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Illegal prisons, illegal trials

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posted on Jul, 5 2006 @ 03:36 AM
On June 29th the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the special military tribunals being held by the U.S. government in Guantanamo Bay are illegal, that they have no right to try terror suspects and that trial proceedings break the Geneva Convention. President George W. Bush has gone beyond his powers by establishing these tribunals.

The U.S. have found themselves once again the target of international outrage after three detainees at Guantanamo Bay committed suicide on June 10th. Although he acknowledges that the facility should ultimately close, President Bush is insisting on trialing the hundreds of detainees incarcerated there. Only ten inmates have been charged at this stage, but none have been formally tried. The remaining prisoners wait indefinitely to learn their fate.

A few weeks after the September 11th terrorist attacks, Bush created special overseas military tribunals to try suspected members of Al Qaeda. These tribunals were immediately criticized for their total disregard of defendants' rights, both inside and outside the U.S. As Georgetown Law Professor Neal Katyal pointed out, the four judges (military officers) at the Guantanamo Bay tribunals are selected by the President, without review by Congress. Defendants' rights are not guaranteed therefore these military trials ought to have no authority.

It is reported that defendants are denied access to the evidence put forward by the prosecution (the U.S. Army); they can even submit so-called "secret evidence" and use testimonies extracted under torture. Defendants cannot select their own defense team; they are provided with Pentagon-approved lawyers.

Even more ridiculous is that the Defense Secretary can make the final ruling. Donald Rumsfield said, "No release is guaranteed even if a defendant is finally declared innocent."

Obviously, no one can expect fair and just treatment at such trials, and for those already imprisoned for more than four years, detention without trial means greater despair and helplessness.

According to U.S. juridical tradition, the Supreme Court's ruling on Guantanamo is also applicable to other overseas prisons and special military tribunals. The White House has openly acknowledged the existence of 16 overseas prisons with some 15,000 detainees, all under the control of the U.S. Army. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) pointed out last year about 100 people had died unnatural deaths in these prisons in the last four years.

When it launched the Afghan and Iraqi wars, Washington vowed to bring "freedom" and "democracy" to those two countries. But the U.S. Army slaughtered civilians, abused prisoners and illegally tried prisoners on occupied territory. The US is now being accused and condemned as the enemy of freedom and democracy.

According to the Geneva Convention, all prisoners of war, military or non-military, should be treated humanely. Following the Supreme Court ruling, the White House has to begin treating detainees in Guantanamo, Abu Ghraib and other overseas prisons as POWs or non-military staff, instead of so-called "enemy combat staff". Unable to continue trials, these tribunals may be closed along with the overseas prisons. It may not happen in the short term, but from a long-term perspective the U.S. has to stop illegal trials if it wants pressure from domestic and foreign human rights organizations to ease and to salvage its image overseas.

The U.S. would only invite international opposition and ruin its reputation by seeking hegemony and trampling on international law and human rights under the banner of fighting terror and promoting democracy and freedom. The U.S. government, who has always labeled itself as a human rights safeguard, must end illegal trials and prisons.


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