Letter to Presidential Candidates on Guantanamo Bay Detainees
This is the letter I sent to Dick Gephardt, I sent similar letters to the other candidates regarding the detention of the Guantanamo Bay detainees:
I checked Dick Gephardts statements for his position on the 598+ detainees at Guantanamo Bay and their continuing detention without charge, trial or access by lawyers, family (including letters) or any aid organisations other than the ICRC (who have been critical of the Bush government).
I could not find a statement regarding this outrageous flaunting of the U.S. commitment to the Geneva convention, which should include the ability for objective monitoring of detainees conditions and certification they are not being tortured (which has been alleged).
As Dick is probably aware, this detention has a very negative impact on the perception of the world of the U.S. obligations to world human rights conventions. More so, it has sowed discontent in the very countries (Britain and Australia among others) which have expressed some support for the U.S. Most worryingly, it exposes hypocrisy in the U.S. foreign policy position, criticizing the former Hussein regime for it's human rights abuses, while perpetrating them itself.
As of December 31st, the specter of military trials for detainees is now rising. Most frightening is the procedures used by such military trials, which include charges of conspiracy (an almost entirely open ended claim), admission of hearsay pseudo-evidence, a lack of public scrutiny, denial of civilian lawyers (who can only assist military lawyers, not act as chief counsel) and very real negative career implications on any military defense attorneys who mount a spirited defense of their clients.
Incredibly, the Bush administration and specifically the Secretary of Defense, has threatened to withhold court proceedings from any detainees who protest their innocence. They are literally threatened to be put at the back of the queue if they do not plead guilty, using the threat of indefinite detention as a means of coercion to obtain a "successful" admission of guilt, all in the name of creating the illusion the Bush administration is making some progress on it's "War on Terror". If there is a better example of a kangaroo court, please show me.
Also on the subject of human rights abuses and allegations of torture, I could not find a statement by Dick concerning the School of the Americas, based at Fort Benning, Georgia. This military installation has a long and dreadful history of training South and Central American troops in torture techniques and has been linked to many human rights abusers in South and Central America.
I look forward to statements by Dick Gephardt condemning both the detainment of persons at Guantanamo Bay and a call for their immediate prosecution or release, and a call for the disbanding of the School of the Americas.
I am sending a similar statement to all Presidential candidates to gauge their consideration of these issues before I choose a candidate. I look forward to timely statements on record.
Leigh M. Smith