The re-election of Obama as President signals business as usual in the war on terror. One of his first acts after the election was to slap fresh sanctions on Iran and authorise drone missile strikes into Somalia.
This is in striking contrast to Obama's election as President four years ago. Shortly after being inaugurated in office Obama said that America would abide by international law and close down the military prison at Guantanamo Bay, "Make no mistake, we will close Guantanamo prison, which has damaged our national security interests and become a tremendous recruiting tool for al-Qaeda."
Four years later and Camp Delta at Guantanamo Bay is very much open for business as Obama continues the war on terror started by George Bush after the 9/11 attacks. The September 11, 2001 attacks on the United States not only unleashed America's involvement in several foreign wars but also have helped create a separate legal system for the enemies of America. Following the invasion of Afghanistan President Bush established Camp Delta as the main prison for unlawful enemy combatants in his newly christened ''war on terror''. It was set up with a capacity of 816 detainees.
Prisoners at Camp Delta have been abducted from different parts of the world and taken to Guantanamo Bay. A majority have never been charged with a crime. Once at Camp Delta the prisoners have been denied their rights under the Geneva Convention relative to the treatment of prisoners of war of 1949.
The first four years of Camp Delta were marred by controversy as the CIA used torture on a regular basis against prisoners. Former CIA analyst John Kiriakou, who is currently being prosecuted by the US government, has confirmed the use of water boarding which is a form of simulated drowning. The prisoners fought back in the only way they could by going on hunger strike. Sadly, several prisoners committed suicide due to the unbearable conditions they were being kept in.
Newly revealed documents from WikiLeaks reveal intimate details of what conditions are like for prisoners. The Geneva Convention on the treatment of prisoners expressly forbids a whole range of practices which the American military have ignored. The standard operating procedures (SOP) of Camp Delta make no reference to the Geneva Convention yet the convention states that its provisions should be posted around any facility for prisoners of war to read.
At Camp Delta prisoners are not allowed to have any personal possessions which is forbidden by the convention. The SOP strictly sets out what prisoners are allowed to have in their cells. This includes two blankets and several items for personal hygiene such as a toothbrush and wash cloth. They are allowed a copy of the Koran and a prayer cap. The plastic spoons that prisoners eat with are collected and the results logged in the camp journal.
At Camp Delta prisoners are allowed 20 minutes for recreation twice a week and two five minutes slots for having a shower. Of course, during the so-called recreation time prisoners are handcuffed and heavily shackled by chains. During each day there are numerous head counts.
Under the Geneva Convention prisoners have the right to complain about their conditions of captivity and elect prisoner representatives who,'shall further the physical, spiritual and intellectual well-being of prisoners of war'. Prisoner representatives should be allowed freedom of movement to visit other prisoners and represent them before military tribunals and the International Committee of the Red Cross. Of course, at Camp Delta prisoners have no such rights. The SOP at Camp Delta makes no mention of prisoners rights to communicate with the International Committee of the Red Cross.
Recent developments at Camp Delta include the announcement that 55 prisoners are to be released soon leaving 167 prisoners at Guantanamo Bay. The US government is sending prisoners home due to the lack of any evidence against them. No apology or compensation will be given to these people for their illegal detention. To give either of the above would be tantamount to admitting that America's military have been breaking international law.
In October the military trials started of five prisoners at Camp Delta. The prisoners include Khalid Sheikh Mohammed who is accused of being the master mind behind the 9//11 attacks. These trials are fundamentally flawed and break all rules of international law when it comes to the trial of prisoners of war. For example, evidence derived from statements obtained by torture are admissible at the trials yet articles 17 and 99 of the Geneva Convention expressly forbid the use of torture.
The trials are being censored to prevent the prisoners' exposing the torture the have been exposed to. There is a forty five second feed delay between the prisoner's speaking and the media hearing their testimony. The military court is using the time to censor the prisoner's testimony.
Article 84 of the Geneva Convention states,'In no circumstances whatever shall a prisoner of war be tried by a court of any kind which does not offer the essential guarantees of independence and impartiality as generally recognized, and,in particular, the procedure of which does not afford the accused the rights and means of defence provided for in Article 105'. Zeke Johnson is the director of Amnesty International USA's Security with Human Rights Campaign which is monitoring the military trials. According to Johnson,“at least one thing is obvious: the US government is making it up as it goes along.” Meanwhile the American Civil Liberties Union is challenging the,''government’s attempt to keep from the public, the defendant’s thoughts, experiences and memories, of their torture, rendition and detention in the CIA program.”
Camp Delta remains very much open for business with no end in sight for this stain upon America's reputation for being a democracy committed to the rule of international law. President Obama could start to redress this situation by releasing the 86 prisoners who the US government has concluded no longer deserve to be there. Better still, he could come good on his declaration of four years ago and close Camp Delta which serves as a monument to injustice and suffering at American hands.