Friday, April 27, 2007

So Are They Prisoners of War or Criminal Detainees?

For a brief period on Thursday, April 26th, Senator Patrick Leahy became a witness and testified before the Senate Armed Services Committee on the rights of Guantanamo detainees.

Leahy described the indefinite detention of hundreds of individuals as "un-American". Senators skirmish over Gitmo detainees. Thank goodness for people like Leahy and Senator Levin, who point out the hypocrisy in a system which professes the rights of the accused and yet holds them indefinitely without the right even to demand probable cause. As Levin said:

"America at its best is a beacon for human rights and human liberty, and that's how we like to see ourselves ... but much of the world sees us in a very different way when we fail to live up to the standards we profess."
The government has released well over 300 of these detainees, the so-called "worst of the worst" according to Cheney, yet the continued detention of the remaining detainees is considered justified by the nature of the accusations against them. What a crock.

We hear it over and over again: We're in a "global war on terror". Really? It's a war? Then why aren't the rules of war being followed? Why aren't the people we're detaining being considered prisoners of war and subject to the protections of the Geneva Convention?

They're not soldiers but terrorists? Well aren't terrorists criminals? Why can't we subject them to the criminal laws of this country as we used to do before the Bush Administration decided to create this legal limbo where people are neither soldiers nor criminals but something in between? How is it that we were able to try and convict terrorists like the blind sheik and his co-conspirators after the first World Trade Center bombings without sending them to an island with no recourse to the legal system? Didn't we try and convict Tim McVeigh without taking away his right to an aggressive legal defense? The law is not the enemy. Legal protections and standards of evidence and fairness are not the enemy. Again, what is our government afraid of?

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