Gitmo, 150 Totally Innocent People.
In olden times Kings and despots would invariably imprison their opponents. They would be thrown into a dark dungeon and forgotten about.
More recently in the 17th and 18th centuries the French King would use lettres de cachet to lock up those that annoyed or offended him.
The threat of arbitrary arrest or unfair imprisonment was one of the major grievances with the remnants of feudalism. In modern society, wherever possible, those arrested have certain rights to 1) be treated fairly 2) to know the charges against them 3) to receive a fair trial etc.
“In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial by an impartial jury of the state and district wherein the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favour, and to have the assistance of counsel for his defence.”
Rather commendable and forward thinking when you consider it, not forgetting Miranda.
However, all of these wonderful checks and balances which have developed in America were of little use to the detainees of Guantánamo Bay, or Gitmo as it is known.
Hundreds and hundreds of individuals were captured, kidnapped, many times just simply taken by local police forces or security services then handed over to the CIA (or the equivalent) and moved for rendition somewhere.
It is not quite as catchy as lettres de cachet, but the results are often similar. Instead of a dungeon the detainees would eventually end up in Gitmo, in a legal limbo, unaware of the charges against them and with no legal recourse until recently.
And all of these shameful practices have been going on since 2002, some nine years ago, and we know from recently released documents that at least 150 of the detainees were totally innocent.
The NPR’s take on it, Military Documents Detail Life At Guantanamo.
The NY Times, Classified Files Offer New Insights Into Detainees.
This is the Wikileaks page on it.
The Washington Post’s Interactive graphic tour of Guantanamo Bay.
This is not good, Detainees Transferred Or Freed Despite ‘High Risk’.
Update 1: The Guardian has a good page on Gitmo.