shameful silence on gross human rights abuses. We should not let them get away with it.

Guantanamo degrades America, it degrades our governments through their complicity, and by our failure to uphold universal human rights, it degrades and threatens us all. And after five years, there's really only one thing that can be said about it: Guantanamo delenda est: Guantanamo must be closed.


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