Friday, February 27, 2009

Update - A Few More Perspectives on GITMO

The Christian Science Monitor has an interesting article on what legal standards are rightfully binding on the prison at Guantanamo. To excerpt from the article here:

"Setting the stage for that anticipated policy debate, Mr. Obama issued an executive order last month directing the Pentagon to determine whether detainees at Guantánamo were being held 'in conformity with all applicable laws governing conditions of confinement.'

Adm. Patrick Walsh, the vice chief of naval operations, conducted a 13-day investigation and compiled an 81-page report. He announced his findings in a press conference on Monday. 'After considerable deliberation and a comprehensive review, it is our judgment that the conditions of confinement in Guantánamo are in conformity with Common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions,' Admiral Walsh said."


"According to the report, the Walsh team 'reviewed' the Geneva Convention on Prisoners of War and the Geneva Convention on Civilians. But there is no discussion of whether those laws were deemed applicable – or inapplicable – to the review of conditions at Guantánamo.

Some legal experts say that detainees who fought alongside the Taliban are entitled to the full protections of the Geneva Conventions and that others picked up as civilians should qualify for a higher level of protection than the bare minimum of Common Article 3."


"Mr. Kassem has been urging Pentagon officials to embrace a broader perspective on the legal restrictions that apply at Guantánamo. 'Conditions at Guantanamo are subject to both international law and US law, including the US Constitution,' he wrote in a Feb. 10 letter to Defense Department officials. 'US obligations under international law – both international law of war and international human rights law – are not limited to Common Article 3.'

Diane Marie Amann, an international law and military law expert at the University of California, Davis, School of Law, agrees. 'There are any number of laws that may apply,' she says.

'When the president said "all applicable laws,"' he meant that there should be an exhaustive review of all applicable laws," Professor Amann says. 'That would mean laws like the main Geneva Conventions, customary international law, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and any federal rules with regard to custody.'" [emphasis supplied]

Consider again that President Obama was voted in to change all this - to abandon the Bush way of thinking and fighting terrorism. The CCR has reported that conditions have worsened - as have the lawyers who defend the inmates at Guantanamo. This isn't just fantasy, or taking the word of the detainees there. Abuse leaves marks that a doctor can see - if someone's knee, shoulder, and thumb have been dislocated by guards, who can argue?

When presented with that kind of evidence, an investigation into abuse should be ordered. You install a process by which you find out the truth of such allegations. Especially in light of Obama's executive orders, the detainees deserve at least the ability to complain about abuse and have it actually investigated. Even better would be the sense that this investigation was public and available to the world, instead of lost in the shadows of Guantanamo. Did the detainee to this to himself? Of course it's possible. But wouldn't you want to know how the f*ck a man dislocated his knee, shoulder, and thumb?

Meanwhile, the AG Eric Holder had a very successful and of course pleasant trip to Guantanamo. For some reason...gosh, I can't imagine why...he didn't get the memo that conditions have worsened:

"Attorney General Eric Holder, just back from his first trip to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, said Wednesday he is still determined to carry out President Barack Obama's order to close the prison, but admitted he was 'impressed by the people,' and said 'the facilities are good ones.'

Attorney General Eric Holder said he didn't witness any prisoner mistreatment during his trip.

Holder's positive assessment of 'professionalism' at the prison was in distinct contrast to claims by many critics who charge Guantanamo Bay stands as a world-wide symbol of the alleged U.S. mistreatment of enemy combatants.

'I did not witness any mistreatment of prisoners. I think to the contrary I saw a conscious attempt by those guards to conduct themselves in an appropriate way,' Holder told reporters."

Rah rah rah! Oh happy day, the DoJ agrees with the DoD. Holder evinces concern for conducting the process of determining each detainee's status - but what about the actual conditions of the prison? What about establishing a new type of prison, in which abuse is investigated and conditions are actually improved? There is no official curiosity about that whatsoever, and no signs the Obama administration will take steps to monitor and crack down on abuse.

Think about who you're holding and how you are holding them. Guantanamo is yours now, Obama. Do you want history to look back and say that the last year at Guantanamo was just like the years before? Such a verdict is already developing.

Update: Candace at Guantanamo Blog reports some improvements that ought to be appreciated:

"The horrors of Guantanamo and the treatment of these men needs to be examined
and the people responsible need to be held accountable... but the fact remains
that change is taking place... and it is a welcome change.For the first time in
more than two years my client Al-Ghizzawi is allowed to sit around and just
shoot the shit with the other men in camp 6. For the first time in seven years
he can actually sit and watch a movie and read a real newspaper (well except for
the fact that he can't see anymore ...but lets not go there). For the first time
in more than two years he can spend time totally outside camp 6, where he can
see the trees, mountains, sun. And that is because Obama announced that a team
was coming in to inspect.... and the military knew that it better get its
collective ass in gear... Obama has begun the process of fixing things and we
must encourage and demand the continuation of that process.Yeah, I want to see
the people responsible for this criminal enterprise prosecuted. But right now
what I really want to see is Mr. Al-Ghizzawi and the other men start to heal.
Socialization, nature, a semblance of normality will start the healing
process...... and for that I am grateful.I for one will focus my energy on
encouraging the change that must happen to help the men at Guantanamo... later I
will go after the criminals with a vengeance."

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