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The world from the Detainee perspective – inside Guantánamo Bay

June 5, 2009

ss2005-05-17imageImagine yourself as a human rights advocate located in Afghanistan. One afternoon, you meet with a Taliban leader to negotiate getting a school built for women. However, before you could progress further with your development efforts, you are caught by American soldiers on charges of being linked to a Terrorist organization; Al Qaeda. You are locked up in Guantánamo (Gitmo) and disconnected from the outside world, without being given any right to plea or justify your case. Next thing you know; you are stripped off naked, locked up in a cell with insects and being forced to spill Al Qaeda mission secrets. What the hell are you supposed to do? You either carve false stories to prevent harsher interrogation and if that doesn’t work, you end up committing suicide or living the life of Alice in Wonderland.

“After all this time I still don’t know what crime I am supposed to have committed.” Moazzam Begg; British Muslim detained in Gitmo who was released without charge on January 25, 2005 along with Feroz Abbasi, Martin Mubanga and Richard Belmar.

S©Lincoln_ElseIMG_0436.jpguch stories have become chapters in the lives of many detainees who are caught amidst the war on terror engulfs one too many innocent people. What constitutes a terrorist; having a beard or having a Muslim last name? How can peace be globalized, if we continue to discriminate against people based on their religion, physical appearance or even their name?

Peace can only happen when enemies are treated as human beings first.

Reconciliation should be accompanied by justice, otherwise it will not last. While we all hope for peace it shouldn’t be peace at any cost but peace based on principle, on justice.” Corazon Aquino

©Lincoln_ElseIMG_0127.jpgThe memos written during the George W. Bush regime by the United States Department of Justice‘s Office of Legal Counsel (OLC) endorsing CIA torture methods, like using insects to terrify detainees and waterboarding reflect the corrupt nature of prisoner interrogation techniques at work in Gitmo. Once these detainees are endorsed as ‘unlawful combatants’ and placed in a Guantanamo Bay camp, there is very little any one can do to secure their release, unless the governments of these detainees take some action. This continues to generate considerable public uproar, especially now when these memos have been released and are open to public scrutiny. No reasons are given for holding a considerable number of detainees and their identities are sealed, often till death do them apart. It appears to be a clear obsession of shepherding these ‘others’.bushTorturePolicy-toon

Sounds like the plot of a suspense film, where a person is kidnapped or abducted to a foreign land and repeatedly abused. Ironically, police cannot be contacted in this case for obvious reasons; the orders came from above. What a perfect choice of location; Guantánamo Bay Detention Camp, which is neither under the Cuban jurisdiction nor under the US jurisdiction.

Whatever happened to the 1949 Geneva Convention outlining the guidelines to the fair treatment of Prisoners of War (POWs). In stating this, it is not being implied that all detainees are innocent or that any detainee suspected for committing a war crime should not be prosecuted, but being a lawful combatant every detainee has a set of rights, as afforded to him through his POW status. That needs to be respected. Every detainee should have the option of appearing in a US court of law, every detainee should be allowed to justify. Only then can a court of law lawfully determine whether the detainee is to be sentenced or charged with a death penalty.

©Lincoln_ElseIMG_0484.jpgThe right to a fair trial; that is a basic human right of a prisoner.

“It is only if there is a willingness to protect the worst and the weakest amongst us that all of us can secure that our own rights will be protected.” Justice Chaskalson, President of the Constitutional Court of South Africa.

A second installment of this article will follow shortly.

  1. Thomas permalink
    June 5, 2009 1:40 pm

    It is worth noting that upon their entrance to Afghanistan, the U.S. did not even arrest Al Qaeda suspects themselves. Instead, they offered ransoms for these suspects, leading factional leaders such as Abdul Rashid Dostum to round up political enemies and hand them over to the US. The US had no means of determining the guilt of these suspects, as there were almost no speakers of Pashto, Dari, or Uzbek.

  2. mariazk permalink
    June 7, 2009 12:56 am

    You bring up an interesting inside and ironically it is often times the leaders who are linked with the guilty; i.e Al Qaeda leaders. Had their political enemies really been involved with such organizations they wouldn’t be struggling; they’d get to the top by abusing their power. What a waste of ransom money!

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