Violation of human rights: Obama considering options to close Guantanamo!
-Dr. Abdul Ruff
On November 04 the White House said that President Barack Obama will use “every element of his authority” to push forward the closing of the disgraceful military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, if Congress does not cooperate in this regard.
White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest told reporters at a daily news briefing here: “What I’m simply doing is suggesting we would like to work with Congress where we can, but if Congress continues to refuse, I wouldn’t rule out the President using every element of his authority to make progress”.
While stressing the White House hopes to close the prison in a timely manner, Earnest said that the US president believes this is a priority and the president is determined to make progress on this.
Obama vowed to close Guantanamo Bay Detention Camp, where 112 detainees “suspected” of terrorism are kept, amid mounting concern about human rights abuses committed by US personnel against detainees, before he leaves office in 2017. Members of Congress have blocked the move.
What exactly is Guantanamo Bay?
The Guantanamo Bay detention camp is a United States military prison located within Guantanamo Bay Naval Base in Cuba also referred to as Guantanamo, G-bay or GTMO (pronounced ‘gitmo’), which fronts on Guantánamo Bay in Cuba, Latin America. At the time of its establishment in January 2002, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld said the prison camp was established to detain what they see as “extraordinarily” dangerous people, to interrogate detainees in an optimal setting, and to prosecute detainees for war crimes.
The Periodic Report is significant as the first official response of the US government to allegations that prisoners are mistreated in Guantánamo Bay. Most cruel torture methods are employed and effects of “coercive management techniques” for possible use on prisoners, including “sleep deprivation”, “prolonged constraint” (also known as “stress positions”), and “exposure” are horrid. In “Whose God Rules?” David McColgin, a defense attorney for Guantanamo detainees, recounts how a female government interrogator told Muslim detainees she was menstruating, “slipped her hand into her pants and pulled it out with a red liquid smeared on it meant to look like menstrual blood. The detainee screamed at the top of his lungs, began shaking, sobbing, and yanked his arms against his handcuffs. The interrogator explained to the detainee that he would now feel too dirty to pray and that she would have the guards turn off the water in his cell so he would not be able to wash the red substance off. ‘What do you think your brothers will think of you in the morning when they see an American woman’s menstrual blood on your face?’ she said as she left the cell.” These acts, as well as interrogators desecrating the Holy Quran, led the detainees to riots and mass suicide attempts.
The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) inspected the camp in June 2004. In a confidential report issued in July 2004 and leaked to The New York Times in November 2004, Red Cross inspectors accused the U.S. military of using “humiliating acts, solitary confinement, temperature extremes, use of forced positions” against prisoners. Amnesty International said the apparent suicides “are the tragic results of years of arbitrary and indefinite detention” and called the prison “an indictment” of the George W. Bush administration’s human rights record. Saudi Arabia’s state-sponsored Saudi Human Rights group blamed the USA for the deaths. “There are no independent monitors at the detention camp so it is easy to pin the crime on the prisoners.
As military doctors discard their professional ethics and manipulate things to suit the Pentagon arguments to torture the innocent people caught as terrorists, prisoners have alleged ongoing torture, sexual degradation, forced drugging and religious persecution being committed by US forces at Guantánamo BayIn 2005, it was reported that sexual methods were allegedly used by female interrogators to break Muslim prisoners. In a leaked 2007 cable, a State Department official requested an interview of a released Libyan national complaining of an arm disability and tooth loss that happened during his detainment and interrogations. In May 2013, detainees undertook a widespread hunger strike. They are being force fed. During the month of Ramadan that year, the US military claimed that the amount of detainees on hunger strike had dropped from 106 to 81. However, according to defense attorney Clive Stafford Smith, “The military are cheating on the numbers as usual. Some detainees are taking a token amount of food as part of the traditional breaking of the fast at the end of each day in Ramadan, so that is now conveniently allowing them to be counted as not striking. In 2014, the Obama administration undertook a “rebranding effort” by referring to the hunger strikes as “long term non-religious fasting.
Many of the released prisoners have complained of enduring beatings, sleep deprivation, prolonged constraint in uncomfortable positions, prolonged hooding, sexual and cultural humiliation, forced injections, and other physical and psychological mistreatment during their detention in Camp Delta.
The US Department of Defense at first kept secret the identity of the individuals held in Guantanamo, but, after losing attempts to defy a Freedom of Information Act request from the Associated Press, the USA would later officially acknowledge holding 779 men and boys in the camp. The facility is operated by the Joint Task Force Guantanamo (JTF-GTMO) of the United States government in Guantanamo Bay Naval Base. Detainment areas consisted of Camp Delta (including Camp Echo), Camp Iguana, and Camp X-Ray (which is now closed).
USA detained as many Muslims as possible as “terrorists” as part of its project of terrorization of humanity. By November 2005, 358 of the then-505 detainees held at Guantanamo Bay had Administrative Review Board hearings. Of these, 3% were granted and were awaiting release, 20% were to be transferred, 37% were to be further detained at Guantanamo, and no decision had been made in 40% of the cases. Of two dozen Uyghur detainees at Guantanamo Bay, The Washington Post reported on 25 August 2005, fifteen were found not to be “enemy combatants. Although cleared of terrorism, these Uyghurs remained in detention at Guantanamo because the United States refused to return them to China, fearing that China would “imprison, persecute or torture them” because of internal political issues. US officials said that their overtures to approximately 20 countries to grant the individuals asylum had been declined, leaving the men with no destination for release.
On 5 May 2006, five Chinese Uyghurs were transported to refugee camps in Albania, and the Department of Justice filed an “Emergency Motion to Dismiss as Moot” on the same day One of the Uyghurs’ lawyers characterized the sudden transfer as an attempt “to avoid having to answer in court for keeping innocent men in jail. In August 2006, Murat Kurnaz, a German legal resident born in Germany, was released from Guantánamo, with no charges after having been held for five years.
The Supreme Court in Hamdan v. Rumsfeld did not require that members of al Qaeda or their allies, including members of the Taliban, must be granted POW status. The Supreme Court stated that the Geneva Conventions, most notably the Third Geneva Convention and Article 3 of the Fourth Geneva Convention (requiring humane treatment), applies to all detainees in the War on Terror.
After Bush political appointees at the US Office of Legal Counsel, Department of Justice advised the Bush government that the Guantanamo Bay detention camp could be considered outside US legal jurisdiction, military guards took the first twenty detainees to Guantanamo on 11 January 2002. The White House asserted that detainees were not entitled to any of the protections of the Geneva Conventions and they could be cruelly treated. No information is shared with the world about the murders and ill-treatment methods at the US prison abroad.
Ensuing US Supreme Court decisions since 2004 have determined otherwise and that the courts have jurisdiction: it ruled in Hamdan v. Rumsfeld on 29 June 2006, that detainees were entitled to the minimal protections listed under Common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions. Following this, on 7 July 2006, the Department of Defense issued an internal memo stating that detainees would, in the future, be entitled to protection under Common Article 3. However even this minimal legal position is at variance from the cruel reality in treatment.
In May 2007, Martin Scheinin, a United Nations rapporteur on rights in countering terrorism, released a preliminary report for the United Nations Human Rights Council. The report stated the United States violated international law, particularly the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, that the Bush Administration could not try such prisoners as enemy combatants in a military tribunal and could not deny them access to the evidence used against them. Prisoners have been labeled “illegal” or “unlawful enemy combatants,” but several observers such as the Center for Constitutional Rights and Human Rights Watch maintain that the United States has not held the Article 5 tribunals required by the Geneva Conventions. Some others have argued in favor of a summary execution of all unlawful combatants without trials, using Ex parte Quirin as the precedent, a case during World War II that upheld the use of military tribunals for eight German saboteurs caught on US soil while wearing civilian clothes.
Current and former detainees have reported abuse and torture, which the Bush administration denied. In a 2005 Amnesty International report, the facility was called the “Gulag of our times.” In 2006, the United Nations called unsuccessfully for the Guantanamo Bay detention camp to be closed. In January 2009, Susan J. Crawford, appointed by Bush to review DoD practices used at Guantanamo Bay and oversee the military trials, became the first Bush government official to concede that torture occurred at Guantanamo Bay on one detainee.
On 22 January 2009, President Barack Obama issued a request to suspend proceedings at Guantanamo military commission for 120 days and to shut down the detention facility that year. On 29 January 2009, a fanatic military judge at Guantanamo rejected the White House request in the case of Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, creating an unexpected challenge for the White House as it reviewed how the United States brings Guantanamo detainees to trial. On 20 May 2009, the United States Senate passed an amendment to the Supplemental Appropriations Act of 2009 (H.R. 2346) by a 90–6 vote to block funds needed for the transfer or release of prisoners held at the Guantanamo Bay detention camp. President Obama issued a Presidential memorandum dated 15 December 2009, ordering Thomson Correctional Center, Thomson, Illinois to be prepared to accept transferred Guantanamo prisoners.
The Final Report of the Guantanamo Review Task Force, dated 22 January 2010, published the results for the 240 detainees subject to the Review: 36 were the subject of active cases or investigations; 30 detainees from Yemen were designated for “conditional detention” due to the poor security environment in Yemen; 126 detainees were approved for transfer; 48 detainees were determined “too dangerous to transfer but not feasible for prosecution”.
On 7 January 2011, President Obama signed the 2011 Defense Authorization Bill, which, in part, placed restrictions on the transfer of Guantanamo prisoners to the mainland or to foreign countries, thus impeding the closure of the facility. In February 2011, US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates said that Guantanamo Bay was unlikely to be closed, due to opposition in the Congress. Congress particularly opposed moving prisoners to facilities in the United States for detention or trial.
In April 2011, Wikileaks began publishing 779 secret files relating to prisoners in the Guantanamo Bay detention camp. As of October 2015, 112 detainees remain at Guantanamo. Problems have been created for the Wikileaks in revealing more facts about the prison atrocities. Israeli Mossad shares “intelligence” with Pentagon to continue the torture methods.
The United States assumed territorial control over the southern portion of Guantánamo Bay under the 1903 Cuban–American Treaty. The United States exercises complete jurisdiction and control over this territory, while recognizing that Cuba retains ultimate sovereignty. The current government of Cuba regards the U.S. presence in Guantánamo Bay as illegal and insists the Cuban–American Treaty was obtained by threat of force and is in violation of international law. Some legal scholars judge that the lease may be voidable.
President Obama’s declared decision to close the torture program at Guantanamo does make sense. But the US presidents are controlled by many sources and generally don’t try to overcome the obstacles to establish the truth and deliver justice to affected people. It appears Obama’s announcement of his intention to close down the prison cell seems to be a political move to gain advantage for the Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton for the presidency poll next year and most likely he may not be fully committed to that goal and hence Guantanamo Bay would not close it down so easily because the military enjoy torture methods.
However, one hopes the torture prison at Guantanamo Bay would be shut down at the earliest.