Sunday, June 05, 2005

Amnesty International: Independent Human Rights Organization Needs to Investigate Gitmo

From Reuters:

"Despite highly publicized charges of U.S. mistreatment of prisoners at Guantanamo, the head of the Amnesty International USA said on Sunday the group doesn't 'know for sure' that the military is running a 'gulag.'

Executive Director William Schulz said Amnesty, often cited worldwide for documenting human rights abuses, also had no information about whether Secretary Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld approved severe torture methods such as beatings and starvation.

Schulz recently dubbed Rumsfeld an 'apparent high-level architect of torture' in asserting he approved interrogation methods that violated international law.

'It would be fascinating to find out. I have no idea,' Schulz told 'Fox News Sunday.'

A weeks-long dispute has raged since Amnesty compared the prison for foreign terrorism suspects at the U.S. naval base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, to the vast, brutal Soviet gulag system of forced labor camps in which millions of prisoners died.

There have been a number of accusations of American mistreatment of the detainees and of the Koran, the Islamic holy book, at the base.

Schulz went on to say that 'We don't know for sure what is happening at Guantananmo and our whole point is that the United States ought to allow an independent human rights organization to investigate.'

Uh, huh. The reason why Amnesty can only characterize Guantanamo as a 'gulag' rather than definitively say either way is because the White House and the Pentagon restrict the access of independent human rights organizations to the prison. And why have the Bushies restricted access to the prison? Because when independent human rights organizations get the opportunity to see what is actually happening, they hammer the Bush Administration for human rights violations. Take this dispatch from the BBC on October 10, 2003 as an example:

"A top Red Cross official has broken with tradition by publicly attacking conditions at the US military base on Cuba where al-Qaeda suspects are being held.

Christophe Girod - the senior Red Cross official in Washington - said it was unacceptable that the 600 detainees should be held indefinitely at Guantanamo Bay without legal safeguards.

The Red Cross is the only organisation with access to the detainees.

His criticism came as a group of American former judges, diplomats and military officers called on the US Supreme Court to examine the legality of holding the foreign nationals for almost two years, without trial, charge or access to lawyers.

Mr Girod said the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) was making the unusually blunt public statement because of a lack of action after previous private contacts with American officials.

'One cannot keep these detainees in this pattern, this situation, indefinitely,' he said during a visit to the US naval base where the Taleban and al-Qaeda suspects are being held. "

Or this from the NY Times on November 30, 2004:

ABSTRACT - International Committee of Red Cross charges in confidential reports to United States government that American military has intentionally used psychological and sometimes physical coercion 'tantamount to torture' on prisoners at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba; report follows monthlong visit to Guantanamo by Red Cross inspection team last June; it claims some doctors and other medical workers at Guantanamo participated in planning for interrogations, calling this 'flagrant violation of medical ethics'; Bush administration and military officials sharply reject report's charges; Red Cross has been conducting visits to Guantanamo since Jan 2002; this is first time it has asserted in such strong terms that treatment of detainees, both physical and psychological, amounts to torture; report says methods used on prisoners in latest visit are 'more refined and repressive' than those seen on previous visits; cites as examples 'humiliating acts, solitary confinement, temperature extremes, use of forced positions'.

Or this from Human Rights Watch:

"Each day brings more information about the appalling abuses inflicted upon men and women held by the United States in Iraq, Afghanistan, and elsewhere around the world. U.S. forces have used interrogation techniques including hooding, stripping detainees naked, subjecting them to extremes of heat, cold, noise and light, and depriving them of sleep—in violation of the Geneva Conventions and the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment. This apparently routine infliction of pain, discomfort, and humiliation has expanded in all too many cases into vicious beatings, sexual degradation, sodomy, near drowning, and near asphyxiation. Detainees have died under questionable circumstances while incarcerated."

So why would either the White House or the Pentagon allow access to Guantanamo Bay prison or Abu Ghraib or Bagram or any of the other prison facilities we use in Bush's so-called War on Terror when that access will only lead to further embarrassing revelations of torture, abuse, humiliation, and murder?

Nope. We'll get no" real" access for independent human rights organizations to the prisons at Gitmo, Iraq, or Afghanistan until somebody with subpoena power forces these bastards at the White House and the Pentagon to open up the prisons and shine some light on their torture practices there. The only hope is for the American electorate to return either the Senate or the House to the Democrats and give them some subpoena power.

Unfortunately, I have little faith that the American electorate will do that.

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