Saturday, November 17, 2007

In another country is...

By Carol Gee

. . . a good place to look for the truth about what is going on in the news about Guantanamo Bay. The Financial Times of London carried the 11/9/07 story of the latest U.S. government's "military justice" high-jinks at its detention camp in Cuba. Headlined, "US accused of concealing Guantánamo evidence," the story begins with information that is not at all surprising. To quote:

Omar Khadr, the 21-year old Canadian captured in Afghanistan five yeas ago, was on Thursday escorted in handcuffs into a courtroom at Guantanamo Bay for the latest attempt to bring him to justice.

. . . The Pentagon hopes that the military commissions will help legitimise the legal process at Guantanamo Bay, which has come under intense criticism from human rights groups and foreign governments since the US first started transferring detainees to the Cuba prison in 2002.

Immediately after the hearing, however, defence lawyers for Mr Khadr, who is accused of killing a US soldier with a grenade, renewed criticisms of the process by claiming that the US government had known for years about secret evidence that could help his defence.

. . . After the hearing, Cmdr Kueger urged Canada to do more to help Mr Khadr, pointing out that the UK and Australian governments had successfully repatriated their nationals from Guantanamo. He added that part of the problem of trying Mr Khadr at Guantanamo was that the system made no adjustments for the fact that he was a ”child soldier”.

We can also look for the truth in the New York Times. Op-Ed contributors David Bowker and David Kaye are former staff lawyers at the State Department in the Clinton and Bush administrations. I linked to their 11/10/07 NYT article yesterday in a S/SW post. Today's post explores how the Guantanamo issue pertains to other countries. To quote further from the NYT op-ed piece:

. . . the costs have been high. Guantánamo has come to be seen worldwide as a stain on America’s reputation. The military commissions have failed to deliver justice, stymied by the federal courts’ refusal to permit the president to create a system at odds with United States courts-martial and the international law of war.

Meanwhile, the number of detainees at Guantánamo has steadily dropped to a little over 300, from its peak of more than 700, no more than 80 of whom are likely to face any kind of American prosecution. Not a single defendant has gone to trial, and only one has pleaded guilty.

Today, most American leaders acknowledge the need for a new approach. The president himself has expressed a desire to see the detention camp closed. But he has only a little more than a year to do so before the next president takes office. It’s time to take a close look at this system of detention and prosecution and move quickly to establish viable alternatives.

The "From the Numbers" list in the attorneys' op-ed piece is absolutely fascinating as it pertains to the place of other countries in the mix. To quote just a few items:

Approximate number of countries of which detainees are citizens: 40

Most represented countries at Guantánamo: Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan, Yemen

Number of convictions: 1 (an Australian who pleaded guilty to material support of terrorism and was sentenced to nine months of confinement in his home country)

Month of first release of a detainee: May 2002 (one detainee repatriated to Afghanistan because of an “emotional breakdown”)

Countries to which Guantánamo detainees have been transferred: Albania, Afghanistan, Australia, Bangladesh, Bahrain, Belgium, Britain, Denmark, Egypt, France, Germany, Iran, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Libya, Maldives, Mauritania, Morocco, Pakistan, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Spain, Sweden, Sudan, Tajikistan, Turkey, Uganda, Yemen

Most recent announced transfer of detainees from Guantánamo: Nov. 4 (eight to Afghanistan, three to Jordan)

Closest American allies that have called for Guantánamo’s closing: Britain, France, Germany

Closing Guantanamo means rendition to another country or transfer to the United States. We are between a rock and a hard place. London's Financial Times has an excellent article written a few weeks ago that defined many of the most important issues and discussed Defense Secretary Gates surprisingly public efforts to close the facility. To quote its conclusion:

While the administration continues to consider its options, it is trying to reduce the population at Guantánamo by repatriating as many detainees as possible. US officials hope that European Union countries that have criticised the facility will do more to help.

"European governments privately acknowledge that there are many dangerous individuals in Guantánamo who they don't want to see walking free," said one senior US official.

"They also understand the legal and practical difficulties involved in prosecuting these individuals or returning them to their home countries. But virtually none of them will say this publicly, and instead [they] continue to call for closure of Guantánamo or full criminal trials of anyone who is held."

Jennifer Daskal, Washington advocacy director at Human Rights Watch, says that, while the US has created the problem, the international community "could go a long way towards helping Washington by coupling its calls for closure of Guantánamo with concrete actions like a willingness to accept some of the Uighurs or other detainees who cannot be returned to their home countries but are cleared for release".

"Guantanamo manual leaked on web." -- The BBC News carried this Guantanamo article a couple of days ago. (Note that their web page is a very good resource for all kinds of key stories and analysis about this notorious detention camp). To quote:

The US military said the manual seemed authentic but was out of date and should not have been publicly released.

About 340 prisoners are still held at Guantanamo, which was opened in 2002 to detain people suspected of terrorism or links to al-Qaeda or the Taleban. Allegations of abuse at the camp have been lodged by detainees, their lawyers and human rights groups. Calls from both within the US and around the world to close the camp have gone unanswered.

I feel like a broken record -- My links today include the first post I wrote (12/10/05) about what was happening to all those people picked up and detained by the military during our Middle East adventure. It was titled, "Secret jail reports from across the sea." I include it because is is a stark reminder of how little has changed over the years. It is one of my 19 posts about "Guantanamo." So I remind myself again that right now there are 429 days, 14 hours+ left in the administration of George W. Bush.

(Cross-posted at South by Southwest.)

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