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Bay of disgrace

A UN committee of members from ten countries has been scathing on the US?s treatment of prisoners from its global war on terrorism.

india Updated: May 23, 2006 01:30 IST

Washington will do well to heed the UN report calling for the closure of its prison camp at Guantanamo Bay. A UN committee of members from ten countries including the US, that reviews how countries are adhering to the UN Convention Against Torture, has been scathing on the US’s treatment of prisoners from its global war on terrorism. It  doesn’t mince words in criticising the US for a range of practices, including interrogation techniques ‘that have resulted in the death of some detainees’ and the use of the so-called ‘extraordinary rendition’ to seize terror suspects in one country and deliver them to another for interrogation.

Located on Cuban territory, Guantanamo is a legal limbo and, unlike military bases elsewhere on US territories, doesn’t fall under the jurisdiction of the liberal US Circuit Courts of Appeals. For most of the last five years of its existence, ‘Gitmo’ has been rocked by allegations of prisoner abuse and complaints of detainees being held in some cases for years without charges or any known evidence. From TV grabs of trussed and blindfolded al-Qaeda suspects, to last week’s desperate assault by detainees on their guards, every incident obviously adds to Gitmo’s notoriety as an international symbol of American heavy-handedness. Ironically, the US has been a strong critic of  military tribunals elsewhere in countries like Nigeria, Eritrea, Peru, Myanmar, and Colombia, because of their failure to provide basic legal protections. Terror  suspects do need to be dealt with firmly, but this does not mean they can be held endlessly, without due process. US military contention that the evidence against detainees cannot be revealed as it could jeopardise intelligence operations is a lot of bosh.

After all, aren’t such concerns routinely handled in terrorism cases and other sensitive criminal prosecutions in federal courts? Through the Cold War, the US has been a beacon of human rights and liberty. Now, through its own unthinking ways, it has become quite the opposite, and Gitmo seems to symbolise the change.