“Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man’s character, give him power.” Abraham Lincoln

Gitmo, 150 Totally Innocent People.

with 6 comments

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 fact, the Americans went so far as to enshrine many of these rights in the fifth and sixth amendments to the US Constitution:

“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.

Rendition is the polite expression for forced travel and torture.

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.

Written by modernityblog

25/04/2011 at 04:21

6 Responses

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  1. Mod, starting in 1942 my movernment held, without trial, hundreds of thousands of Axis citizens. Was this a violation of the 5th and 6th amendments of the Constitution?


    25/04/2011 at 11:44

  2. It is worth looking at the files published, so far, on the Britons held in Gitmo. They suggest that however wrong their treatment is/was at the hands of the US, we also need to face some hard facts about the Britons held there.

    Namely that quite a few of them are not very nice men at all. Even the Guardian is forced to admit that Shaker Aamer appears to have been captured in the retreat from Tora Borah – not exactly the sort of place you go to for a Club 18-30 holiday. Would he be on your ‘totally innocent’ list?

    Secondly those who believe every Briton arrested in Af-PAk was there to learn a new language/build a girls school/receive treatment for drug addiction appear more than a tad gullible.

    Would I be right in guessing there are a few nervous people today in Cage Prisoners and Amensty International circles, at the revelations that may be yet to come?

    Paul Stott

    25/04/2011 at 15:24

  3. I have read some WW2 history, but you’ll have to remind me where the US kidnapped and tortured Axis citizens, then moved them half way across the world, finally leaving them banged up (without full PoW status) for nine years….I can’t remember that happening…I can’t remember anyone justifying it….


    25/04/2011 at 15:29

  4. Paul,

    Welcome 🙂

    Nowhere did I say that all of them were innocent, merely that they should be given a trial.

    I specifically noted that at least 150 were innocent, and locking up children and demented old men is hardly a worthwhile cause.

    From what I’ve heard about 250+ may have been hardcore Jihadist, which is about a third of the total, not strikingly good for the cost and effort, plus the fact of torturing a lot of them.

    Again, I don’t believe that kidnapping people taking them halfway around the world, torturing them and banging them up in a hole is hardly a shining example of the Enlightenment and the ideas that it embodied!


    25/04/2011 at 15:48

  5. On that I think we can agree!

    Paul Stott

    25/04/2011 at 19:48

  6. […] hadn’t realised it but apparently there is a lot of bickering behind the recent leaks on Gitmo: “The fight over who had what when, and was supposed to use it how, is leading […]

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