US plans death camp
Washington has floated plans to turn the US base at Guantanamo into a death camp, with its own execution chamber. Prisoners there could be tried, convicted and put to death without facing charges or a jury. There would be no right of appeal. This proposal was disclosed by Major General Geoffrey Miller, commander in charge of some 680 prisoners from 43 countries being held at Camp Delta. The prison is part of the Pentagon base that illegally occupies a corner of the island nation of Cuba. Miller's remarks were quoted in an article in Brisbane's Courier Mail newspaper on May 25. The publicity created an embarrassment for the government of Tony Blair. The British ruling class, an older imperial power, has accepted a role as a junior ally to the war drive of the US empire but it has no death penalty. Downing Street's response to the exposure of the death camp plans was terse and avoided condemnation: "The US government is well aware of the British government's position on the death penalty." US law professor Jonathan Turley, who has led protests against the Pentagon tribunals at Camp Delta, said, "It is not surprising the authorities are building a death row because they have said they plan to try capital cases before these tribunals. "This camp was created to execute people", he stressed. "The administration has no interest in long-term prison sentences for people it regards as hard-core terrorists." "Regards" is the operative word here. Not a single person held at Guantanamo since the Afghanistan war has been officially charged with a single crime in the 18 months they have spent caged at Camp Delta, far from their homes. They are, in the lingo of legal limbo, "suspects". Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld dubs them "illegal combatants". That linguistic sidestep allows the US to violate the requirements for humane treatment of prisoners of war specified under the Geneva conventions. Of course, the rights of civilians are also protected by the same Geneva conventions, and the Pentagon brass has crushed their rights, too, in this endless war of terror cynically camouflaged as a war on terror. Rumours of torture during interrogations at Camp Delta, another breach of international law, have also leaked out. A front-page article in the December 26, 2002, Washington Post called attention to the decades-long policy of the CIA that allows its agents to torture anyone in its custody. The CIA maintains interrogation facilities at the US naval base at Guantanamo Bay. According to the Post, detainees "are sometimes kept standing or kneeling for hours, in black hoods or spray-painted goggles.... At times they are held in awkward, painful positions and deprived of sleep with a 24-hour bombardment of lights — subject to what are known as 'stress and duress' techniques." Also, "captives are often 'softened up' by MPs [military police] and US Army Special Forces troops who beat them up and confine them in tiny rooms. The alleged terrorists are commonly blindfolded and thrown into walls, bound in painful positions, subjected to loud noises and deprived of sleep." Prisoners as young as 13 years old have been taken to Guantanamo. On March 5, Luitenent Colonel Barbara Burfeind, a Pentagon spokes person, told the French Press Agency that there had been 20 attempted suicides there so far. There are also reports of several deaths. Now comes the news that the Pentagon intends to try these prisoners in kangaroo courts and execute those it finds guilty of terrorism — which it defines as nothing more than fighting against the US forces that invaded Afghanistan with fearsome weapons and are still carrying out sporadic bombings and raids on impoverished villages. The generals are relying on the constant racist stereotypes of Middle Eastern people delivered by the media to numb the public's shock over such tyrannical practices. The imprisonment of more than two million people in the United States — disproportionately people of colour — and the untrammelled, racist use of the death penalty as a weapon of terror have been under attack. This struggle should be expanded to include an end to the illegal detentions on Guantanamo and the dismantling of this death camp.
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