Alexa
  • Directory of Taiwan

Suicides at Guantanamo Bay

Suicides at Guantanamo Bay

The following editorial appeared in the Chicago Tribune on Tuesday:
The suicides of three prisoners at the Guantanamo Bay detention center have renewed calls for its closure. But the deaths don't make those demands any more persuasive.
The Bush administration's handling of inmates at the facility has been subject to a great deal of criticism, much of it justified. Closing Guantanamo, though, won't necessarily mean fairer or more humane treatment for people alleged to be enemy combatants. Nor would it end criticism of the U.S. for its treatment of inmates, who would have to be held elsewhere. Dramatic though such a gesture would be, the administration would be wise to address the problem where it exists, rather than move it somewhere else.
Some sort of prison, after all, is needed to keep terrorists from returning to the fight against the United States. With the war in Afghanistan continuing and al-Qaida still actively working to shed American blood, simply releasing them would be, well, suicidal.
Prisons - even ones whose purpose is detention rather than punishment - are not pleasant places. The fact that some inmates would choose to kill themselves is hardly proof of abuse. American prison inmates have been known to hang themselves in their cells. Some critics say the suicides at Guantanamo are proof of the despair felt by detainees. That would be conjecture. Might not these acts reflect the bitter disappointment of violent fanatics who fear they will never again be free to carry out acts of war against the United States? If this group is suffering from crushing demoralization, most Americans would say: Good.
Critics of Guantanamo have some grounds for complaint. The International Committee of the Red Cross has said some interrogation techniques were "tantamount to torture," though the Red Cross now says conditions at Guantanamo have "improved considerably."
The most valid and persistent complaint about the detention process is that prisoners at Guantanamo have been denied the chance to contest the allegations against them in a fair and independent inquiry. In their status review hearings, they are not allowed to see the evidence against them or to have lawyers. Nor has the administration gotten around to putting anyone on trial before a military commission. If the government can document that the detainees were involved in carrying out or assisting terrorism, it has little to fear from giving them a meaningful opportunity to challenge the claims against them.
The Supreme Court in 2004 ruled that the detainees had a constitutional right to challenge their detentions in court. The high court is expected to rule this month, in a case involving a former driver and bodyguard for Osama bin Laden, on whether the detainees may be tried before military commissions or can challenge their cases in federal court.
To connect the dots: The Supreme Court likely will map the legal future of detainees at Guantanamo. It is regrettable that three detainees chose a different resolution. But their suicides don't diminish the need to keep dangerous people - if that's what the Guantanamo detainees are determined to be - unavailable for combat.


Updated : 2021-10-27 21:32 GMT+08:00