Millennium Post

Obama, right to close ‘torture camp’

United States President Barack Obama has done right in declaring that the Guantanamo Bay prison must be closed but he may lack support among his country’s lawmakers to be able to do so. Having been set up by President George Bush during his global war on terror, this detention centre remains a blot on humanity and on the US human rights record. President Obama has himself noted that, ‘The idea that we would still maintain forever a group of individuals who have not been tried, that is contrary to who we are, it is contrary to our interests, and it needs to stop’. Guantanamo Bay has become a synonym for torture and abuse the world over. Indeed, the decision to house detainees outside US territory was taken with the blatant intention to operate outside the law. Since then, Guantanamo has come to symbolise shocking human rights violations including arbitrary detention, secret detention, torture and other ill-treatment, and unfair trials.  The legal status of prisoners has never been properly defined which has resulted in a denial of protections to them including that of international law, and prisoners have been denied US legal rights such as habeas corpus, due process and speedy and impartial trials as well. Conditions in the prison are so bad that its inmates have now gone on hunger strike to protest their treatment, with the US government attempting to force feed them, which in itself may constitute a human rights violation, as it is against their will.

It is horrific that the US, regarded by many as the beacon of human freedoms and as a progressive nation that fulfils a leadership role, yet sustains this terrible centre of human rights abuse. Its government publishes annually a human rights report that identifies various places around the world as hotspots of human rights violations, at times even including India’s Jammu & Kashmir in it, and it takes the high moral ground on human rights, yet its own record in this connection is suspect. Obama, though apparently well intentioned, may not find it easy to shut down the detention centre. He had pledged to do so before, but was thwarted by the US Congress which passed restrictions on the transfer of detainees to the US and other countries. US lawmakers, mostly Republicans but from his party as well, continue to oppose the shutting down of this facility. The US President must, however, show serious intent and push for the closure of Guantanamo Bay at the earliest in the interests of human rights.
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