January 15, 2005
By Mary Shaw
Recent news reports indicate that the U.S. government is preparing
to hold terror suspects indefinitely without trial, replacing the
Guantanamo Bay prison camp with a permanent facility currently referred
to as Camp 6.
These reports suggest that the Bush administration is seeking to
extend indefinitely its misguided policies regarding the illegal
detention and ill-treatment of terror suspects. This must not be
tolerated. The US government must immediately end its practice of
denying basic human rights to detainees.
The "war on terror" can only be won through full respect for human
dignity and the rule of law. However, over the past three years,
Guantanamo has become an icon of lawlessness. As it stands now,
most of the 550 people detained at Guantanamo remain held without
charge or trial, and without access to any court or legal counsel.
These detainees are being denied their rights under international
law and held in conditions which reports indicate may amount to
cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment.
Interrogation techniques authorized for use at Guantanamo have
included stress positions, isolation, hooding, sensory deprivation,
and the use of dogs. Among the abuses reported by FBI agents are
the cruel and prolonged use of shackling, and the use of loud music
and strobe lights. They have also reported witnessing the use of
dogs to intimidate detainees; yet military officials, including
those involved in earlier investigations, have previously given
assurances that no dogs have been used in this way at the naval
None of the detainees have been granted prisoner of war status
nor brought before a "competent tribunal" to determine their status,
as required by Article 5 of the Third Geneva Convention. The US
government refuses to clarify their legal status, despite calls
from the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) to do so.
Instead, the Bush administration labels them "enemy combatants"
or "terrorists", flouting their right to be presumed innocent and
illegally presuming justification for the denial of many of their
most basic human rights.
Despite these blanket allegations, several detainees have been
released from the base without charge. No compensation has been
offered for the many months they were illegally detained at Guantanamo.
President Bush has made it a mantra of his time in office that
the US is committed to the rule of law and the "non- negotiable
demands of human dignity." The US government's own National Security
Strategy and National Strategy for Combating Terrorism stress that
respect for such standards must be central to the pursuit of security.
The administration's policy in Guantanamo, like the Abu Ghraib prison
in Iraq, is now a notorious symbol of its failure to live up to
These practices must not be made permanent. The US government must
take immediate measures to establish policies and procedures that
will end the legal limbo of all detainees, ensure that all those
held are charged and given fair trials or released, and guarantee
that they are treated humanely, in accordance with international
After all, surely we would want nothing less for any of our own
US citizens who might be detained by enemy forces.
Mary Shaw is a Philadelphia-based writer and activist. She currently
serves as Philadelphia Area Coordinator for Amnesty International,
and her views on politics, human rights, and social justice issues
have appeared in numerous online forums and in newspapers and magazines
worldwide. E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.