Sunday, February 19, 2006

Detainees Held Without Charge

Just this week the United States released over 400 detainees from among the more than 14,000 being held in Iraq. In the US press the impression given was that this was some sort of benevolence on our part, something for which the detainees and their families could be grateful.

In my judgment, this is emblematic of the controverted logic that pervades this administration. Holding over 400 people for weeks, months or years without charge, with no due process and now, admittedly, erroneously, seems to me to just underscore the fundamental abridgements of human rights of which it is capable. Releasing them now can hardly be interpreted as an act of kindness—it is raw evidence of over 400 acts of injustice.

In Guantanamo Bay the same approach has resulted in experiences so obnoxious and prospects so dire that some 25% of the over 500 held there have engaged in hunger strikes—some so extreme that forced-feeding (another grotesque practice) has been 2used. Imagine people swept up in the post 9/11 fervor, subjected to systematic and highly sophisticated psychological and physical torture, having no charges levied against them and absolutely no conception of how long they might be held. These are indefensible conditions to be perpetrated by a nation that holds itself up as a standard of human rights and due process to the world.

If we are to imprison one single human being, here or anywhere else in the world, on the suspicion of terror activity, that imprisonment must meet the same standards that would apply to any of our own citizens. We cannot continue to demonstrate, day after day, that we think that anyone who is not an American is “less than” and can be treated that way.


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