FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Guantánamo’s Lingering Stain

by CÉSAR CHELALA

“We must be clear about this: the United States is in clear breach not just of its own commitments but also of international laws and standards that it is obliged to uphold,” declared recently Friday Navi Pillay, the U.N. Commissioner for Human Rights. She said that in reference to Guantánamo and, in one of the strongest criticisms of United States policy towards the inmates there also called on the US government to close that facility.

Ms. Pillay’s statement came shortly before guards at the Guantánamo Bay facility had fired “four non-lethal rounds” at prisoners, to force them into isolated one-man cells in an attempt to end their hunger strike. Lawyers for the inmates at Guantánamo have said that most of the 166 prisoners presently held at Guantánamo are staging a hunger strike to protest their indefinite detention and other human rights violations.

One of the main arguments for denying constitutional protection to the Guantánamo prisoners rests on the allegation that Guantánamo is in Cuba, off American soil. Yet, respect for basic human dignity fostered by the Bill of Rights is not limited by nationality and territory. And if the US Constitution were not enough, international human rights law (customary and treaty-based), extends such protection.

While legal condemnation awaits the final word of a Supreme Court or supranational tribunal with enforcing capabilities, the inhumane treatment of prisoners at Guantánamo has been repeatedly condemned by international human rights organizations. The UN Commissioner for Human Rights pronouncement confirms once more that prisoners were subjected to cruel and inhuman treatment.

Many of the responses to allegations of torture at Guantánamo from commanding officers of the US army have been ethically suspect. Equally troubling from the medical and ethical perspective has been the collaboration of US Army doctors and other health personnel in the torture and mistreatment of prisoners.

Already in 2004, Dr Robert Jay Lifton had warned that there has been “increasing evidence that doctors, nurses and medics have been compliant in torture and other illegal procedures in Iraq, Afghanistan and Guantánamo Bay.”  The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) charged that US interrogators engaged the participation of medical personnel in what the committee called “a flagrant violation of medical ethics.”

In an article published in April 2011, Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) experts stated that medical doctors and mental health professionals at the Guantánamo facility neglected or concealed evidence of torture and ill treatment of prisoners including bone fractures, lacerations and symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder.

Doctors and medical personnel aiding or abetting torturers challenge the medical profession with one of its most crucial ethical dilemmas. The Declaration of Tokyo -agreed in 1975 by the World Medical Association- has a firm ethical prescription: “The doctor shall not countenance, condone or participate in the practice of torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading procedures, whatever the offence of which the victim of such procedures is suspected, accused or guilty, and whatever the victim’s beliefs or motives, and in all situations, including armed conflict and civil strife.”

The moral and legal challenge confronting the United States is to continue its war on terrorism while adhering to international human rights standards, which are not in conflict with the protections offered by the US Constitution. As Ms. Navi Pillay stated, “We must be clear about this: the United States is in clear breach not just of its own commitments, but also of international laws and standards that it is obliged to uphold. When other countries breach these standards, the U.S. –quite rightly- strongly criticizes them for it.”

The United States’ government should seriously investigate and prosecute all allegations of torture and cruel and inhuman treatment of Guantánamo inmates – not because of the international outcry it has provoked, but because it is the right thing to do.

Addressing the moral issues that Guantánamo presents, offers the United States an opportunity to live up to the ideals of respecting and ensuring human dignity as they are framed in the Bill of Rights and the US Constitution.

Dr. César Chelala is an international public health consultant and a co-winner of an Overseas Press Club of America award.

Dr. Cesar Chelala is a co-winner of the 1979 Overseas Press Club of America award for the article “Missing or Disappeared in Argentina: The Desperate Search for Thousands of Abducted Victims.”

More articles by:
Weekend Edition
July 29, 2016
Friday - Sunday
Michael Hudson
Obama Said Hillary will Continue His Legacy and Indeed She Will!
Jeffrey St. Clair
She Stoops to Conquer: Notes From the Democratic Convention
Rob Urie
Long Live the Queen of Chaos
Ismael Hossein-Zadeh
Evolution of Capitalism, Escalation of Imperialism
Margot Kidder
My Fellow Americans: We Are Fools
Ralph Nader
Hillary’s Convention Con
Lewis Evans
Executing Children Won’t Save the Tiger or the Rhino
Vijay Prashad
The Iraq War: a Story of Deceit
Chris Odinet
It Wasn’t Just the Baton Rouge Police Who Killed Alton Sterling
Brian Cloughley
Could Trump be Good for Peace?
Patrick Timmons
Racism, Freedom of Expression and the Prohibition of Guns at Universities in Texas
Gary Leupp
The Coming Crisis in U.S.-Turkey Relations
Pepe Escobar
Is War Inevitable in the South China Sea?
Norman Pollack
Clinton Incorruptible: An Ideological Contrivance
Robert Fantina
The Time for Third Parties is Now!
Andre Vltchek
Like Trump, Hitler Also Liked His “Small People”
Serge Halimi
Provoking Russia
David Rovics
The Republicans and Democrats Have Now Switched Places
Andrew Stewart
Countering The Nader Baiter Mythology
Rev. William Alberts
“Law and Order:” Code words for White Lives Matter Most
Ron Jacobs
Something Besides Politics for Summer’s End
David Swanson
It’s Not the Economy, Stupid
Erwan Castel
A Faith that Lifts Barricades: The Ukraine Government Bows and the Ultra-Nationalists are Furious
Steve Horn
Did Industry Ties Lead Democratic Party Platform Committee to Nix Fracking Ban?
Robert Fisk
How to Understand the Beheading of a French Priest
Colin Todhunter
Sugar-Coated Lies: How The Food Lobby Destroys Health In The EU
Franklin Lamb
“Don’t Cry For Us Syria … The Truth is We Shall Never Leave You!”
Caoimhghin Ó Croidheáin
The Artistic Representation of War and Peace, Politics and the Global Crisis
Frederick B. Hudson
Well Fed, Bill?
Harvey Wasserman
NY Times Pushes Nukes While Claiming Renewables Fail to Fight Climate Change
Elliot Sperber
Pseudo-Democracy, Reparations, and Actual Democracy
Uri Avnery
The Orange Man: Trump and the Middle East
Marjorie Cohn
The Content of Trump’s Character
Missy Comley Beattie
Pick Your Poison
Kathleen Wallace
Feel the About Turn
Joseph Grosso
Serving The Grid: Urban Planning in New York
John Repp
Real Cooperation with Nations Is the Best Survival Tactic
Binoy Kampmark
The Scourge of Youth Detention: The Northern Territory, Torture, and Australia’s Detention Disease
Kim Nicolini
Rain the Color Blue with a Little Red In It
Cesar Chelala
Gang Violence Rages Across Central America
Phillip Kim et al.
Open Letter to Bernie Sanders from Former Campaign Staffers
Tom H. Hastings
Africa/America
Robert Koehler
Slavery, War and Presidential Politics
Charles R. Larson
Review: B. George’s “The Death of Rex Ndongo”
July 28, 2016
Paul Street
Politician Speak at the DNC
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail