Guantanamo: Still Open, Still Violating Human Rights

Omar Khadr guantanamo

Omar Khadr has been held since he was 15 years old, and awaits transfer home to Canada as part of a plea deal.

Today, 168 people are imprisoned at Naval Station Guantanamo Bay by the US government.

I’ll be at Guantánamo this week to observe military commission proceedings in a case relating to the September 11 attacks. (When possible, I’ll share my thoughts from Guantánamo on the blog and on Twitter @ZekeJohnsonAi.) The case is resuming over three years after President Obama ordered the prison closed in one year.

All of the detainees at Guantánamo should already long ago have either been charged and tried fairly in civilian court, or been released to countries that would respect their human rights.

Instead, the US government continues to violate human rights at Guantánamo Bay. A 2010 government task force outlined the Administration’s plans:

The US government continues to violate human rights at Guantánamo Bay.

  • Refer some detainees for prosecution in unfair military commission trials. This is a violation of the right to a fair trial.
  • Hold others indefinitely without charge. This is a violation of the prohibition of arbitrary detention and undermines the fundamental role of the ordinary criminal justice system in safeguarding liberty.
  • Transfer, someday, a number of detainees to “conditional detention” in other countries. The detainees may face more human rights violations including continuing arbitrary detention.
  • And transfer of the dozens of detainees that the government itself considers to be cleared for release (today, reportedly numbering some 57 detainees)–a plan that remains to be fully implemented.

Why is Guantánamo still open?

  • It seemed clear to just about everyone back in 2008 that the Guantánamo disaster had to be fixed, in order to get back on track toward human rights, the rule of law and the fundamental principles of justice and fairness found in the Constitution. Indeed, in the 2008 election race, both candidates McCain and Obama supported closure of Guantanamo, and once he took office, President Obama ordered it closed within one year.
  • But soon after, some in Congress apparently calculated that they could gain political points for slamming Obama on closing Guantánamo and, in response, the President tacked the wrong way. He embraced indefinite detention and the unfair military commissions, and at one point his plan to close the prison appeared merely to amount to changing its zip code—he would move indefinite detention and military commissions to a new prison in the US mainland.  Congress—Republicans and Democrats—blocked even that.
  • Now, candidate Romney says he would “double Gitmo” and President Obama seems to have gone quiet on the goal of closing the detention center. All this just four years after it was seen by a wide spectrum ofUS political and popular opinion as an obvious and urgent.

A good start toward getting closure of Guantánamo back on track would be resettling the approximately 57 detainees who are reportedly cleared by the government itself for release.  If there is truly no other country willing to resettle these detainees, one that is both safe and acceptable to the administration, then the government should stop shirking its human rights responsibilities and allow the men their liberty in the mainland USA.

Let Presidential candidates Obama and Romney know where you stand on Guantánamo: Send tweets to @BarackObama  and @MittRomney.

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11 thoughts on “Guantanamo: Still Open, Still Violating Human Rights

  1. The military industrial complex benefits from human rights violations and it will be the people who pay for their abuses as our societies become more violent in reaction. Diplomacy and respect for human rights is the way out of this kingdom of fear.

  2. Who cares about the rights of pathetic terrorist scum? They're lucky they don't let them near us American people. I'd rip their heads off.

    • But they aren't terrorist scum. They haven't been convicted. If they are terrorist scum let us all see them tried, convicted and given the punishment they deserve. No civilised society can just hold someone without trial. What if it was you? Or your child? I'm no fan of the terrorist but there has to be some process of law with these people.

  3. @Smith… And um where did you read that judicial judgement that they are "terrorist scum?" From best of recollection the rule of law, due process, habeas corpus and all that tiresome stuff democracies engage in, says there has to be a trial and they have have to be found guilty of a crime to be so judged. I could as easily and as arbitrarily pronounce that all people calling themselves Smith are to have their heads ripped off for being pathetic terrorist scum.. throw away the key and don't bother to find out if my accusation has any merit. These weren't soldiers captured on the field of battle engaged in firing guns at GIs.. some were handed over so their captors could collect bounties, without anything more than the most casual hearsay to link them to any crimes. We need to re-engage with the rule of law and apply it.

  4. @Smith…you apparently didn't read the article…many (57 so far) have been found to not be of any terrorist ties and have been deemed by our government to be cleared for release. Yet they have not been. Gitmo houses people who are under suspicion …and have never been confirmed to be of any terrorist ties. That is why it is violating their rights. They are being held without any charges or evidence against them. Not for a short period of time either…years. This is a violation of international law and our own constitution.

  5. Thanks, Zeke, for being there for all of us justice loving folk. Keep us posted and hang in there.
    Rich Sroczynski

  6. This is in one word WRONG! Thank you Zeke for bringing to the forefront, again and let us only hope fairness prevails.