Saturday, November 26, 2005

Now Even the Dutch...

...are pissed off.

The problem is with the US treatment of prisoners at Guantanamo Bay. An editorial in NRC Handlelsblad finds the US behavior inexcuseable.

The American Naval base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, is an absolute disgrace for President George W. Bush. The heinous treatment of al-Qaeda suspects held at Guantanamo is well documented. The American torture practices - no secret but still shocking and disgusting all the same - are well documented. Human rights organizations, the Red Cross and - yes - even the FBI, have all reported on torture by American troops at Guantanamo and Iraq. Internationally, the Americans are being pressured to immediately halt the illegal treatment of prisoners. It is the subject of ongoing debate in politics and society as a whole. However in the end, nothing is being done about it. Guatanamo Bay is a place where the Americans demonstratively ignore international human rights.

Torture is an international offense. It goes against the Geneva Convention. It is a criminal offense in and of itself. Militarily, it is not very productive because the results are untrustworthy. The driving force behind criminals that practice torture is usually intimidation. And still, per the United Nations, across the globe the ban on torture is blatantly ignored. Torture is as old as armed conflict. But that does not make it any less reprehensible. No matter how compelling the evidence might be that (alleged) al-Qaeda fighters are terrorists and murderers, this must first be proven in a court of law. The designation by the American Government of the Guantanamo detainees as “illegal fighters” or “enemy combatants” - and therefore that they have no rights under the Geneva Convention - is a subterfuge and completely misses the point. There is a law that says that anyone held at an American naval base has the right to a day in an American court - in order to prove guilt or innocence. This is a right that Guantanamo detainees are deprived off.

It is these proven deplorable practices that give extra power to rumors of American detainees on secret bases in Europe. A rumor is not yet a fact. But Guantanamo Bay and the abuses at Abu Ghraib - under the command of American military personnel - prove that there's no smoke without fire. In other words: given the facts, it is not at all inconceivable that the CIA is running detention centers in Europe. It is laudable that the current chairman of the European Union, Great Britain - America’s most trusted ally - is demonstrating deep concern about these rumors and plans to demand clarification from Washington. This unified initiative does not absolve the E.U. member states - like The Netherlands - of their responsibility in this matter. They must investigate these unsubstantiated rumors individually to find out whether there is ground for concern.

Bush Administration officials do not seem to incur political consequences from either Guantanamo Bay or Abu Ghraib. On the contrary: lower ranked soldiers are made to pay for the atrocities that have been committed. The responsible Secretary of Defense, Donald Rumsfeld, indefensibly, does not resign. Torture issues and possible CIA camps are clearly judicial issues; however they are mostly political in nature and all go back to the highest levels of government.
[Emphasis added]

What is so interesting about this editorial is that the Netherlands are among the handful of countries that still have troops in Iraq. The Dutch have threatened to pull those troops out if the US doesn't come clean about the torture issue and the suspected 'black' interrogation centers in Europe.

More telling, however, is the insistence in the editorial that the US is engaging in criminal behavior which contravenes the Geneva Convention. It is speaking of war crimes.

Startling language from an ally? Yes, but very refreshing.


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