Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Unhappy Anniversary, Gitmo

Ten years ago today the first twenty prisoners arrived at Guantanamo.  As the ACLU writes, "since it opened, almost 800 men have passed through Guantánamo’s cells. Today, 171 men remain imprisoned there; 89 of those men have been unanimously cleared by intelligence and military officials, but remain at the prison camp."  Amy Davidson notes that "only six prisoners were ever convicted by a military commission."

A new ACLU infographic provides the disturbing facts and figures about Guantánamo.

For a more humanizing perspective, you can read this heartbreaking op-ed in the New York Times by Lakhdar Boumediene, a Bosnian citizen who  unfairly imprisoned at Guantánamo for seven and a half years without charge or trial.  And another by Murat Kurnaz, a man of Turkish descent who lived in Germany, imprisoned for five years.  There are countless other such stories that have received less prominence.

For good reason, as human rights activist Aisha Maniar writes at openDemocracy, Guantánamo "has become a synonym for torture, arbitrary detention and illegality. It is perhaps the most powerful and flagrant symbol of injustice this century."

While initially a product of the disastrous Bush Administration's War on Terror, Obama has hewed closely to his predecessor's policies.  Maniar asserts that "under Obama’s leadership, very few prisoners have left Guantánamo, military commissions have been reinstated, convictions have been made on the basis of torture evidence and the first war crimes tribunal involving offences allegedly committed by a minor since World War II has been held."  And then, last month, Obama signed a defense bill codifying indefinite detention into law.

Maniar concludes that it is up to us to demand a change to these shameful policies:
The passage of time, the apparent normalization of the abnormal and its codification in law do not suddenly make the indefensible defensible. The campaign to close Guantánamo will go on. The failure of politicians to rise to the challenge in over ten years means that ordinary people should take the lead in defending those values and principles protected by law for centuries which are far too precious to be undone in such a short space of time for what appears to be little more than political expediency. 
Indeed.  For a start, you can click here to ask President Obama to close Guantánamo, once and for all.


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