Posted by: sean | June 13, 2006

Guantanamo Bay: A European Perspective

An editorial in le Monde today takes the US to task for Guantanamo Bay (in French, translation mine):

Upon the discovery of the suicide of three detainees, two Saudis and one Yemeni, the reaction of the commander of the camp in Guantanamo illustrates the gulf that separates American authorities from the rest of the world on the sinister issue of the prison in Guantanamo. The collective suicide is “an act of asymmetric war waged against us,” declared Rear Admiral Harry Harris on 10 June. Colleen Graffy, in charge of public diplomacy at the State Department, qualified the detainees’ gesture as a “good PR move to draw attention.”

Without falling into otherworldliness faced with the essential fight against international terrorism, how can we make the United States listen to reason about this black stain on the democratic world that the prison in Guantanamo has become? Because, when Admiral Harris evokes an act of war against America, he is forgetting that American blindness towards the treatment of the detainees suspected of belonging to Al-Qaida, in Guantanamo or in the secret prisons run by the CIA, exposes all western democracies to Islamic propaganda and radicalization. It is to our suburbs and our Muslim communities in Europe that the recruiters of Al-Qaida and other fundamentalist proselytizers come to fill their ranks, with arguments graciously given to them by the military leaders of the Pentagon and Attorney General Alberto Gonzales.

It hasn’t been enough to say that Guantanamo Bay, opened in January 2002 and where 460 prisoners are still being held without trial, is legal nonsense; it hasn’t been enough to say that it constitutes a flagrant violation of international law and human rights; it hasn’t been enough to write that it is unworthy of a country universally admired for having established respect for the rule of law in its constitutional system; it hasn’t been enough to show surprise that the Bush administration manifests, by its stubbornness, such disdain for its own Supreme Court, which told it in June 2004 to authorize the Guantanamo detainees to defend themselves before an American civil court, and for public opinion, which, after an initial indifference, has included a growing number of voices denouncing the conditions in the prison. Nor has it been enough to bring up relevant historical errors, from the internment of Japanese Americans during World War II to Margaret Thatcher’s vain stubbornness faced with IRA members on hunger strike in 1981.

The United States remains deaf to all these arguments. The least that European leaders can do from now on is to no longer hold high level meetings with Americans without demanding the closing of Guantanamo Bay. The German Chancellor, Angela Merkel, has recently served as a good example. The French should follow suit.

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