"People will definitely die. Bobby Sands petitioned the British government
to stop the illegitimate internment of Irishmen without trial...Nobody should
believe for one moment that my brothers here have less courage." Binyam
Mohammed, British prisoner at Guantanamo Bay
When Senate hearings convene this week for Supreme Court candidate,
John Roberts, let's hope that they focus on the hunger strike taking place at
Guantanamo Bay. It was Robert's ruling in Rumsfeld vs. Hamdan that hastened
a massive 200 man hunger-strike that is now in its second month and has hospitalized
at least 15 inmates. The prisoners are demanding that they be given the opportunity
to challenge the terms of their detention in a court of law; a principle that
Robert's does not support. He ruled in the Hamdan case that the president was
not constrained by international law and that "the Geneva Conventions do
not create judicially enforceable rights."
Roberts ignores the fact that the United States is a signatory of the Geneva
Conventions and must comply with its provisions for the humane treatment of
prisoners as well as offering prisoners the Convention's protection "until
such time as their status has been determined by a competent tribunal."
Rumsfeld's hand-picked military courts do not meet these requirements, and have
been rejected by prominent legal organizations and human rights groups alike.
Let's be clear; the 500 prisoners in Guantanamo Bay are innocent. That
is not my contention, but the belief of everyone who still accepts the fundamental
principle of American jurisprudence, that men are "innocent until proven
guilty". The inmates have been deprived of due process of law, so we must
presume that they are innocent. The language invented at the Defense Dept; "terrorist",
"enemy combatant" "insurgent", should not cloud our reasoning
or undermine our commitment to fair play. The prisoners should be allowed to
defend themselves according to internationally accepted standards of justice.
Roberts does not believe that captives in the war on terror have any
rights whatsoever. His ruling in Rumsfeld vs. Hamdan confers absolute
authority on the President to imprison suspects indefinitely without any legal
process in place to challenge their imprisonment. But, if this is true, than
why do we need courts or judges at all? Why not simply resolve these issues
by executive fiat?
Robert's ruling has earned him an appointment to the Supreme Court;
a souvenir for endorsing the supreme powers of the president. But,
his ambition comes at a cost. 200 or more victims of his verdict are presently
starving themselves to death demanding the right to have their cases heard in
court. The scene at Guantanamo has been described as "dire" by defense
attorneys for the detainees with gruesome descriptions of prisoners "vomiting
blood or collapsing in their cells". The Defense Dept. has tried to conceal
the details of the hunger-strike and has prevented the media and the Red Cross
from visiting the prisoners.
Guantanamo needs to be opened up so that we can see the consequences
of Robert's judicial philosophy. If Robert's is willing to rubber-stamp a policy
that promotes the cruel and inhuman treatment of prisoners then the public should
be aware of it.
Roberts has argued that, "The president's authority under the
laws of our nation to try enemy combatants is a vital part of the global war
Roberts should be given every opportunity to defend his theories on
justice as long as the sick and emaciated victims of his philosophy are paraded
through the Senate Rotunda for everyone to observe.
American justice is an oxymoron. Under Bush, there is neither justice
nor a system; just the willful conduct of bullies who act according to the most
cynical impulses. Roberts is the embodiment of the present paradigm; a man whose
adult life has been devoted to secret organizations, like the Federalist Society,
whose sole purpose is the dismantling of legal protections and civil liberties
for the common man. He is the poster-boy of the new world order.
The Muslim prisoners who are resisting this regime of lawlessness; some who
have even ripped the feeding tubes from their arms; are heroes in the truest
sense of the word. They have put their own lives on the line for a just cause;
demanding that they be treated with the same respect and dignity deserving of
every man. Now, they face an agonizing death fighting for the very same principles
that are written into the Constitution and the Bill of Rights.
They've earned our admiration, and they have it.