Life and times of a detention center


The Guantanamo Bay detention center currently imprisons approximately 245 people, held on various charges related to terror (they’re militants, bombers, bomb-makers, drivers, etc.). This imprisonment also clearly violates the Geneva Conventions and the morals of the highly touted nation of freedom and justice.

I believe that everyone, regardless of nationality, should be held to justice by a fair and impartial trial. I base my assertions on principles entered into or established by the United States, among other nations, including the Geneva Convections and the U.S. Constitution.

First, some logic; the United States signed the Geneva Conventions, which though not technically bound to applying to unsigned warring parties (terrorist organizations, for example), it should at least be a core value to apply it to captured militants. The Conventions define a prisoner of war (among five other qualifications, but only one qualification is required for classification) as “members of the armed forces of a Party to the conflict, as well as members of militias or volunteer corps forming part of such armed forces.” These members are protected by the Third Geneva Convention, Part I, Article 3 (even recognized in the U.S. Supreme Court case Hamdan v. Donald Rumsfeld) which requires “the passing of sentences… pronounced by a regularly constituted court affording all the judicial guarantees which are recognized as indispensable by civilized peoples.”

That is, any sentence handed down by a properly appointed court should guarantee the same rights to the accused as to the citizens of the United States. The applicable constitutional right is due process guaranteed by the Fifth Amendment; due process, defined by the U.S. federal courts, is the “guarantee that a defendant will receive a fair and impartial trial.”

By these legal justifications, either entered or established by the U.S., prisoners held at Guantanamo Bay are guaranteed due process.The Third Geneva Convention, Part III, Section 1, Article 17 prohibits physical or mental torture, any other form of coercion, threats, insults, or exposure to unpleasant or disadvantageous treatment of any kind to prisoners of war. So, those “stress positions,” hooding, 20-hour interrogations, and removal of clothing are certainly violating the Conventions.

Gitmo has greatly improved since its early years at Camp X-Ray, a series of fenced cages outside where torture was reported. Now there is a proper prison facility with a full operating room, and cooperating prisoners can watch movies, wear looser white clothing, play and exercise outside, and have better and more ethnically familiar food. Journalists are allowed to tour the base, but they are subject to a lengthy admission process and may have their material edited by the military before publication.One of the most pressing problems is what to do with prisoners after being technically released from the prison. About 60 Guantanamo detainees would face imprisonment or execution if returned to their home countries. Few countries want to repatriate a potential terrorist, so Saudi Arabia has initiated a rehabilitation program for Guantanamo releases. The program focuses on religious re-education that explains Islam, since terrorist organizations like Al-Qaeda have distorted militants’ ideas of Islamic fundamentals.

It specifically corrects their idea of a fatwa – a decision made by a religious authority on Islamic law. A terrorist cell leader (definitely not a legitimate religious authority) will issue a fatwa to justify violence on their target; however, the Saudi program explains to the militants that this is not proper, and only an educated, experienced imam (a kind of religious leader) has the authority to issue an actual Islamic fatwa. Libya and Pakistan are developing similar programs as well, and of the 218 militants who completed the Saudi program, only nine have been rearrested for connections to terrorism.In contrast, of the several hundred prisoners released from the Guantanamo Bay detention center, 61 have reportedly returned to fighting the U.S. and its allies. Closing the prison will not ensure more people are radicalized or become terrorists, in fact there are already people who have passed through Gitmo as it already is and returned to terrorism.

The U.S. must find a different, more effective method for dealing with captured militants – or at least direct them to a rehabilitation program after release – so once more the U.S. may return to the moral high ground and truly defeat terror.