The Guantanamo case

How often haven’t we heard that the Guantanamo prison will be closed? Presidents Bush and Obama promised; Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates and Secretary of State Colin L. Powell promised. But the facilities are still working and 166 men, many of whom have no other ‘default’ than being a Muslim who was in the wrong place at the wrong time, still wait to be released. As long as the United States is at war with terrorism, or more precisely with Al Qaeda, the law allows Washington to keep them in prison without charge. Abolishing Guantanamo, the authorities say, will mean relocating the prisoners to American high security facilities, where they are worse off than in Guantanamo. They will not be able to pray, eat and exercise together in American prisons, where they would be kept in their cells 22 hours a day, according to Jennifer Daskal, lawyer and former counterterrorism counsel at Human Rights Watch. Not a good option. So the US keeps Guantanamo open until the war is over. Will this be the case as soon as US troops will have left Afghanistan?
With the end of the conflict, the legal justification for detention will finally disappear. Some inmates have been on the island since 2002, not knowing why, with no hope of returning home. And this may be the real problem: not a single country is to be found where the prisoners could go as soon as they are released. Some where meant to leave for Yemen, but the US authorities considered this to be too dangerous as Yemen is unstable and the fear exists that they will join terrorist groups. Four prisoners with the Algerian nationality, but without the passport that has been taken from them by the authorities, are waiting for a host country, having been cleared a long time ago. But they cannot be moved if they don’t recieve a refugee status in, say, The Netherlands or Germany. So while most reasonable people in Europe are frustrated by Guantanamo still being open, no pressure group has been able to convince a government to accept one or more of the cleared prisoners. While staying in Guantanamo is better than being transferred to the US, most inmates deserve a new life, a new chance. Now. Can someone in The Hague, the home of the International Criminal Court and justice in general, stand up and come with a solution? It is time to stop just being worried about Guantanamo and to take action.

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