Basically, the "justice system" set in place at Guantánamo Bay allows the president to decide who is an enemy combatants, who should be held indefinitely without being charged with a crime, and define what is and what is not torture and abuse.
There are many human rights concerns. The legal system in place at Guantánamo Bay:
- Deprives defendants of independent judicial oversight by a civilian court.
- Restricts the defendant’s right to choose his lawyer.
- Prosecutes prisoners-of-war in a manner that violates the 1949 Geneva Conventions.
- Fails to guarantee that evidence obtained via torture or ill-treatment shall not be used.
- Allows wide latitude to close proceedings and impose a “gag order” on defense counsel.
- Provides lower due process standards for non-citizens than for U.S. citizens.
- Prejudges the detainees as “enemy combatants,” thereby keeping the tribunals from making determinations with full independence and impartiality.
Place severe limits on detainees’ ability to make their claims, including denial of assistance of counsel.
- Erroneously adopts the U.S. government position that all enemy combatants at Guantanamo can still be held under the laws of war.
- Does not recognize any legal obligation on the part of the U.S. government to conduct reviews of their detention nor any legal right of the detainees to such a review process.
- Reflects the U.S. government’s assumption that all those detained at Guantanamo are “enemy combatants” and that none are entitled to prisoner-of-war status.
- Assumes, erroneously, that all those held at Guantanamo can be detained under the laws of war; an unknown number of detainees were taken into custody where the laws of arm conflict did not apply.
- Provides for only an annual review when the laws of war require reviews for security detainees at least every six months.
- Places the burden of proof on the detainee to demonstrate why s/he is no longer a threat to the United States.
- Limits the detainee’s access to relevant information.
- Requires family members to provide information through their governments even in cases where doing so would place the family at risk.
The image above is of detainees upon arrival in January 2002
On an international note, Guantánamo Bay is an abomination of American values and continues to shame our country. Detainees have been held for years without fundamental legal and human rights. Even former Secretary of State Colin Powell has spoken out against Guantánamo Bay, “we have shaken the belief the world had in America’s justice system by keeping a place like Guantánamo open and creating things like the military commission.”
Because justice is almost entirely about activism, here are some things you can do: