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Mondo Guantanamo

August 1, 2003

I was just reading this article about how Iraqi scientists continue to deny that Iraq had any WMD programs even after Saddam Hussein is no longer a threat to them, when I came across this paragraph:

After hiring a lawyer, Helma Saadi sent a written request to L. Paul Bremer, the U.S. administrator for Iraq. She did not receive an answer from Bremer to that letter or to one sent more recently. She did receive a response to a letter she sent asking whether her husband could be represented by a lawyer. On June 27, Col. Marc L. Warren of the U.S. Army Judge Advocate General's Corps, assigned to Bremer's office, said her husband's status "is being investigated" under the Geneva Conventions to see whether he is entitled to prisoner of war status or some other category.

Some other category? What the fuck? The Bush administration may have thought they could get away with designating prisoners from the Afghan War in 2002 as "unlawful combatants" for some technical reason (that didn't even comply with the Geneva Convention's definition of a prisoner of war), but what's happened in Iraq has been a War, and Amir Saadi was a part of the government against which that war was waged. Therefore he is a prisoner of war and has the same rights and protections as any other prisoner of war.

I think that the way that the US is trying to wriggle out of it's duty as a civilised western democracy to respect basic human rights is a total disgrace. I think this hypocrisy was highlighted very effectively during the invasion when Donald Rumsfeld (correctly) accused the Iraqis of breaching the Geneva Convention by showing footage of US POWs mere months after the US had broadcast footage of the prisoners at Guantanamo Bay.

No country that claims to value freedom has any place running a hellhole like Guantanamo Bay. The prisoners are held without access to legal representation or indeed any kind of communication with the outside world. They are kept in tiny enclosures and the only person they see with any kind of regularity is their interrogator.

They are to be tried by an unsupervised, unaccountable military tribunal with no independent defence counsel and their judgement and sentencing are issued by fiat from the officer in charge. This tribunal does not have anywhere near the same standards of evidence as any balanced court in a civilised country. The tribunal will accept as evidence unsworn statements, uncorroborated assertations from intelligence agencies and "statements given under duress".

Just think about what that last phrase, "statements given under duress", really means. Especially given that the US has for years been running top torture academy the School of the Americas (now "rebranded" as the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation).

This kind of human rights abuse was one of the three main resons that Bush and Blair gave for going to war on Iraq and deposing Saddam Hussein. In fact, it is the only reason that still even half holds water. Our government could not tolerate such treatment of the Iraqi people at the hands of Saddam Hussein and yet they are now accepting such treatment of British citizens in Guantanamo Bay at the hands of our greatest ally!

In addition to this, our Governemnt has signed an agreement with the Americans which allows the US to request extradition of any British citizen without presenting any evidence whatsoever. There is, of course, no reciprocal agreement. To think that we were led to believe that Blair was buying influence over Bush in reward for his obedience! The only concession that Blair has managed to get for citizens of the UK is a promise not to summarily execute two of them. Great.

It's a great tragedy that the United States of America, for so long a beacon of liberal values and the power of a free society is stooping to the kind of tactics you'd expect from the Husseins and Pinochets of this world. Given that this is the "New American Century", it also worries me what shape the world will be in after the Bush junta has been forced kicking and screaming out of office. Will there even be a Geneva Convention any more? If they can pull out of Kyoto and, more worryingly, SALT, why not the Geneva Convention too? They seem to be doing a good de facto job of pulling out of it so far ...

Posted by Jonah at August 1, 2003 11:04 AM