20 Jahre US-Gefangenenlager Guantánamo: "Sinnbild für brutale Exzesse"

12 Jan. 2022 16:57 clock

The US government sees itself as an advocate and guardian of human rights and the rule of law. And yet Washington has been maintaining the notorious Guantánamo internment camp for 20 years, where human dignity is repeatedly trampled underfoot.

It is by no means the only one – and yet it is one of the most prominent symptoms of the US double standards on human rights: The Guantánamo prison camp in the bay of the same name in Cuba. On January 11, 2002, the first prisoners from the “global war on terror” declared by the USA after 9/11 were brought to the new prison camp in the Guantánamo Bay Naval Base.

It was erected four months after the attacks of September 11, 2001 under US President George W. Bush to detain suspected Islamist terrorists without trial. Earlier, in mid-November 2001, Bush had issued the military order on the “detention, treatment and trial of certain non-citizens in the war on terrorism”. The decree gives the United States the power to indefinitely detain foreign nationals without charge, while preventing detainees from challenging their detention through any legal channels.

Even prisoner-of-war status was denied to the suspects. For Washington they are “unlawful combatants” – with far-reaching consequences. In combination with the extra-territorial location of the camp, the USA was neither bound by declarations of international law on the treatment of prisoners of war nor by US law when treating its prisoners in this way.

The then US Vice President Dick Cheney described the prisoners as “the worst of a very evil gang”.

“You are very dangerous. You are determined to kill millions of Americans.”

Since then, images of alleged terrorists in orange overalls held in cages and chained up have gone around the world, as have reports of the systematic humiliation and torture of prisoners, including in the context of “innovative” and “extended interrogation techniques”. Around 780 people have been imprisoned in Guantanamo since it opened 20 years ago – including men who had previously been “tortured for years in secret CIA prisons”. The youngest Guantanamo detainee is said to have been thirteen years old.

Barack Obama promised to close the prison camp in 2009, and Joe Biden allegedly intends to close it too. But 39 people are still stuck on the spot – many of whom have “never been formally charged with a misdemeanor”. In fact, as early as 2009, when he was US Vice President of Barack Obama, Joe Biden declared at the Munich Security Conference: “America will not torture. We will protect the rights of those we bring to justice. And we will close the prison camp in Guantánamo Bay . “

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The first commandant of the US camp, Major General Michael Lehnert, declared in 2016: “I was told that I should, but don’t have to, adhere to the Geneva Conventions.” Torture is not only “wrong” but “also ineffective”. Lehnert expressed an unequivocal opinion: “Guantanamo is a symbol of a flawed, ill-conceived and shameful policy. It must be closed.”

In mid-July 2021, the Biden administration released a camp prisoner for the first time after six months in government. The Moroccan Abdul Latif Nasir, who has been imprisoned for 14 years, is being released “because he no longer poses a threat to US national security,” said the US Department of Defense. Meanwhile, the Pentagon is currently building “a second courtroom for war crimes trials in Guantánamo Bay”. Again, the public is excluded from future processes. The last time journalists were allowed to enter the internment camp was in 2019.

The new building is therefore only “the latest step in the direction of secrecy in the prison system that has lasted for almost 20 years”. From 2023, this new building will allow two military judges to negotiate at the same time. The costs are again borne by the US taxpayer, with the Guantánamo operation accounting for 13 million US dollars per year for each prisoner. This makes this camp “the most expensive internment program in the world”.

On the occasion of the 20th Guantánamo “anniversary”, 14 German parliamentarians, among others, have now asked the US administration to close the camp in a letter initiated by Member of the Bundestag Sevim Dağdelen of the Left Party, because “the torture center and the special tribunals there” had “become a symbol of the brutal excesses of the US fight against terrorism”.

The expert for the Americas at Amnesty International in Germany, Matthias Schreiber, also calls on the federal government to take a clear position: “We would like the federal government to keep Guantánamo and the coming to terms with human rights violations on the agenda and by clearly and unequivocally demanded from the new US administration that the camp should be closed. “

For 20 years, like that Amnesty International, “The US is systematically violating human rights in Guantánamo”. Now it is time for the Biden administration to finally close the warehouse.

“Many of the approximately 780 people who have since been detained there, outside of any judicial control, suffered serious human rights violations – including torture and enforced disappearance – before or during their detention.”

At least Clive Stafford-Smith, lawyer and co-founder of the British human rights organization “Reprieve”, does not believe that the internment camp will be closed anytime soon. For him, the reasons are less to be found in the domestic political tussle between Republicans and Democrats: “Of course they should close it because it’s an embarrassment and an eyesore for the US. But they dug such a deep hole for themselves because they did Failing to give people fair trials. And the other problem is, they have tortured many of them, and if they ever ended up in a regular US court, there would be a good chance the trials against them would be closed because of the egregious misconduct the government, which is probably a part of torture. “

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