Jul 14, 2003
For over a year and half now, the United States has held prisoners taken during the war in Afghanistan in abominable conditions on the military base the U.S. controls in Guantanamo, Cuba.
Despite the official end of this war, the number of prisoners has continued to increase. In January of 2002 when the first planeload of blindfolded and chained prisoners arrived, there were approximately 150 on the base. Today, there are 680 held in a concentration camp baptized X-Ray. They are held in cages, deprived of all rights, considered neither as political prisoners nor as prisoners of war, nor even as common criminals with their rights. They are held without any contact with the exterior, without knowing whether they will be tried, what accusations have been made against them or whether their completely arbitrary detention will ever end. The youngest is 13 years old.
Despite protests by a number of humanitarian organizations that defend human rights, these conditions of imprisonment remain as harsh as ever. In the style of the most barbarous dictatorship, the prisoners are held in a veritable state of permanent torture. A number of attempts at suicide have been reported recently. Last year, there was a hunger strike of at least 100 prisoners to protest against acts of humiliation.
Today, the American army says it plans to replace the metal cages in which it holds the prisoners with real prison walls, complete with an execution chamber. And the American government now speaks about a trial process, but this trial will have a colonel as the general prosecutor and another colonel as the defense lawyer … to argue their case in front of a jury made up of hand-picked representatives of the American administration. In other words, judge, jury and executioner are all part of this set-up.
These kangaroo court procedures have caused U.S. lawyers and law associations to speak against them. The National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers will propose at its next annual meeting that lawyers not agree to take part in defending the Guantanamo prisoners, since that would, as one lawyer put it, be "lending legitimacy to what would otherwise be a sham proceeding."
For most of those being held in these inhumane conditions, not one bit of evidence has been presented to establish even a hint of a link between them and the Al-Qaeda organization of bin Laden or, for that matter, any terrorist organization. But even if proof had been given, the manner in which the leaders of the U.S. have acted toward these men finds no justification in a civilized society.
What U.S. leaders have set up in Guantanamo demonstrates that the barbarism comes from their side.