The Killing Bay

For some rea­son, the U. S. is keep­ing the Guan­tanamo Bay prison go­ing. This greatly hurts the coun­try’s im­age but in Pres­i­dent Trump’s lex­i­con, it is a small mat­ter.

Southasia - - CONTENTS - By Dr Muham­mad Ali Eh­san

Or­dered closed by the last US Ad­min­is­tra­tion, the prison in Guan­tá­namo Bay is still open

for busi­ness.

The US Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump has signed an ex­ec­u­tive or­der that keeps the Guan­tanamo Bay prison camp open. This is a re­ver­sal of the pol­icy of the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion. Pres­i­dent Obama had signed an or­der call­ing for the clo­sure of the de­ten­tion fa­cil­ity on his sec­ond day in of­fice in 2009. De­spite his good in­tent the Amer­i­can pres­i­dent was never able to im­ple­ment the pol­icy and the or­der that he signed. No­to­ri­ous and fa­mous as a de­ten­tion fa­cil­ity that re­mains be­yond the reach of any laws, Guan­tanamo Bay has been a sub­ject of in­tense dis­cus­sion and is very ac­tively quoted to show­case the Amer­i­can dis­re­gard for hu­man rights and the im­punity with which it breaks in­ter­na­tional laws.

In the words of the Amer­i­can De­fence Sec­re­tary Don­ald Rums­feld, “de­ten­tion is sec­ond best to killing ter­ror­ists” and so Guan­tanamo has served as a de­ten­tion fa­cil­ity to house most of the cap­tured and most dangerous pris­on­ers there. The fight against ter­ror­ism has pro­ceeded for­ward with the univer­sal aim of not ne­go­ti­at­ing with the ter­ror­ists and fight­ing them and oblit­er­at­ing them and their ide­ol­ogy re­gard­less of the place where they re­side. In do­ing so the ef­fort has been not to meet the cap­tured ter­ror­ists again on the bat­tle­field, some­thing that is only pos­si­ble if they are able to break free or are re­leased from the prison. Guan­tanamo is a fa­cil­ity break­ing away from where is out of ques­tion”.

Opened in 2002 to sup­port the Amer­i­can war ef­fort in the war on

ter­ror, it’s a fa­cil­ity where keep­ing the de­tainees costs more than $440 mil­lion a year to the Amer­i­cans. Ac­cord­ing to an es­ti­mate, a to­tal of 779 pris­on­ers have so far been brought to the fa­cil­ity for de­ten­tion. How­ever, be­tween 2002 and 2008, the Bush ad­min­is­tra­tion re­leased 520 pris­on­ers and at the end of the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion, only 41 per­sons re­mained in the fa­cil­ity. Most of the pris­on­ers were re­leased with­out charges and were trans­ferred to fa­cil­i­ties in their home coun­tries.

Why were they not kept at Guan­tanamo and tried there? If pros­e­cu­tion was not pos­si­ble due to lack of ev­i­dence, how could there be ab­sence of ev­i­dence against men said to be most dangerous? For these men not to be tried in a court of law and to be kept there with­out ac­cess to the fam­ily and lawyers and in­ter­ro­gated with­out be­ing pro­vided any rights brought a very bad name not only to the de­ten­tion fa­cil­ity but also to Amer­ica’s im­age. Amer­i­can so­ci­ety has al­ways stood up for the pro­mo­tion and im­ple­men­ta­tion of univer­sal val­ues such as lib­erty, free­dom and equal hu­man rights. The day the Guan­tanamo prison was opened, it has drawn a wide­spread crit­i­cism not only do­mes­ti­cally but from around the world which looks at this US spon­sored and main­tained fa­cil­ity in Cuba as a sym­bol of US in­jus­tice and tor­ture.

Even to­day, one finds no pol­icy change or ex­pla­na­tion of how long this fa­cil­ity will be main­tained? All one gets to see is a Pres­i­dent Trump signed ex­ec­u­tive or­der that di­rects the Pen­tagon to ‘main­tain and con­tinue to use the prison on the Cuban soil.’ Most re­fer to Guan­tanamo as a ‘ faith-based prison’ and the ba­sis of ad­mis­sion to this fa­cil­ity is not in­dul­gence in the act of ter­ror­ism by any­one but in­dul­gence in such acts by a par­tic­u­lar com­mu­nity or faith.

A quick look at the per­cent­age of in­mates be­ing kept there at one time suf­fi­ciently ex­plains the point. Of all the de­tainees at Guan­tanamo, Afghans were the largest group (29 per­cent) fol­lowed by Saudi Ara­bia (17 per­cent), Ye­me­nis (15 per­cent) Pak­ista­nis (9 per­cent) and Al­ge­ri­ans (3 per­cent). All these pris­on­ers were not cap­tured by the Amer­i­cans but most of them were cap­tured and handed over to the them by the host coun­tries and, in some cases, in ex­change of bounty money that was paid to them. Such means of ex­change and han­dover of pris­on­ers didn’t go well with the lo­cal pop­u­la­tions of the coun­tries of cap­ture where a host of ques­tions were raised in­clud­ing the ques­tion of sovereignty.

Even to­day, sovereignty re­mains a hot topic of dis­cus­sion and the ques­tion

If Guan­tanamo re­mains open and func­tional, the U.S. will con­tinue to draw crit­i­cism for main­tain­ing a ‘faith-based prison’ where it pro­vides no ac­cess to jus­tice to the in­mates.

is asked as to why can’t the host coun­tries try and convict these pris­on­ers and sen­tence them for their al­leged acts of ter­ror­ism? If Guan­tanamo re­mains open and func­tional, the U.S. will con­tinue to draw crit­i­cism for main­tain­ing a ‘faith-based prison’ where it pro­vides no ac­cess to jus­tice to the in­mates. Al­ready some con­tro­ver­sial de­ci­sions by Pres­i­dent Trump, in­clud­ing the de­ci­sion on Mus­lim im­mi­gra­tion and putting some Mus­lim coun­tries on the U.S travel ban list and an­nounc­ing the shift­ing of the US em­bassy from Tele Aviv to Jerusalem are not go­ing well with the Mus­lim world.

While the ma­jor­ity of the pris­on­ers from Guan­tanamo have been re­leased and handed over to their coun­tries, it will only suit the im­age of the U.S., which por­trays it­self as a cham­pion of hu­man rights, to close the prison per­ma­nently. This will help im­prove the im­age of the U.S. as a coun­try which up­holds the univer­sal prin­ci­ples and val­ues of hu­man rights and hu­man dig­nity. As a world leader, the US can only main­tain and take for­ward the world or­der it has cre­ated if it does not vi­o­late the very prin­ci­ples on which this is based. Up­hold­ing hu­man rights is an im­por­tant prin­ci­ple and Guan­tanamo is a fa­cil­ity that un­der­mines that prin­ci­ple. The au­thor is a PhD in in­ter­na­tional re­la­tions with a spe­cial fo­cus on global so­cial is­sues.

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