Saturday, June 17, 2006

GUANTANAMO: Democratic crimes

THE U.S. government ban on lawyers or representatives of the Red Cross or humanitarian groups from entering the Guantanamo naval base prison is a revealing boomerang. If, to date, access to the improvised prison was limited, preventing all contact with the outside world indicates that something must be very wrong there, when nobody – not even in a brief, controlled way – can have contact with the prisoners or witness the real conditions of their incarceration.

In response to the avalanche of criticism after the suicide of two Saudis and a Yemeni, and reiterated demands for the disgraceful facility to be shut down and its inmates provided with legal trials under proper conditions, the Bush administration has reacted by closing up the small opening to the outside world that the prisoners had. This makes them even more exposed.

If Saudi authorities were suspicious of the alleged suicide, it can be assumed that the U.S. government's decision has increased their doubts. The ongoing revelations of torture and abuse, including religious, suffered by the more or less 500 prisoners held on the base in southeastern Cuban territory usurped by Washington compound the hunger strike that various inmates have intermittently undertaken for more than 12 months, with most of them being force-fed.

It is known that some of them got so desperate that they tried to kill themselves using the most improbable methods, due to a lack of any ideal resources for doing so. That is why it is strange that all of a sudden they obtained the means of committing suicide used so often throughout history by individuals in similar circumstances. So, it is no exaggeration to mistrust the versions served up by the authorities of that despicable place.

Mansur al Turki, spokesman for the Saudi Ministry of the Interior, announced his government’s suspicions that those prisoners were tortured, possibly to death. He announced that his country is to try to obtain the bodies of the two Saudis who supposedly killed themselves to bury them, and perhaps to investigate the real causes of their deaths.

The International Committee of the Red Cross has reiterated its questions regarding the prisoners and how they are being psychologically affected by their extraordinary suffering, due to a total uncertainty over their fate. For his part, George W. Bush issued a curt condolence, and it is difficult to believe that he is sincere, given that the White House treated last month’s attempt at a collective suicide as a joke and ignored the May 19 UN group petition stating that keeping prisoners indefinitely imprisoned in Guantanamo is in violation of the international convention against torture.

Various heads of state have referred to the issue, such as German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who did so during her visit to the U.S. president, and Danish Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen, who stated to Bush that events like those of Abu Ghraib or Haditha in Iraq, or the existence of the horrifying black hole of Guantanamo are inadmissible. British Attorney General Lord Goldsmith made a similar comment recently, and called for the shameful prison to be shut down.