By Mary Shaw
January 11, 2008, will mark the sixth anniversary of the first arrival of prisoners at Guantanamo Bay.
While some of Gitmo’s residents probably are terrorists who want to kill Americans, we have reason to believe that many others are actually innocent of any ties to terrorism and were simply in the wrong place at the wrong time, or were arrested due to an unfortunate language misinterpretation, or were arbitrarily sold to U.S. troops by bounty hunters.
And, as of this writing, only 10 Gitmo detainees have ever been charged with any crime.
In fact, a study by Seton Hall University found that 55 percent of Gitmo detainees are not determined to have committed any hostile acts against the United States or its coalition allies.
According to the same study, only eight percent were characterized as al-Qaeda fighters. 40 percent of the remaining detainees have no definitive connection with al-Qaeda at all, and 18 percent have no definitive affiliation with either al-Qaeda or the Taliban!
Imagine being an innocent person locked up in a 6.5′ x 8′ cage and mistreated for six years straight — 2,191 days — without charge, and with no real means to challenge your detention or prove your innocence — just an unfair military tribunal system that has been condemned by Amnesty International and other human rights groups as a travesty of justice. But, you see, the Bushies say that the Gitmo detainees are “the worst of the worst” and therefore don’t deserve basic human rights.
In other words, they’re presumed guilty until proven innocent — but they have no opportunity to prove their innocence. Catch-22.
Imagine the helplessness, hopelessness, and despair that the innocent detainees must feel. And think of their families. These innocent detainees are not just numbers; they are fathers, sons, husbands, brothers, uncles, nephews, cousins, and friends. And some of them were just kids when they were arrested.
Congress blessed this horrific system when it passed the Military Commissions Act of 2006, which turned a really bad policy into really bad law.
Congress should be ashamed. And Congress should waste no more time in correcting that mistake.
We need to close Guantanamo — a national embarrassment — and give each detainee a fair trial, in accordance in international law. Sort them out in a credible court of law, release the ones found innocent, and punish the true bad guys.
Why is a fair trial so unacceptable to the Bush administration — and to Congress?