End Of Guantanamo, Beginning Of The Search For Justice

by dday

The whole point of the Guantanamo prison was to create a space not on US soil that the Administration could make the case was not subject to the auspices of US law. As emptywheel notes, that is now inoperative. The SCOTUS ruling stating that prisoners at Gitmo have habeas rights under the Constitution to challenge their detention eliminates any need for the prison compound.

The deciding issues for Gitmo are that the US has control over the territory of the Gitmo base, as well as complete control of the detainees. The ruling, Gutierrez said, left open that Habeas would apply to detainees held elsewhere, but does not do that explicitly. The CCR attorneys on the call did say that the ruling prevented the government from creating "law-free zones" in which they rule, but without the rule of law.

There's still a lot that's up in the air, like where these habeas hearings would be heard and how the government will react (maybe by starting massive usage of military commissions to charge prisoners), but the ruling on Guantanamo is clear. It's unnnecessary.

Sadly, that revelation comes too late for most of those held there.

Over two-thirds of the detainees in the Guantanamo Bay prison are suffering from or at risk of mental problems because they are kept isolated in small cells with little light or fresh air, according to Human Rights Watch.

In a report entitled "Locked Up Alone: Detention Conditions and Mental Health at Guantanamo," the group says 185 of the 270 detainees at the U.S. military prison for terrorism suspects are housed in facilities similar to "supermax" prisons.

They spend 22 hours alone in cramped cells, have very limited contact with other human beings and are given little more than the Koran to occupy themselves, said the report, which is based interviews with government officials and attorneys.

Detainees held in this manner include many that have not been charged with crimes and have already been cleared for release or transfer, according to the report.

There's also a report out today of an inmate at Guantanamo being tortured with a knife.

The U.S. government has photographic evidence that a Guantanamo Bay inmate was tortured with a knife after being taken to Morocco by U.S. forces, a British human rights group said Tuesday.

Reprieve said their client, Binyam Mohamed, had his genitals slashed repeatedly with a doctor's scalpel while in custody in Morocco after he was flown there from Pakistan by American officials in 2002. It also said his U.S. captors later took pictures of the abuse to show authorities that his wounds were healing.

It's really not enough to mount a campaign to end the practice of torture in a future Administration, although that is of course important. There needs to be continued investigations into how this started and who was responsible, and those responsible absolutely must be brought to justice. John Ashcroft, John Yoo, William Haynes, David Addington and Doug Feith all will be sitting before Congressional committees in the next few weeks. Whether it's through the appointment of a special counsel in an Obama Administration, or tracking down anyone involved with authorizing torture when they go abroad and can be charged under international war crimes statutes, justice must out. A truth and reconciliation commission is the best method, but whatever the case, those who betrayed American values and shamed themselves through their actions cannot be allowed to drift free, only to crop up in some successive Republican White House. As Richard Clarke put it:

I just don't think we can let these people back into polite society and give them jobs on university boards and corporate boards and just let - - pretend that nothing ever happened when there are 4,000 American dead and 25,000 Americans grievously wounded. And they will carry those wounds and suffer all the rest of their lives.

UPDATE: In a stunning reversal, Bush has said he will abide by the court's ruling. He added, in his inimitable temper-tantrum way, "That doesn't mean I have to agree with it." There's also a suggestion of "new legislation to protect the American people." Let's sit back and see if the Democratic leadership gets fooled again.