By Andy Worthington: It's Time to End the Injustice of Guantanamo and Bagram!
Yesterday, on September 11, as the world remembered the dreadful terrorist attacks on New York City and Washington, DC 12 years ago, it is time also to remember that, in its response to those attacks, the US embarked on a dangerous flight from the law that led to the use of torture and indefinite detention without charge or trial. At Guantanamo and Bagram, these policies have, to this day, left hundreds of men stranded without access to justice. When the Bush administration responded to 9/11 by invading Afghanistan, a month after the attacks, one of the first victims of the "War on Terror" was the Geneva Conventions. Under Article 5 of the Geneva Conventions, if there is any doubt about the status of prisoners seized in wartime, whether they are combatants or civilians seized by mistake, for example - "competent tribunals" of military officers must be convened close to the time and place of capture, with the power to call witnesses to ascertain whether the prisoners are combatants or not. In the first Gulf War, in 1991, US soldiers captured 1,196 men of unknown provenance, held "competent tribunals" of military officers must be convened close to the time and place of capture, with the power to call witnesses to ascertain whether the prisoners are combatants or not. In the first Gulf War, in 1991, US soldiers captured 1,196 men of unknown provenance, held competent tribunals, and concluded that in 886 cases civilians had been seized by mistake, an error rate of 74 percent. Those men were then released, but after 9/11 the competent tribunals were abandoned. End of competent tribunals. The Bush administration arrogantly declared that all of those who ended up in US custody were that all of those who ended up in US custody were "unlawful enemy combatants", and, on February 7, 2002, President Bush issued a memorandum. "Humane Treatment of Taliban and al-Qaeda Detainees," in which he stated that the Geneva Conventions did not apply to al-Qaeda or Taliban prisoners, although all prisoners would be "treated humanely and, to the extent appropriate and consistent with military necessity, in a manner consistent with the principles of Geneva". That was a rhetorical fig leaf, which failed to prevent the memorandum from opening the floodgates to the use of torture, a situation that prevailed until June 2006, when, in Hamdan v. Rumsfeld, a case challenging the legality of the Bush administration's military commission trial system, the Supreme Court reminded the president that Common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions, which prohibits torture and "humiliating and degrading treatment" applied to "all" prisoners. That ended the contortions used by the Bush administration to justify its use of torture, although no one has been held accountable for its use. But the Bush administration's disdain for the Geneva Conventions continues to poison the circumstances in which prisoners are held, both at Guantanamo and at Bagram, the main prison in Afghanistan, where Bush's innovations led to a situation in which the process of screening prisoners on capture disappeared.