Strapped to a restraint chair and force-fed through a tube inserted into the stomach through the nose, hunger-striking detainees of the Guantanamo Bay detention camp are not given the chance to protest their detention.
Hunger strikes among Guantanamo Bay detainees have been numerous and ongoing since it opened in 2002. However, the current hunger strike is growing steadily in size and according to the detainee lawyers, as many as 130 prisoners of the 166 at Guantanamo are taking part. These dire conditions prompted a visit from the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) this week. After its visit, the ICRC renewed pressure to shut the facility down.
Among those also urging closure is Navi Pillay, the United Nations high commissioner for human rights. This past week, she called on the United States to shutter the facility, calling the indefinite imprisonment of detainees without charge or trial in a civilian court a clear breach of international law.
In the past the Bush administration justified ignoring the Geneva Convention and the U.N. Convention Against Torture on the grounds that detainees were not “prisoners of war” or “criminal suspects.” Inmates at Guantanamo Bay were held as “enemy combatants,” a definition that accorded them little to no protection under international law.
Similarly, the Obama administration has ignored criticism and has broken its promise to close the facility four years ago.
About half of the current 166 detainees are cleared for transfer to their home country or another foreign country willing to give them another start. However, for many of these detainees there is no end in sight for their captivity and they will continue to face excessive violence and torture.
Detainees already cleared for release must either be transferred to their home country or foreign country. At the moment there is not enough evidence to hold detainees who are cleared of charges. Detainees who are accused or convicted of crimes should be tried in a civilian court rather than a military tribunal to ensure they are processed and protected under international law.
While Congress has expressed concern with the potential danger of abruptly closing the facility and transferring detainees to host countries, this in no way justifies the continued abuse of detainees by US forces.
The recent condemnation by human rights commissioner Navi Pillay is only the latest reminder of the injustices being carried out at Guantanamo Bay. The United States must uphold its international commitments and find a workable plan to finally close Guantanamo Bay.
The Obama administration must not let its promises go unkept.