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Guantánamo prisoners return home today (Guardian)

Detention without trial is wrong.

I have yet to meet anyone who can make a convincing argument against the above statement. The right to a fair trial is a fundamental right of modern civilisation – and, for that matter, ancient civilisation too. So why, in the light of a few high profile terrorist attacks, are we denying people that right?

Don’t misunderstand me here – The terrorist attacks against America and other countries have been terrible atrocities, but terrorism isn’t new. Foreign terrorism is a fairly new concept to a young country like America, and it is a major step in the development of a nation. They must decide how to deal with such provocation, and this may well determine the future of their country as a whole. At the moment, I think they’re taking the wrong path.

The Bush administration has violated more international laws at Guantánamo Bay than I can begin to count. The very fact that the American Constitution forbids this kind of treatment on American soil should put up some red flags. They have created a situation whereby the Presidential Administration could, if they wished to abuse the system, detail whoever they wanted and torture them. Is this really the foundation the American people want for their country? Is this not the very kind of Government that they tried to eliminate in Iraq?

I am in no way accusing Mr Bush of taking this kind of action. I’m confident that he is convinced that there is a need to detain these people, and that there are valid reasons in his eyes for not giving them proper trials. But we’ve seen the danger of this kind of approach in Iraq: Mr Blair had what he saw as high quality intelligence, which he trusted and believed, on the existence of WMD in Iraq. He was wrong. What’s to say Mr Bush isn’t wrong? Isn’t the fair trial the protection against this kind of error, just as publishing full information before a vote in the House of Commons is the protection against Mr Blair’s error? Just as Mr Blair failed to publish an authoritative Iraq dossier, Mr Bush is failing to provide trials for these people, and mistakes will inevitably be made.

As for the poor prisoners themselves, I cannot even imagine being locked in solitary confinement for three years. It would be mental torture, and would leave someone with lifelong mental trauma, and would probably have a similar impact on their families. Torture is completely wrong, and has no place in a modern society. The fact that these prisoners have been tortured, and the fact that the British Government has failed to condemn torture (by admitting evidence from torture, so long as it wasn’t torture by British people) shows a deep problem in our society. Cracks of this magnitude in the very base of our society need patching up quickly, or it could lead to a serious collapse.

The news of four British detainees being released is clearly a welcome development, but we should be appalled at their detention rather than celebrating their release. How anyone expects that a society with such a loose moral grasp can ever hope to ‘spread freedom’ about the world, I just cannot begin to understand.

This 261st post was filed under: News and Comment, Politics.






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Comments and responses

Comment from Amnesty Supporter


by Amnesty Supporter

Comment posted at 16:34 on 12th September 2007.

Hi,

Just saw Amnesty International have launched another cool campaign, a virtual trip to Guantanamo asking for it to be closed. I just joined and it’s fun. Give it a try, it’s for a good cause. Postin’ some of the info from their site:

“Where can you find bearded ladies, parachuting mermaids and Siamese pirate twins on the web? On the way to Guántanamo!

Amnesty International has launched an animated online petition asking for people to join our flotilla travelling all the way to Guantánamo. We have already got thousands of people on the voyage with us. The travellers are taking part in AI’s latest online campaign to draw more people to our campaign against the US government to close Guantánamo. This online petition will run until 26 June, International day for the Protection of Victims of Torture.

Help us pass the message! Please forward the link to as many people as you can (http://www.amnesty.org/guantanamoflotilla/) and ask them to sign up to the campaign and forward it to their friends and colleagues. People can also link to the flotilla from their website or blog. Find banners and buttons in English and Spanish here: http://web.amnesty.org/pages/stoptorture-bannersflotilla-eng. Together we can Close Guantánamo. Let’s give it a good try!

Joining only takes a minute and it is a lot of fun. And while you’re there, have a look at how your friends and colleagues here have designed their outfits, done their hair and chosen their mode of transport — its a hoot! Have you always wanted a beard but were afraid to grow one? Now’s your chance!

The campaign is gathering momentum and is creating quite a splash – even politicians are joining and linking to it from their homepages. Now we need your help to pass on the message. Can we count on you to keep up the momentum and ensure we get this awful detention site closed for good?

Thanks, everyone!

so there you are, ladies, go grow your beard on the way to Guantánamo! 🙂

(the mermaid with a beard riding a sea dragon, that’s me!)


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sjhoward.co.uk » The Hypocrisy of Guantánamo


Comment from Charles Letterman


by Charles Letterman

Comment posted at 08:26 on 12th February 2008.

I am far from being a libertarian. I believe prisons should be hard places where punishment and reform are being dished out in equal measure. I believe life should mean life. However, I also believe in fair trials and that torture, in whatever form, has no place in civilised society.

At the same time as US Secretary of Homeland Security Michael Chertoff promises a fair trial for Guantanamo prisoners accused of organising the 9/11 attacks, the CIA admits torture in the Guantanamo Bay prison camp. No words of mine can express the horror of 9/11, but by committing acts of torture, the US authorities have sunk as low as the barbarians who plotted and carried out the attack on New York.

And Michael Chertoff’s definition of a ‘fair trial’ is interesting. A conviction can be gained by a two-thirds vote, not unanimity as in a US jury trial. The jury is made up of military officers not members of the public. The ‘evidence’, including hearsay and some obtained by coercion, will be allowed, “if the military judge determines that the evidence would have probative value to a reasonable person”.

And some evidence will be not released to the accused or his representatives if it is deemed to contain classified information. Neither is the accused protected by the Geneva conventions. Groups like Amnesty International, who would release the most fairly convicted paedophile back into the playground with a slap on the wrist and bag of sweets, are quite rightly having a field day with this blatant infringement of human rights.

Someone will be found guilty for 9/11. The US demands it, and will be extremely selective in both its morals and laws as to how that guilt and punishment is apportioned.


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