Sunday, May 22, 2005

The Trials that Never Were, at Guantanamo

BBC news report discusses US treatment of detainees at Guantanamo Bay. They have been criticized for capturing and detaining prisoners without giving them any charges. The US has tried to justify their actions as priority to security over civil rights (as far as I can understand) and by suggesting that their actions are appropriate because they are dealing with "illegal combatants", a term they've coined which is not recognized by Geneva conventions.

This situation reminded me of a popular work of fiction: The Trial, by Franz Kafka where a man is woken up to be informed that he has been charged and that he is to be arrested. The authorities cannot explain to him what he's done illegally because criminals are not even to have the right to information, but then it becomes a cache 22 for the prisoner himself, who cannot defend himself. It is comically tragic, but also painfully resembles current realities.

"The only right they [prisoners at Guantanamo] have, is to be kept in a humane manner...this is not a legal matter, it is a matter of security, it is a matter of war...this is a global conflict, they are prisoners in that conflict" -Jed Babbin, ex senoir figure of US Defense Department and powerful ally to Guantanamo Bay. His thinking is questionable considering that by the same reasoning, I myself could be detained for 3, 5, 10 years or whenever the war on terrorism is over, without any charges. I might have the "humane" rights to food, water, and maybe even a run around the track, but I wouldn't have the right to legal representation, or the opportunity to defend myself against charges that aren't even made. There are examples of people working on behalf of charitable organizations, like Khalid's son, who was captured by bounty hunters who turned him over to the US for money. It is easy to see from this example that whether or not they are terrorists, the systemic mechanisms that motivate others to label them as terrorists are not justice, but rather, $$$.

I am not naive enough to believe that Freedom is also a human right, but I think it ought to be for law abiding citizens. Unfortunately in most cases though, it seems it is merely a priveledge acquired by class.

How long the war lasts, is, according to Babbin "the choice of the terrorists, not ours." With that thought in mind, I presume that he has nothing in the world to worry about until all the terrorists are dead.

On the other hand, it is obvious that authorities take responsibility and possession of people they deem as terrorists. Therefore they should also be accountable. There are concerns that the inmates at Camp Delta, which is part of Guantanamo Bay, are terrorists at all. But the father of one of the detainees has one simple request, representing one of the aims of the Kuwaiti Freedom Organization: "What we ask is the role of law, due process, if they are guilty, trial them, if not, release them." -Khalid al-Odah

Filed under News Reviews


Blogger Candace said...

The way we treat our most vulnerable charges says a lot about us a society. It's wrong to keep them year after year without charging them and giving them trials. It's wrong. It's appalling. It makes me ashamed to be American.

12:51 p.m.  
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