Thursday, February 16, 2006

Charge 'Em or Release 'Em, and Shut Gitmo Down

Absolutely no surprise, the Bush administration has dismissed the findings of a UN report on Guantanamo Bay released today.

The U.N. report ... concludes that the U.S. treatment of detainees violated their rights to physical and mental health and, in some cases, constituted torture.

It also urged the United States to close the military prison in Cuba and bring the captives to trial on U.S. territory, charging that Washington's justification for the continued detention is a distortion of international law.

Of course, administration flacks continue to repeat the canards that the Gitmo detainees are "dangerous terrorists" who have been "trained by Al Qaeda" in how to lie convincingly; and that the authors of the UN report did not visit Guantanamo Bay before writing it. The truth is that out of 500 prisoners still at Guantanamo, only 9 have been charged with any crime. The truth is that UN representatives turned down the administration's offer to take the show tour of Gitmo only after prison camp officials refused their request to meet with and interview individual detainees in private. The truth is that the only organization permitted to speak privately with detainees is the International Red Cross -- and they are forbidden to make their findings public.

One very important thing the report says is that it's not only the specific things done to detainees that are torture: it's the overall pattern. When detainees are kept awake for days, and subjected for hours or days to earsplitting rock music, and switched between extremely hot and extremely cold environments, and forced to stay in painful stress positions for very long periods of time; and when these combinations of treatments are repeated regularly and repeatedly in a systematic way -- that is torture.

The report also strongly criticizes doctors and other medical professionals who take part in or cooperate with torture; for example, by helping to force feed detainees who are on hunger strikes, and by physically examining detainees to determine their fitness for harsh interrogations: i.e., making sure they are healthy enough to be tortured.

The complete report is here. It should be read in its entirety.

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