In the CBS "Sixty Minutes" broadcast that airs November 3rd, a Guantanamo prisoner is heard to cry out, "Tell the world the truth!" and "Let the world hear what is happening."
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The truth is that President Obama has broken his 2008 pledge to shut Guantanamo down as it has become infamous as a synonym for injustice and torture---torture that is continuing today under President Obama. But there is more to it than that. No president who is serious about democracy would allow hundreds of prisoners to rot behind bars year after year, some for a decade now, without adjudicating their cases.
In response to the following article, distinguished international legal authority Professor Francis Boyle of the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, has called for the arrest and imprisonment of former President George W. Bush and President Obama. His statement in full appears at the end of this article.
Consider that these prisoners were not taken together after some defeat on the battlefield, as German soldiers surrendered en masse to the Russians at Stalingrad. On the contrary, they were taken off city streets and country roads around the world singly or in twos and threes, and flown to Guantanamo presumably because the U.S. had indisputable evidence to convict them of terrorism.
You would think that the U.S. had researched each case thoroughly and had overwhelming proof of terrorist conduct. Far from it! One man was kidnapped because he had a couple of automatic weapons in his house, common in Afghanistan. Imagine the furor that would cause if an American gun owner was kidnapped, say, by China, under similar circumstances! Ordering the release of five Algerians, in Oct., 2008, District Court Judge Richard Leon commented, "To allow enemy combatancy to rest on so thin a reed would be inconsistent with this court's obligation."
If they were, as former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld characterized them, "the worst of the worst," why were so few of them ever prosecuted? And how did Rumsfeld know they were "the worst of the worst" unless he had dossiers to support that description? Indeed, in June, 2004, The New York Times reported that of nearly 600 detainees in Guantanamo not more than 24 were tied to Al-Qaeda.
Considering that the U.S. claimed there was sufficient evidence to arrest and imprison them, why were they not tried promptly? Why did their American jailers try to trick them into talking to men they were told were their court-appointed lawyers but who were in fact working for their jailers? Was it to get some evidence against those they had none to begin with? And why were legitimate lawyers unable to represent their clients fairly? Lt. Col. Colby Vokey, a Marine lawyer assigned to a military commission case in 2005, told McClatchy News, "You had no idea what law was applicable, if any."
And why were a majority of those tried unable to call witnesses from their homelands? And why were the trials, when held, stacked against them? "The detainee has limited means to find or present evidence to challenge the government's case, does not have the assistance of counsel and may not be aware of the most critical allegations that the government relied upon to order his detention," the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in June, 2008. "His opportunity to confront witnesses is likely to be more theoretical than real, given that there are no limits on the admission of hearsay." The Court also warned there was "considerable risk of error" in the proceedings and detainees might be held for "a generation or more" on the basis of error.
Hear the words of Judge Royce Lamberth who in Sept., 2012, said the government has no right to deny counsel access to detainees; he concluded "The government sought "final, unreviewable power to delay, hinder or prevent access to the courts." Lamberth added, "The government's actions thus far demonstrate that it cannot be trusted with such power." So the miscarriage that was begun under President Bush continued under President Obama.
An eight-month-long investigation by McClatchy concluded, "detainees appearing before the military tribunals had little chance of receiving evenhanded hearings." McClatchy found "the tribunals consistently failed to distinguish hard-core international terrorists from low-level fighters and innocents."
Consider this: By Dec., 2009, the U.S. had freed 550 "worst of the worst" detainees, a majority of them, to 37 countries ranging from Albania to Turkey, and including Denmark, Egypt, France, Portugal, Sweden and Yemen. By 2009 only 126 remained. If so few qualified as terrorists, doesn't that strongly suggest the entire war on terror is a sham?
Also consider this:it is illegal to kidnap people and transport them to a distant country. If the U.S. wanted to arrest a foreigner for a crime, it must first go to a judge in the individual's country, present evidence, and get a warrant of extradition. But this was not done. Thus, each prisoner locked up in Guantanamo represents a crime committed by USA. And every one of them ensnared in this kangaroo "justice" system must be presumed innocent.
Over the years, instead of bringing cases against them, the U.S. gradually allowed more than 500 of the 700+ prisoners to return home. Were they not "the worst of the worst," and, if not, isn't the U.S. guilty of a systematic crime against humanity by imprisoning the innocent? And isn't the fact that so many of them were systematically tortured in Gitmo another crime against humanity? Indeed, much of their sadistic treatment during the Bush regime continues under Obama.
FBI agents assigned to Guantanamo said they were appalled by some of the cruelties inflicted on the captives. Human Rights Watch characterized the abuse of prisoners as cruel and inhuman. The International Red Cross in 2004 found the U.S. to be torturing prisoners. And the UN in 2006 called for Gitmo to be closed.
As hunger striker Abdelhadi Faraj, a Syrian national confined since 2002, wrote in a letter this July: "Despite the long years we the prisoners have spent in this place...the American government does not seem interested in solving the problem. The past few months have been among the harshest lived by the prisoners here. During the Bush years, solutions seemed possible. Under Obama, it seems like there is no will to solve the problem."
Faraj continued, "The military here has used brute force against the hunger strikers. They have beaten us and used rubber-coated bullets and tear gas against us. They have confiscated everything from our cells, from toothbrushes to blankets and books. They have confined us to cold, windowless cells"It isn't unusual for prison guards here to search prisoners' genital parts and their rectum ten times in a single day."
The hunger striker vividly describes the suffering inflicted upon him: "Daily, I am forced into a restraint chair, my arms, legs and chest tied down tight. Big guards grab my head with both hands. I feel like my skull is being crushed. Then, so-called nurses violently push a thick tube down my nostril. Blood rushes out of my nose and mouth. The nurses turn on the feeding solution full throttle. I cannot begin to describe the pain that causes."
The Pentagon has claimed that releasing the Guantanamo prisoners would allow them to fight America in the future. But a report by Seton Hall University Center For Policy & Research uncovers new evidence that reveals, contrary to Mr. Rumsfeld's repeated statements, he was aware no later than April 2003 "that Guantanamo was being used for relatively low-level detainees who posed little threat to the United States and had little intelligence value."
Guantanamo was opened under President George W. Bush yet its operation has been continued under President Obama, a man who, as Commander-in-Chief of the military, could order an immediate end to force feeding of inmates but does not. How low we have sunk since the presidency of Abraham Lincoln who described America as "the last best hope of earth." #
Statement of Professor Francis A. Boyle: "As Commander-in-Chief of U.S. Armed Forces under the United States Constitution, President Obama is personally and criminally responsible for all these atrocities, war crimes and crimes against humanity inflicted upon these Gitmo Arabs and Muslims under the Four Geneva Conventions of 1949, U.S. Army Field Manual 27-10 (1956), the U.S. War Crimes Act of 1996, and other general principles of international criminal law and the laws of war.
There is no Statute of Limitations for these International Crimes. And there is Universal Jurisdiction and an obligation for every state in the world to prosecute these International Crimes. I call upon Lawyers all over the world to track down President Obama wherever he may travel for the rest of his life, get him prosecuted, and put him away in prison for the rest of his life. Ditto for President George Bush Jr."
(Sherwood Ross is a Miami-based publicist and former award-winning reporter who runs a public relations firm that publicizes "worthy books and good causes.")