The bro­ken prom­ise of clos­ing Guan­tanamo

Pakistan Observer - - EDITORIAL & COMMENTS -

Eand IGHT years ago, pres­i­den tial can­di­dates John McCain

Barack Obama agreed on one is­sue: It was time to shut down the prison at Guan­tá­namo Bay, Cuba. Asked about his po­si­tion on Guan­tá­namo, Mr. McCain, a for­mer pris­oner of war, said his view had been re­in­forced by meet­ing an op­er­a­tive of Al Qaeda held pris­oner in Iraq, who told him the use of tor­ture by Amer­i­can forces helped to fuel the in­sur­gency. “What is the moral su­pe­ri­or­ity of the United States of Amer­ica if we tor­ture pris­on­ers?” Mr. McCain said shortly be­fore the elec­tion. Mr. Obama vowed to shut down the prison dur­ing his first year in of­fice, call­ing it a le­gal and moral abom­i­na­tion. As Mr. Obama’s ad­min­is­tra­tion draws to a close, there is less and less hope that the pres­i­dent will find a way to ful­fil his prom­ise.

The fail­ure to close Guan­tá­namo, where 80 de­tainees re­main, is a shame­ful stain on Congress, which has hin­dered ef­forts to re­lease pris­on­ers and barred the Pen­tagon from mov­ing those re­main­ing to pris­ons in the United States. The prison has un­der­mined Amer­ica’s stand­ing as a cham­pion of hu­man rights and set a de­plorable ex­am­ple for other gov­ern­ments in­clined to vi­o­late in­ter­na­tional hu­man rights law. Its fa­mil­iar orange jump­suits have been made part of the ter­ror­ists’ pro­pa­ganda, most re­cently by ISIS fight­ers in pho­tos and videos that show the ex­e­cu­tion of hostages.

There is a mod­est step still avail­able to Mr. Obama to demon­strate to the world that he is will­ing to ac­knowl­edge what has taken place at Guan­tá­namo. The United Na­tions spe­cial rap­por­teur who ex­am­ines is­sues of tor­ture has sought ac­cess to the de­tainees for years, seek­ing to doc­u­ment their treat­ment while in cus­tody. The gov­ern­ment has re­fused re­peated re­quests since 2004, with no good rea­son. “I want to be­lieve that the use of tor­ture by the United States is a dark chap­ter that has ended,” Juan Mén­dez, the spe­cial rap­por­teur, said in an in­ter­view. “But I can’t be cer­tain of that un­til we see a change in pol­icy and ver­ify that the United States is meet­ing all its in­ter­na­tional obli­ga­tions.”

The de­fence team of Ammar al-Baluchi, one of the de­tainees at Guan­tá­namo who is be­ing tried in con­nec­tion with the 9/11 at­tacks, filed a mo­tion in May ask­ing the mil­i­tary com­mis­sion to al­low him to meet with Mr. Mén­dez. Thomas Pick­er­ing, a vet­eran diplo­mat who has served as am­bas­sador to Rus­sia, In­dia and the United Na­tions in Repub­li­can and Demo­cratic ad­min­is­tra­tions, has filed a mem­o­ran­dum sup­port­ing this re­quest. Mr. Pick­er­ing wrote that re­cent re­ports of “heavy-handed and even bru­tal force-feed­ings, in­dif­fer­ent med­i­cal care, un­ac­cept­ably cold stain­less steel cells, in­def­i­nite soli­tary con­fine­ment” at Guan­tá­namo may con­sti­tute vi­o­la­tions of the Geneva Con­ven­tions and the Con­ven­tion Against Tor­ture. The United States is a sig­na­tory of both.

“Guan­tá­namo is cur­rently used by our en­e­mies as a sym­bol of law­less­ness that grossly un­der­mines US na­tional se­cu­rity,” Mr. Pick­er­ing wrote. “If the pub­lic re­ports about cur­rent abu­sive con­di­tions are false, then I be­lieve that the United States has much to gain by al­low­ing” Mr. Mén­dez ac­cess. Mr. Obama’s pledge to close the prison was doomed by Repub­li­can op­po­si­tion. But it is not too late for him to al­low in­de­pen­dent hu­man rights mon­i­tors to create a fuller his­tor­i­cal record of the con­duct of the Amer­i­can gov­ern­ment af­ter 9/11. — The New York Times

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Pakistan

© PressReader. All rights reserved.