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The Forgotten Prisoners of Guantanamo

by ELAINE CASSEL

It has been a while since the hapless prisoners of the United States, those being held in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba as “enemy combatants,” have been in the news. The last rush of publicity in the spring had to do with plans to build execution chambers and try them in secret with government prosecutors and defense attorneys. Then Blair got feisty and wanted the British subjects held there not to face death. Alright, Bush said, we won’t shoot your guys, out of gratitude for your putting your asses on the line for us in Iraq.

Then there was the news of the juveniles held there–we now find that some were as young as 13. We have not heard of their fates yet, only that they were held separately from adults and are being “schooled.” That’s a new twist on the Administration’s “no child left behind” policy, isn’t it?

Few Americans care about the prisoners, captured in Afghanistan and brought to Cuba about 18 months ago. Hell, they must have been up to no good, or they would not be here. That is about what Rumsfeld says, too. They might not be “terrorists,” but they are troublemakers.

Previous efforts to get some legal relief for these men–to require that they be charged and tried or freed, to provide them with attorneys, to provide them with meaningful contact with families–were stopped at the courthouse door. A federal judge said, in one of the more idiotic catch-22 lines of logic, that they were not on American soil, so they could have no access to American courts. Forget that we control Guantanamo Bay. So the prisoners are in a legal nether world–subject only to the ad hoc, ex post facto regulations Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz make up as they go along.

But the Center for Constitutional Rights is trying once to get the plight of these men before the U.S. legal system.

On Tuesday, the Center for Constitutional Rights asked the Supreme Court to review the controversial decision by the DC Circuit denying counsel to alleged terrorists being detained by the United States at its naval base on Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. The issue presented in the case, Rasul v. Bush, is whether enemy combatants being tried in military tribunals are entitled to any of the due process rights to which they would be entitled in U.S. courts. The Court has already rejected one petition to review the case, on procedural grounds. Its decision on this petition is expected this fall.

 

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