End Evil

Guantanamo Bay; UN Report

Bush Guantanamo

A leaked UN report into conditions at Guantanamo Bay has called on Bush to shut down the prison, and says treatment of detainees in some cases amounts to torture. The report also questioned the legal validity of intentionally placing the prison outside the jurisdiction of the US courts and said there had been insufficient evidence that the detainees posed a threat to the US. The report confirms that mnay of the techniques used in Guantanamo (extended periods of isolation, exposure to extreme heat or cold, humiliation and force feeding) are banned under the UN Convention against Torture.

Manfred Nowak, one of the UN envoys on torture told the Financial Times newspaper "There are no conclusions that are easily drawn. But we concluded that the situation in several areas violates international law and conventions on human rights and torture." The report focuses on the use of force-feeding in the case of hunger strikes by detainees. The hunger strikers are strapped in restraint chairs for hours and fed laxatives so that they defecate on themselves. Thick plastic tubes are inserted through their nasal passages twice a day to force feed them, causing significant pain and internal bleeding.Thomas Wilner (a lawyer acting for some of the detainees) stated "The government is not doing things to keep them alive. It is really conducting tactics to deprive them of the ability to be on hunger strike because the hunger strike is an embarrassment to them,"

The response

1: The US rejected the report noting that the UN envoys did not visit the camp.

But, the UN has pointed out that that is because the US would not allow them free access to speak to the prisoners.

2: The White House responded by complaining that it was an al-Qaida tactic to complain of abuse, while the Pentagon claimed that there had been no attempts to break a hunger strike with punitive measures alleging that "all detainees at Guantanamo are being treated humanely and are being provided with excellent medical care". The White House then claimed that the force feeding of hunger strikers complied with "accepted international practice" and "is done by medical professionals in a humane way."

However, the International Red Cross guidelines state: "Doctors should never be party to actual coercive feeding. Such actions can be considered a form of torture and under no circumstances should doctors participate in them on the pretext of saving the hunger striker´s life."

3: The White House claimed that "the law of war allows the United States - and any other country engaged in combat - to hold enemy combatants without charges or access to counsel for the duration of hostilities."

But, they are not at war. They have declared both the Afghan War and the Iraq War over. They must mean the "War on Terror" - in which anyone is a target, and no declaration of war or peace treaty is possible. After all, the US actions regularly amount to the application of "terror" - remember "shock and awe". In any case the report rejected the argument and confirmed that "the war on terrorism" did not exempt the U.S. from international conventions on torture and civil and political rights.

4: The US claims that detention is not an act of punishment, but a matter of security. It serves the purpose of preventing combatants from continuing to take up arms against the United States." Presumably if we could just imprison (without trial or any evidence that a crime has been committed) enough people the world would eventually become safer?

The UN report confirmed that there was insufficient evidence that the prisoners were "enemy combatants" and confirmed their opinion that the real reason the US is keeping people prisoner is for interrogation. A report compiled from declassified defence documents confirms that only 8% are listed as fighters from a terrorist group while 60% were merely associated with a terrorist group. 45% of the terror suspects being held at the U.S. prison camp at Guantanamo have not been accused of committing hostile acts against the United States or any of its allies. Only 55% of the detainees have been (informally) accused of committing a hostile act. However, the hostile acts listed included owning a rifle, using a guest house or wearing olive-drab clothing! A mere 10 (out of 750) of the detainees have been formally charged with crimes.

We should be clear that this is not really news, and nothing will change. After all, in 2002 a secret document signed by Bush was leaked to the press. It stated "I determine that none of the provisions of Geneva apply to our conflict with al-Qaida in Afghanistan or elsewhere throughout the world." Perhaps we have it all wrong, and the plan is actually to increase the amount of terror in the world. If so, I think their plan is working beautifully. Their inhumane treatment will really help stir up hatred and distrust and make sure "the war" can go on forever!

Posted 14 February 2006

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