It is nearly the third birthday of the Guantanamo prison camp built to contain individuals detained by the US in their "war on terror". The location of the camp is in itself interesting. Despite being run by the US it is located in Cuba, one of the few remaining Communist states, and a member of Bush´s "axis of evil". Cuba was also the site of the worlds first concentration camp - set up by the Spanish in the 1890´s.
The existence of this prison is itself an affront to International and Human Rights Laws. The "prisoners" have never been charged with a crime, or attended any sort of court, and can be detained indefinitely. The prison was founded outside US territory to avoid the restrictions which would have been imposed by the US constitution. The only person with the power to decide the fate of these unfortunate individuals is the President, George Bush.
Some would argue that the prisoners are terrorists, and do not deserve the same rights as the rest of us. I completely reject this argument. Even if I accepted that a "terrorist" has no human rights (which I do not), how do you prove who is and who is not a terrorist without any investigation or trial? What if you are wrong?
A French prisoner currently interned in Guantanamo prison camp noted in one of the few uncensored postcards to leave the facility "you don´t have the right to have rights."
There are approximately 660 detainees still in Guantanamo. The US has never explained why each individual has been detained. They are all described as "enemy combatants", which would place their care under the Geneva Convention (for the care and treatment of prisoners of war). Yet the US has refused these captives the rights guaranteed under the Geneva Convention by arguing that they are not soldiers, but illegal combatants. However, these individuals are not treated in accordance with criminal law as none of them have been formally charged!
Those who have been released from this prison have confirmed that they were only interviewed for a few minutes before being taken to the prison. Others were not even interviewed. Some are sure they were only seized because they spoke English. There are also many reports that the whiter your skin, the better the treatment in Guantanamo. American soldiers are accused of unnecessary use of restraints, with one (now released) detainee noting "They had tied up my hands so tight that for two months I couldn´t use my right hand." Sleep deprivation and solitary confinement are also applied in a routine way that breaches every legal code on Earth.
All of the prisoners forcibly had their beards removed. It was argued that this was because they had picked up lice. If this is true, it merely shows that none of these people were kept in conditions fit for human habitation. It is more likely that this (like the sleep deprivation and solitary confinement) was intended to cause distress and de-humanise the captives, and is reminiscent of the treatment of Jewish detainees at the hands of the Nazis. I believe my cynicism is justified and supported by the fact that when being transported to the camp, many confirm that they were told they were being taken home!
When the prisoners were not in solitary confinement, they were not allowed to speak or call to prayer. "I tried to pray and four or five commandos came and they beat me up. If someone would try to make a call for prayer they would beat him up and gag him. After one-and-a-half months, we went on hunger strike." The US authorities admit hunger strikes have occurred, and that force feeding has been used to combat them. However, it seems that conditions improved as a result of these tactics resulted in the no talking ban being lifted.