Guantanamo Bay Prison: Beyond the Law?
December 5, 2003
The Friends Committee on National Legislation (FCNL)
The US is bogged down in a legal quagmire in Guantanamo, Cuba where its military prison holds hundreds of captives in violation of domestic and international law. The way out of this moral quadry , FCNL argues, is to place the captives under the supervision of international courts of law.
The US military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, is presently being operated beyond the rule of law -- a "law-free zone" where human beings do not have the protection of law. Not one of the 680 prisoners at Camp Delta, the Guantanamo Bay prison facility, has been charged with any violation of US law, the laws of war, or international law. Not one prisoner has been afforded any procedure to allow him to clear his name. Not one prisoner knows whether or when he will ever be charged or tried or released.
The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) monitors the conditions at Camp Delta. During the summer of 2003, the ICRC denounced the US authorities for the intolerable psychological cruelty inflicted by keeping the prisoners in legal limbo. The ICRC noted that there have been 35 attempts at suicide involving 27 inmates.
What is the way out of this quagmire? The prisoners at Guantanamo Bay should be charged and prosecuted under international procedural and human rights norms. If there are individuals among the prisoners who are not chargeable, they should be released to jurisdictions that operate under the norms of international law. And, if there are individuals who are suitable for prisoner-of-war (POW) status under the Geneva Conventions, they should be so designated and held under those Geneva Convention standards.
Release Guantanamo’s ‘Child Soliders’ to the UN
The children should be released to the UN program for the care and repatriation of child-soldiers, operated by UNICEF, the United Nations Children's Fund.
The Administration's policy at Camp Delta provides for holding prisoners indefinitely without charge under intense interrogation and the threat of specially drafted military tribunals, with procedures stacked against meaningful defense and in favor of quick conviction. The prisoners lack the protections of POW status under the Geneva Conventions.
The Administration defends this policy as necessary to fight terrorism, arguing that terrorists do not conform to international norms or rules. The Administration also claims that the Taliban and al Qaeda are not due the protections of the Geneva Conventions because they are not traditional combatants.
However, the Administration's claims are in error. The conduct of the Taliban and al Qaeda can be handled within existing criminal law and international procedures. The Administration's lawless policy, far from making the US more secure, encourages equally lawless treatment of captured US troops and equally lawless policies by other governments. The prisoners are becoming a new group of martyrs and inspiration for further terrorist acts. The Administration's policy has also become a major foreign relations irritant with US allies, many of whom have citizens imprisoned at Camp Delta.
Now, during this congressional recess, is the time to tell your members of Congress that the prison facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba is a lawless place, contrary to US values, and a source of shame on our nation. Camp Delta should be brought under the rule of law.
You can find out more information about the Guantanamo Bay facility, enemy combatants, and military tribunals from the FCNL web site at http://www.fcnl.org/issues/issue.php?issue_id=70.
REMINDER OF FCNL'S REQUEST FOR HELP FROM YOU: FCNL's goal is to generate 100 congressional meetings by constituents in home offices by January 20. Congress will adjourn later this month, returning to Washington for the second session of the 108th Congress on January 20. As the halls of Congress empty, policymakers leave behind a quagmire of unresolved international and domestic problems: terror attacks in Istanbul; rising US casualties in Iraq; increasing Israeli-Palestinian violence; threatening war on North Korea; questionable human rights conduct by the US in Guantanamo; and challenges to civil liberties at home.
You can help by organizing one of those meetings with your representative or one of your senators to discuss constructive ways out of US policy quagmires. Put together a delegation of four to six persons. Write or call the scheduler in the local office of one of the three members (representative and two senators) with the specific topic and proposed dates.
Keep Valerie Fox at FCNL (firstname.lastname@example.org) informed about your congressional meetings.
* Let Valerie know if you are willing to help.
* Let her know if you have an appointment.
* Let her know the results of your meeting.
For a more detailed outline of FCNL's recommendations for a way out of the quagmire in Iraq, click here:
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U.S. House of Representatives
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Information on your members is available on FCNL's web site:
CONTACTING THE ADMINISTRATION
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President George W. Bush
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