Nat Parry: The Enduring Shame of Guantanamo!

When the Guantanamo prison camp, originally dubbed by the US military Camp X-Ray, opened in January 2002, the United States came under international criticism that was nearly unprecedented in its intensity in modern US history. Some of the loudest complaints came from the staunchest US ally, the United Kingdom, where three cabinet ministers, Robin Cook, Patricia Hewitt and Jack Straw, expressed concern that international agreements about the treatment of prisoners war were being breached. The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Mary Robinson, also objected to the camp and called on President George W. Bush's administration to follow the Geneva Conventions. In a January 19, 2002 column in the British Independent, Robinson argued that because the Afghanistan conflict was of an international nature, "the law of international armed conflict applies." She took issue with the administration's assertion that the prisoners were "unlawful combatants" and thus outside the protections of the Geneva Conventions. European Union foreign policy chief Javier Solana said that despite the Sept. 11 atrocities, "changing our values and our way of life would be terrorism's first victory." Amnesty International expressed concern about the tactics being used surrounding the camp. Keeping prisoners incommunicado, sensory deprivation, the use of unnecessary restraint and the humiliation of people through tactics such as shaving them, are all classic techniques employed to 'break' the spirit of individuals ahead of interrogation," the human rights group said.

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