Eight years is enough, get rid of Guantanamo Bay

CAPTION (Brennan Linsley/AP)
Nearly 200 uncharged inmates still remain at the Cuban U.S. Naval Base. (Brennan Linsley/AP)

Today marks the eighth anniversary of the day that 20 detainees were first brought into Guantanamo Bay.

A year after President Barack Obama promised to close the detention camp in Cuba, nearly 200 inmates still remain uncharged. The Obama administration said in December that it might transfer prisoners to an Illinois prison facility, but merely moving detainees to the United States without charging them will merely be an extension of the same problem.

The United States should observe the eighth anniversary of this ill-conceived blunder by either charging detainees in federal court or releasing them.

The practice of holding detainees without charge is in violation of international agreements, such as the Geneva Convention, and is even a transgression of our own constitution. It is for this practice that the United States suffers a poor reputation around the world and it is one that Obama promised to change when he took office.

Further, it is important that those charged with crimes be tried in a federal civilian court rather than in inept military tribunals. Only in a civilian court will the accused receive a fair trial. And since Sept. 11, 2001, federal courts have tried more than 200 terrorism cases, with most returning a conviction. In the eight years Guantanamo Bay has been open, military tribunals have only been able to acquire three convictions.

It is time for the United States to clean up its act and show a new face to the world. No longer should we be able to indefinitely detain prisoners without any rights. If they are guilty, charge them with a crime and get them to court. If we can’t find any evidence on them, it’s time to let them go.

Aaron Hays can be reached at hays2206@stthomas.edu

9 Replies to “Eight years is enough, get rid of Guantanamo Bay”

  1. We might as well hand them a copy of “Bombs for Dummies” when we send them back to the Middle East. Great Plan.

  2. I think it is important to recognize the image we send abroad when we have prisons where innocent people can be held indefinitely and be subjected to harsh interrogation techniques and torture. It is naive to think that these prisons, and the U.S. foreign policy in general, do not serve as a tool for recruiting new terrorists. The U.S. invades and occupies these countries, props up dictators, creates a police state, kidnaps and tortures inhabitants, and launches attacks with drones and fighter jets which frequently kill innocent civilians. How can this policy NOT radicalize people? 
    I am in no way suggesting that terrorism is in any way justifiable, but I do see value in discussing and understanding what our country does to fuel terrorism. It is my opinion that if we were to withdraw the troops (which are occupying areas Muslims believe to be Holy Land) we would see terrorism diminished or eliminated.

  3. “The practice of holding detainees without charge is in violation of international agreements, such as the Geneva Convention, and is even a transgression of our own constitution.”

    Umm… no it isn’t. Geneva fully allows the indefinite detention of unlawful enemy combatants, thank you very much, and the criminal protections of the Bill of Rights apply only to criminal prosecutions — not enemy combatants. The military tribunal system there in use is downright generous — which is good, because America *should* be as generous as prudently possible. But the handwringing over Gitmo is unprecedented, silly, and — as we continue to release unrepentant terrorists back into the wild — a threat to American lives.

    Keep Guantanamo forever.

    IMHO, anyhow.

  4. James- How exactly do the Geneva Conventions allow indefinite detention? Article 3, B (of both the third and fourth conventions) prohibits “violence to life and person, in particular murder of all kinds, mutilation, cruel treatment and torture.” In the Belmarsh case, expert testimony from 11 psychologists and 1 clinical psychiatrist suggested that indefinite detention constituted torture via serious damage to detainees’ mental health. Article 103 of the third convention states that confinement of a POW prior to trial is not to exceed three months. The only way I see that not applying is if we don’t classify unlawful enemy combatants as POW’s, but the legality of that is not clear, and in the spirit of the Geneva conventions, then it seems that fourth convention protections would apply. And then we have the fact that we have mistakenly detained innocent people. http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/06/22/AR2009062201302.html

  5. Beyond that, Aaron is right, Gitmo is used a recruiting tool for terrorists (something Gen. Petraeus has pointed out as good reason to shut it down). Here’s a quote in reference to closing Guantanamo from his interview with Martha MacCullum on Fox: “What I would ask is, does that not take away from our enemies a tool, which again they have beaten us around the head and shoulders in the court of public opinion? When we have taken steps that have violated the Geneva Convention, we rightly have been criticized. And so as we move forward, I think it is important to again live our values to live the agreements that we have made in the international justice arena and to practice those.”
    I don’t deny that terrorists are a threat to American lives- but first, the reason many of them are being detaineed without trial is because we don’t have enough evidence that they are terrorists to convict them, and second, Gitmo is a threat to the American values that we’re supposed to be fighting for.

  6. I agree that Guantanamo Bay should be closed, but not until we find a highly secure prison to house those we are currently holding there. The whole premise of having a military prison on foreign soil is deeply troubling to me. I also agree that the terrorists should be promptly tried once they have been detained. To do otherwise, I would argue, is immoral. However, I agree with James that the trials should be conducted via military tribunals rather than federal courts, as oftentimes trials of terrorists involve classified information that could be compromised if federal courts are used, putting American civilians potentially at risk.
    Trying these cases in military tribunals, with the ability to appeal to federal Courts of Appeals, would solve this problem, I feel. The Supreme Court has ruled that it is within American law to do so, and that the military tribunals are fair trials, so I see no problem with them.

  7. Guantanamo Bay is just another example of how America’s imperialist foreign policy is making us less safe. We were attacked on 9/11 not because we are “free and rich” but because we have been meddling in the Middle East for over half a century, not to mention throughout the globe. This interventionist foreign policy naturally will have blowback with the most obvious example being 9/11.

    I agree with John Deede’s comments, and I believe he would agree that it is our foreign policy that is the root of the problem. Furthermore it has been the same regardless of what party is in power.

    If you concede that we were attacked on 9/11 because we are a capitalist and free nation, you also must concede that we will always be susceptible to terrorist attacks because capitalism is not going anywhere (even though we have had FAR from a free market economy in the U.S.). With this train of thought, we will be fighting overseas indefinitely which will inevitably bankrupt our nation. Even if I am wrong and interventionists are right, the endgame is a bankrupt United States.
    So yes, close Guantanamo but at the same time realize the greater policy change that needs to take place.

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