Saturday, December 27, 2008

Another Nation Weighs In

As President Bush's administration finally winds down, our European allies continue to call for the closure of Guantanamo Bay. From Norway's Dagsavisen:

The U.S. secretary of defence has ordered plans for the closing of the prison camp at Guantanamo. We could not ask for better news to end 2008. Hundreds of people have been deported to the “camp of shame," torture has been used during interrogation, and the sentencing has been done at military tribunals exempt from ordinary legal principles. ...

American intelligence has probably ruined the chances of convictions through an open, free trial, when “confessions” are produced by means characterised as torture. An American court will probably dismiss many of the cases and demand the detainees released.

There is no way around the justice system for American authorities. The world simply does not have confidence in reasons for keeping someone locked up on the island. We do not know how true American claims are about the danger these people pose. Trust can only be restored by putting the prisoners on public trial.

That is the price to pay for the human rights violations this prison camp at Guantanamo has represented since 2002.

This editorial puts an appropriate focus on the dilemma that will face Barack Obama on January 20, 2008. For six long years we have been told that those detained at Gitmo represent the most dangerous terrorists of all and to release even one of them will imperil the US. Unfortunately, after the treatment these men have received at our hands, that may be true in more cases than we'd like, but that is indeed the price we will have to pay for our egregiously foul behavior.

Is there any way to mitigate the damage we've caused? Perhaps, at least to some extent. Freeing these men is a good start, but only the first step. We must also help to heal the wounds we've caused by the torture and mistreatment we inflicted. Wherever those released go, they must have access to the kind of treatment programs which will enable them to pick up the pieces of their lives and return to some semblance of normalcy.

Just as important, however, we will have to openly and unequivocally admit that what this country did to human beings, no matter the putative reason, was wrong, horribly wrong. Such an acknowledgment will be an indication to the world that we are ready to return to the world of laws and civilized behavior and would constitute the best kind of apology to those we have harmed.

Finally, to show that our confession of wrongdoing and our apology for that wrongdoing are sincere, we must thoroughly investigate how we got to the point that made such crimes as kidnapping and waterboarding acceptable, and then we must prosecute those who so blithely led us in that direction. True justice demands no less.

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