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Tuesday, 5 March, 2002, 09:51 GMT
X-Ray inmates: What should happen now?
The US authorities have agreed to ease conditions for the Taleban and al-Qaeda prisoners being held in Guantanamo Bay after two-thirds of them went on hunger strike.
The detainees say that the hunger-strike began when one of them was forcibly stripped of a turban he had made out of a sheet and was wearing during prayers.
Now the Camp Commander has told the prisoners they will be able to wear turbans, although they will be searched often.
Meanwhile, the fate of the detainees remains unclear after Washington officials admitted that few, if any, of them are likely to be brought to trial before a military tribunal.
Was the US right to relax conditions at Camp x-ray? What do you think should happen to the detainees now?
This debate is now closed. Read your comments below.
If the detainees are not to be tried it can only be because there is no evidence against them. Without evidence they should be released. It seem the Americans have gone in like a bull in a china shop, grabbed whoever they could and got out again, missing the main target in the process. They should be returned to Afghanistan.
I think some of the language used on this board, by Americans in particular, highlights a problem. People are referring to the detainees as terrorists with no evidence to support this. The only thing we know for certain about them is that they were on the losing side in Afghanistan. If the US had lost would it be right to lock up any US soldier or militiaman without charge?
The hunger strike is an example of how the prisoners are becoming a real liability for the U.S. Whatever we do, it must be done legally and quickly. Can you imagine the outcry if even one of those prisoners dies? Let's get on with it. The prisoners have been pumped for information, so either charge them or send them to their home countries to be charged. And to those who think the prisoners would get light sentences in their home countries, you forget that Saudi Arabia has BEHEADED suspected terrorists in the past - without a trial. Send them to their home countries to be tried the way that John Walker is being tried in the U.S.- with a lawyer and due process.
I think the detainees should be tried by the American courts as it was against the USA that the terrorism was directed in the first place. Why should we pay for lawyers and then pay to have them detained in HM prisons, only for them to be released after some years to take up the cause again. We have enough problems with asylum seekers wanting to live here. How many more people want to come and sponge off us?
If these prisoners want to starve themselves to death, let them do it. It'll save a lot of time and money that would be better spent somewhere else.
As far as Americans are concerned, all of these prisoners, including the American Taleban, should be executed. They do not deserve the constitutional rights as Americans because they are not Americans and secondly, they were caught on foreign soil. If the USA wanted to give them rights, we would house them in the states and they would be in our prison system and not in Cuba. As for the American Taleban, he should be stripped of his citizenship and then executed for treason. We Americans do not have any special feelings for any of these terrorists whether they are American or foreigners. We hold them all in the same light. They are what they are - terrorists!
To Tina Simpson, USA: Aren't you forgetting the basic tenet of the US legal system - that everyone is innocent until proven guilty. You seem to be imposing guilt on these men. Why? Because Bush and his band of merry men says so. Have we any hard evidence? And please don't give me the excuse that details cannot be given for our own security - the day we start believing everything that our government or the FBI tells us is the we can kiss our freedoms goodbye. The prisoners have rights, if not under the US constitution, then certainly under international law.
To Janeen, USA: I do know our legal system very well. Innocent until proven guilty is a right for US citizens and anyone committing a crime on US soil. These terrorists were captured in Afghanistan, not the USA so there "innocent until proven guilty" claim is moot as far as I'm concerned. They were caught in battle against our coalition fighting for terrorism, therefore, I have every right to say they are guilty. You seem so eager to defend terrorists' rights but what rights did those killed on 9/11 have? Did those terrorists care about their freedom to live and their pursuit of happiness? I don't believe everything my government says but I like the action Bush has taken. It is about time an administration is concerned about the well-being of its citizens instead of himself as did the former president. Someone must stand up to these terrorists to let them know that their actions are unacceptable in this world. You cannot be passive in times of brutality. Terrorists cannot live in the same world as decent law-abiding people. We all want peace but until the violence of terrorism is stopped, peace will never come.
The people being detained in camp X-ray are not prisoners of war, because according to the Geneva Convention POW status requires that the prisoner is captured wearing a uniform. These criminals can therefore be defined as "spies", and it would in fact be within the rights of the USA to execute them. Anything that the USA does to them is therefore justified. I agree with Lee (below) in that since the prisoners are not on American soil, they do not come under the protection of the Constitution, and that if they are extradited to their countries of origin, most of them would receive light (if any) penalties. And since there is a war going on, in which America is doing nearly all of the fighting against an enemy that presents the biggest threat to world peace since the Cold War, I think there are some mitigating circumstances to this "violation of human rights".
I would like to further mention that if the positions were reversed, do you think al-Qaeda would care about American soldier's human rights?
Tridiv Borah, Germany / India
The so-called "British" men captured in Afghanistan should be stripped of British citizenship and returned to Afghanistan. We need to send a strong message that if a British citizen opts to fight for a foreign organisation or country, then they are effectively relinquishing British citizenship. These people are our enemies, not fellow citizens. Enough is enough: we do not want them in the UK.
I say that we take the prisoners and put them to work in Afghanistan. Let them be responsible for building back up what they have torn down.
I think the fate of the detainees is tied to three important issues. First, the practical issue of determining which, if any of them truly are connected to any terrorist group. Not an easy thing to find out. Second, on what legal basis should any trials be held? Third, how can the Bush administration show positive results for it's policies? All three present a host of difficulties. Nevertheless, all must be addressed in a way which does the least harm to the detainees, to our system of justice, and gives the least offence to all person's sense of fairness.
Adrian Woodside, UK in US
Every civilized society has a right to defend itself against those who are determined to destroy it, even the United States. These prisoners are part of a vast international conspiracy that is so tenacious and fanatical that they could never be considered safe to re-integrate into the general population of any country. Keeping them imprisoned indefinitely serves no purpose and risks their escape or release for ransom to other terrorists as we saw in the Indian plane hijacking incident. Therefore there is only one logical fate for these prisoners, execution. The real issue is not the prisoners themselves but how the rest of us deal with those who speak out in their defence.
Although this is an emotive issue, we should not forget that if we are to continue thinking of ourselves as the good guys we must start acting accordingly. If we are fighting for freedom from fear, oppression and for wider equality and access to justice then we must practice what we preach. To do otherwise is to admit that we are seeking revenge for the crimes committed against us and propagating hatred.
As far as the British prisoners are concerned, I really, really hope that they never set foot back in this country. They chose to betray their nation, they took up weapons against their brothers & sisters here and willingly cooperated with the enemies of their country.
As the UK no longer has a legal system to protect the innocent, law-abiding citizens, I would not want one more penny of taxpayers money to be wasted on these traitors. Either execute them or ship them back to Afghanistan to rot.
Michael Miles, USA
I'd like to see the X-Ray prisoners tried in a Hague-style international court. This seems appropriate and would, I think, go down much better internationally than the US unilaterally dishing out justice. I'm all for keeping dangerous prisoners contained, but at the same time, we should remember that there is not yet any PROOF that these men are criminals.
It was a mistake to capture them in the first place. Why should they be released so they can come back and fight us again?
When these prisoners are released (as they undoubtedly should be), what sort of demonstration have we given them as to the merits of democracy? They will just go back home and now have a personal reason to attack the US.
They should be put through the same kind of war crimes trial as Slobodan Milosevic and his associates. That would stop the death penalty - so the liberals would stop whining- but at the same time the public would have full access to the trial process.
Also it would mean the relatives of the 3-5000 people killed last September wouldn't quite lose the opportunity for justice.
Held in US custody indefinitely? Without any form of trial? I cannot believe that the US has decided to strip people of their human rights in this manner. The reactionary politics of the current administration since Sept 11 is turning out to be the most offensive aspect of the last few months.
Given that these prisoners are not classed as POWs and that there is insufficient evidence to prosecute them, what grounds does the US have for not releasing them immediately?
Remember they also told us they had a wealth of evidence against a British resident, Lotfi Raisi - they eventually admitted there was no evidence and he was released after 5 months.
Perhaps the will retrospectively classify these Camp X-Ray prisoners as POWs to deflect accusations of unlawful detention.
Many of these people have not done anything directly against the Americans, do you think everyone of them knew and approved of the attack on the World Trade Towers? They were fighting a battle which they saw fit to fight. To say this is only an American problem is self centred, it is an international problem and the Americans should listen to the advice of their allies - whether they like it or not.
I would be the first to criticise America for many of their foreign policies past and present, but I think a lot of people a being rather unfair here. I think the mistake America made was in being too hasty in removing them from Afghanistan without thinking through the long term consequences. As for the shackling, the American penal system ALWAYS shackles prisoners in transit, whatever the offence. If you ask yourself, how would these people treat American prisoners, we have all had the answer to that one. Don't forget, they were in Afghanistan to fight for the continued oppression of the Afghan people. To the Afghans they are foreign terrorists and it is in Afghanistan that they should be tried. Under Sharia law.
I chuckle at the people on this forum that say release them back into society. Do you people not have an ounce of common sense? Many of these prisoners have outright said they would love to kill their guards, amongst many other Americans. I don't doubt that some of these captured men are innocent, and hopefully they will be released in time. But as for the others, line them up and do it Afghani style!
As the US declared the attacks as an act of war, surely these people are prisoners of war and not really guilty of any criminals as such? POWs are usually released at the end of a war... so surely they should be sent back to their own countries?
It just seems like one giant political mess. Not to mention great profits for the US arms industry!
Simon Mallett, UK
How about getting some liberal Muslims in to show them they've been exploited? Education is the only way to combat extremism.
Mike Brown (British ex-pat) Saudi Arabia
The only other law they can be charged under is the Terrorist Act of 2000 and this is useless because it's hard to prove the men were directly involved in al-Qaeda. All the confessions the men made over in America admitting to al-Qaeda connections will not be allowed to be used here because they were not given the right to legal advice or the right to remain silent. Believe you m, these men will get away scot-free in a British climate that is more obsessed with political correctness than national security. What a shame our country has lost its backbone to its enemy.
I think the prisoners themselves will prefer to stay in Camp X-Ray rather than return to Afghanistan to face justice.
James Taylor, UK
If these people were judged dangerous enough to warrant such extreme incarceration, do you think they've become genteel rehabilitated people? How do you guarantee they will be securely held once they are out of your control? The only option is for them to be given a fair trial and sentenced to a prison term at a special prison constructed just for the purpose. It would be the height of folly to release these people back into society unless you fancy suicide bombers at Trafalgar Square. The spectre of the nuclear bomb in the briefcase and the cyanide canister in the water supply may well become a reality if any of these people ever become free. I know it is a harsh thing to say, but these are harsh times!
Robert Morpheal, Canada
What is the US playing at? How did they capture the 500 prisoners they now have and under what terms are they holding them? If this is a war against terrorism then they are prisoners of war and should be held accordingly. If they have committed no war crimes, let them be repatriated to their own countries. The matter needs to be brought to an end before the global support afforded to the US completely breaks down.
Release them. They've done their time. Keeping them behind bars isn't helping anyone's bid for world peace.
They are terrorists that were intending to kill innocent people. Depending on how involved each individual was with terrorism acts then they should be given the death penalty.
Jonathan Kelk, UK
I suspect that governments who are following the US lead of ruthless injustice will dispose of many of these people. The US wants them dead, and they will demand that governments around the world yield to their command ("You kill these guys and we'll push a bit of business your wayż"). The die has now been cast and we'll now all follow the US lead.
Nicholas Hados, USA
Rumsfeld's statements on this matter indicate that the US regards foreigners to be al-Qaeda and Afghans to be Taleban. This simplistic approach has characterised the US all along - we have had enough of the US jumping to conclusions on flimsy evidence. Undoubtedly many foreigners who fought in Afghanistan were fighting for the Taleban. But these people are not al-Qaeda. The US must take its position seriously and do the right thing by defining the prisoners according to the United States' legal system. Once legally defined, in terms that the international community can understand, we can decide what to do. The US cannot now just shrug its shoulders and pass the buck.
If the US releases them, the most appropriate place to send them would be back to Afghanistan.
The Taleban prisoners should be sent back to Afghanistan where they will be freed or punished, depending on what they have done. The al-Qaeda prisoners, on the other hand, should all be executed.
John Molby, UK
Let's see now. I'd like to see them released, with public apology from George W. Bush for wasting their time and a large amount of compensation for wrongful arrest and inhumane treatment.
They should be tried in civilian courts in their countries of origin as the American Taleban is. At present they are being denied justice.
Oh and let's not forget: these animals, that some refer to as prisoners of war at Camp X-Ray, have not set foot on American soil, which for all of you that do not have a constitution, means that they have no constitutional rights guaranteed by the US. We will treat them as we see fit. End of story. When the rest of the world wants to start helping in this battle maybe we will listen to a bit of their advice.
Before you can decide what to do with each one, you first must know exactly what it is they are being accused of.
The UK's prison system cannot afford to accommodate more religious zealots and freedom fighters. I think the US should send the Camp X-Ray prisoners back to Afghanistan and let their regime deal with them.
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