January 18, 2005
GUANTANAMO ASSAILED AS 'AMERICA'S HUMAN RIGHTS FAILURE'
** Dailies label detentions "a symbol of shame" that besmirch "democracy's rule of law."
** "Release of five Gitmo detainess is welcome but still needs "three years' worth of explaining"
** Critics assail Attorney General nominee Gonzales' views on the Geneva Convention
Democracy’s disgrace and 'icon of lawlessness'-- Overall media opinion maintained that "Guantánamo is a bad advertisement for democracy and democratic values.” Numerous commentators added that Gitmo “symbolizes a place where cruelty is tolerated and justice is denied.” Editorials suggested that the war on terror has taken a wrong turn and that “American officials created a legal monster in Guantánamo Bay.” Qatar's semi-official Gulf Times argued that “the introduction of detention without trial...has been the single greatest victory al-Qaida has secured,” while an Australian writer cautioned Guantánamo provided an opportunity “to reflect on the fragility of liberty,” even as he acknowledged that “terrorism is a threat to the citizenry of modern societies.” Stating a more forceful minority view, Australia’s popular Daily Telegraph emphasized that perceived injustice toward detainees “needs to be seen in the context of September 11 and the Bali bombings.”
Upcoming prisoner releases: a small victory for democracy-- Freeing four Britons and an Australian does little to lessen the fact that “detainees have been subject to egregious violations of legal principles, some of which date back to the Magna Carta, the great charter of English liberty,” argued Australia's liberal Age. It added “the U.S. and Australian governments have colluded to deny the detainees' rights to habeas corpus.” Uganda’s state-owned New Vision believed these to-be-freed detainees “have been saved by the simple fact that they are citizens of countries that invaded Iraq.” Similarly, the UAE's expatriate-oriented Khaleej Times asked readers to "imagine the plight of the inmates whose nations are not in Washington's good books." In contrast, an Australian editor applauded the releases as a “small victory for democracy,” and the conservative Australian averred they demonstrate “the U.S. government is not above the rule of law.“
Gonzales characterized as preparing the legal groundwork for Gitmo abuse-- Writers generally questioned President Bush’s selection of Alberto Gonzales to be the next attorney general while recognizing that his confirmation was likely assured. They alleged his opinions "paved the way for abuse and torture of prisoners in Guantánamo and Abu Ghraib.” Norway’s newspaper-of-record Aftenposten scored Gonzales for abetting “the Bush administration’s broad interpretation of harsh methods of interrogation." Bahrain’s pro-government Daily Tribune held that follow-on policy positions from the foundation Gonzales laid "opened the door to systematic and unlimited brutality against detainees in Iraq, Afghanistan, Guantánamo and in U.S. prisons in foreign countries.”
Prepared by Media Reaction Branch (202) 203-7888, email@example.com
EDITOR: Rupert D. Vaughan
EDITOR'S NOTE: Media Reaction reporting conveys the spectrum of foreign press sentiment. Posts select commentary to provide a representative picture of local editorial opinion. Some commentary is taken directly from the Internet. This report summarizes and interprets foreign editorial opinion and does not necessarily reflect the views of the U.S. Government. This analysis was based on 34 reports from 17 countries over January 5-18, 2005. Editorial excerpts are listed from the most recent date.
BRITAIN: "Justice Cannot Be Suspended For Ever"
The conservative Daily Telegraph opined (1/12): "The detention of [three Britons to be freed] for up to three years despite the lack of evidence could offend the basic laws of justice in peacetime. But, at a time of war--when these men were detained--it is the right of even the most impeccable of democracies to suspend those basic laws in the defence of its people.... The question then becomes: how long do you detain suspects when your nation is involved in an asymmetrical war on terrorism that, as President Bush has said, may well last for decades rather than years?"
"The Disgrace Of Guantánamo"
The center-left Independent editorialized (1/12): "It may never be clear whether the releases are on judicial grounds, whether they are intended as a favour to Mr. Blair in advance of the election, or whether they are part of a wider public relations exercise--detectable in the U.S. response to the tsunami disaster--by Washington to transform its negative image around the world. There could well be elements of all three. With the war in Iraq having become such a liability, it would make sense for the U.S. to eliminate unnecessary obstacles to good relations with traditional allies.
"Tortured By U.S. Military Officials"
Legal affairs correspondent Robert Verkaik commented in the center-left Independent (1/12): "For much of his detention [Moazzam Begg] has been held in solitary confinement, often exposed to extreme weather conditions and deprived of basic necessities. His letters home, supported by testimony from former Guantánamo detainees, reveal that Mr. Begg may also have been tortured by U.S. military officials, increasingly desperate to extract a confession from him."
"Illegal Detention Center"
The center-left Independent noted (1/10): "After three years of injustice America must dismantle this illegal detention center. Yet the real outrage at Guantánamo is not that it has been a less than effective tool in defeating global terrorism. The greatest disgrace is that it has become, in the words of Amnesty International, an 'icon of lawlessness'. To the Pentagon, the inmates of Guantánamo are not 'prisoners of war', protected by the Geneva Conventions, but 'non-enemy combatants....' They have been cast into a terrifying legal black hole.”
The left-of-center Guardian editorialized (Internet version, 1/8): "It is good to know that Alberto Gonzales, President George Bush's nominee for U.S. attorney-general, is 'sickened and outraged' by torture...words he used when he was the White House counsel and the abuse of detainees was taking place at Abu-Ghraib prison and Guantánamo Bay in Cuba. The controversy surrounding Mr. Gonzales includes two key elements: one is that it is part of the American dream that the child of a dirt-poor Mexican immigrant can rise to one of the highest offices in the land.... The second element--not part of that dream, even after 9/11--is the way that democratic values and human rights have been violated in pursuit of Mr. Bush's 'war on terror'."
FRANCE: "Guantánamo, Year IV"
Left-of-center Le Monde asserted (1/12): “The venue of Guantánamo was chosen because it came under no jurisdiction, neither the U.S. nor the Cuban one. The Pentagon’s intention, approved by the White House, was to create a zone that would stand outside the law, where alleged al-Qaida combatants...could be detained, and above all interrogated without judicial control. A Pentagon spokesperson announced on January 6 that among the detainees in Guantánamo, around 25 percent had some ‘value’ in terms of intelligence. Even if this was reason enough to detain them, what should be said about the other 75 percent? What are the charges against them? Before what jurisdiction will they be able to answer the charges and when?... FBI documents obtained by human rights activists have revealed that interrogation procedures in Guantánamo included violence. The International Red Cross, the only entity allowed by the U.S. to watch over the conditions of detention, had in November 2004 called attention to methods which were ‘equivalent to torture.’ The simple truth is that American officials created a legal monster in Guantánamo Bay. They must put an end to the situation, quickly and effectively, by liberating those detainees whose files are empty and by charging the rest before ordinary courts of law.”
GERMANY: "Phoenix From The Waves"
Washington correspondent Wolfgang Koydl commented in center-left Sueddeutsche Zeitung of Munich (1/5): "The world has painted a picture of U.S. soldiers in recent years that cannot be called complimentary. Pictures taken in Abu Ghraib and Guantánamo, in Khandahar and Fallujah define this image. At best, they show GIs with angry faces, eyes hidden behind sunglasses, firearms cocked or racing through dusty streets in armored Humvees like modern apocalyptic riders spreading fear. At worst, the pictures are symbols of the banality of the evil, showing grinning soldiers with naked bodies of tortured prisoners. In recent days, the world has seen different pictures. They show American soldiers distributing water bottles, transporting aid goods and rescuing victims. These pictures were made in the disaster region of Sri Lanka, Indonesia and Thailand--a world apart from Iraq. But there is a link between these pictures: the Asian tsunamis are supposed to wash away the memory of the Iraqi dirt. Indeed, the tsunamis in the Indian Ocean offer the United States an opportunity to improve its image in the world."
"Deformed Rule Of Law"
In left-of-center Frankfurter Rundschau, Karl Grobe noted (1/4): "If the idea came from Russia, there would be an outrage. But it does not come from Moscow but from the United States, and, to be more precise, from the CIA and the Pentagon. They suggested putting terror suspects for the rest of their lives in prison if the material for a trial does not suffice. This even goes beyond the imprisonment...in Guantánamo. And it fits the Senate hearings for the portfolio of Attorney-General, Alberto Gonzales. He drew up several biased studies.... The CIA and the Pentagon submitted their proposals at the end of last year. This was tactically smart; the tsunami disaster made the headlines, and the information society took a break during the Christmas holidays. In addition, the rights of freedom were already strongly restricted by the 'Patriot Act' in 2001. The 'war' on terror has changed the democratic U.S. state to such a degree that the suggestion of the two institutions almost looks like routine. Maybe it is routine like so many comparable things in Russia."
ITALY: "America Of The Rotten Apples"
Vittorio Zucconi wrote in left-leaning, influential La Repubblica (1/7): “When we had the first leaks about Abu Ghraib and Guantánamo...they told us that it had to do with a few ‘rotten apples’ and that in any case torturers would be punished.... Unfortunately, the appointment of Alberto Gonzales as Attorney General reveals that the rot started from the orchard and that Gonzales himself stated that the Geneva Convention against torture was quaint and obsolete.... Only some ‘rotten apples’ have so far been condemned...and none of the great manure spreaders of the rotten orchard, Rumsfeld at the Pentagon and Gonzales, nor the generals in the field, have been called to account.... If America tortures in the name of the Jewish Christian West, all of us Westerners are torturers.”
DENMARK: "America's human rights failure"
Center-left Politiken commented (1/16): "Since September 11, 2001, the U.S. has violated just about every human right in the book. Everything appears to be okay if it is done in the name of fighting terror…. There is little chance that the high-ranking officials who appear to have approved the use of suspect interrogation methods will be brought to justice.... Another consequence of American stance on human rights has been the other countries, such as Saudi Arabia and Russia have been inspired to restrict human rights…. The U.S., that has in the past stood for democracy both at home and abroad, now appears to be exporting violence and suppression of human rights. The war on terror must be waged with human rights at the fore."
NORWAY: "Lifetime At Guantánamo"
The social democratic newspaper Dagsavisen commented (1/5): “The U.S. treatment of prisoners at the Guantánamo base in Cuba is not worthy of a state founded on legal protection. Now the building of a permanent prison is planned, where terror suspects can be kept for life without legal rights or a verdict. Any regime treating its opponents like this would be strictly condemned. These are serious breaches of the most basic human rights. The United States cannot demand exceptions only for itself.... The United States has faced dangerous enemies also in the past, but even so they have chosen to respect human rights and the Geneva Conventions on how to treat prisoners. By breaching this, the United States also puts its own soldiers at great risk should they be taken prisoner. The rules are there for everybody’s well-being. Unfortunately, U.S. behavior weakens the global fight for human rights.”
"Bush Gets His New Attorney General"
The newspaper of record Aftenposten remarked (1/8): "The new attorney general is a good example of how nothing provides a better guarantee for a career than personal loyalty--and it helps even further with a memory that is not too great. For it has only been three years since Gonzales wrote an opinion where he rejected the objections Secretary of State Colin Powell had raised against the Bush administration’s broad interpretation of harsh methods of interrogation."
ROMANIA: "Alberto Gonzales"
Political analyst Ana Maria Merticaru commented in respected daily Adevarul (1/7): “The evil has been already done, as some human rights groups remark, believing that Alberto Gonzales’ opinions have paved the way for abuse and torture of prisoners in Guantánamo and Abu Ghraib. In spite of all this, he needn’t worry about his future, taking into account that two-thirds of the senators will approve his nomination. To impose the president’s choice, Republicans will emphasize Gonzales’ life story, which perfectly illustrates the ‘American dream’: the son of Mexican immigrants, he sold soft drinks during football games at Rice University and dreamed of returning there someday, as a student.”
SPAIN: "More Unprotected"
Left-of-center daily El Pais remarked (1/18): "Bush considers that, with his reelection, the voters have legitimated his actions in the war in Iraq in the ballot boxes. But political legitimacy by ballot boxes in his country, which nobody can deny, does not give legitimacy over his international actions.... The tortures by the U.S. of prisoners in Iraq, Guantánamo, and other places have been seized upon by regimes such as the Egyptians, the Malaysians, or the Russians, to justify their use of indefinite detentions without trial and other excesses. Due to these policies, we are all left further unprotected."
Left-of-center El País wrote (1/9): "Since the 9/11 attacks generated global panic and imposed a state of emergency on a large part of the world, evidence has multiplied that the practice of torture has not only been left unprosecuted, like it should have been, but also that these practices have been tacitly accepted as one more technique of interrogatation, especially in the 'global war against terrorism' led by the U.S.... Those that lead and tolerate these practices are undermining the moral superiority (of democracy), betraying the principles and values that the fight against terrorism is fighting for, and giving the enemies of democracy arguments and strength.... What is needed is a total end to the isolated and defenseless manner in which the suspects of terrorism are (currently held). It's necessary to expose those responsible, because these crimes are an unbearable burden for a real democracy."
BAHRAIN: "Questioning Bush's Attorney General Nominee"
Mirza Aman commented in the English-language Bahrain Tribune (1/10): When I began writing this..[s]enators from both parties were still questioning Bush’s Attorney General-nominee Alberto Gonzales about policies and advice he recommended that were used to legalize torturing prisoners and ignoring international laws and conventions.... Extreme rightists are not only running the White House but also the American Capitol. That is why Bush has been able to legitimize all his wrong actions and policies.... The man began his political career serving George Bush Jr. in 1994, when Bush, then the governor of Texas, named him as his general counsel.... As counsel to Governor Bush, Gonzales helped Bush get acquitted from a drunk driving charge and erased his record at the traffic department.... Gonzales supported the use of the Patriot Act, Bush’s anti-terrorism law that was put into effect after September 11 attacks on New York and Washington. He also participated in Bush’s decision on shipping foreign detainees and who were in U.S. custody to nations that allow and practise torture, in order to extract further information from them. Because of this decision, the Bush administration established a number of secret prisons in foreign countries and moved a large number of detainees to those prisons for interrogation.... That policy opened the door to systematic and unlimited brutality against detainees in Iraq, Afghanistan, Guantánamo and in U.S. prisons in foreign countries.... This is the man nominated by Bush to be the next U.S. attorney general and who, if confirmed, could be the next U.S. chief justice, as predicted by some American analysts."
QATAR: "Guantánamo Bay Is Al-Qaida’s Victory"
The semi-official English-language Gulf Times noted (Internet version, 1/13): "It is almost three years since the Guantánamo Bay prison camp opened... Images of the camp's inmates wearing orange jumpsuits and manacles provoked international outrage, as did subsequent pictures from Iraq showing inmates being tortured by U.S. soldiers. There have also been reports of torture at Guantánamo Bay but the real horror facing the inmates there is the threat of indefinite confinement without trial or access to legal representation. Yesterday, South Africa’s Archbishop Desmond Tutu, a Nobel peace prize winner, called for the release of the remaining inmates at Guantánamo Bay and terror suspects held without trial in the UK. Tutu compared the practices of holding suspected enemies of the state in indefinite detention with the actions of the despised apartheid regime that ruled South Africa. Tutu’s comments came after news reports that all four Britons and an Australian held by the U.S. in the prison on Cuba will be freed within weeks. In fact, the introduction of detention without trial by both the U.S. and Britain, in violation of the ancient legal traditions of both countries, has been the single greatest victory Al-Qaida has secured. As the inmates are invariably Muslims, the inhumane treatment they are receiving at the hands of the Western powers acts as a vindication for Al-Qaida’s claim that it is fighting “Crusaders”. The barbarity exposed at Abu Ghraib and now being reported from Camp Delta in Cuba appears to support claims that the U.S. is engaged in a brutal occupation of Arab lands and reminds the Arab public of the oppression of the Palestinians by Israel. The highest officials in the U.S. and British governments have been behind the assault on the ancient law of habeas corpus, which protects the individual against arbitrary imprisonment, and the White House itself seems to have been actively redefining its understanding of what torture is, to enable individuals to be tortured. However, this is an aberration, it does not reflect the true nature of Western society and Western values. The governments of Britain and the U.S. should recognise that by abandoning the most basic principles of their legal systems, they have betrayed the democracy they claim to be defending."
SYRIA: "Between Dialogue And Escalation"
Isam Dari commented in government-owned Tishrin (1/12): "All the peoples of the world want the United States to play the role of a guide and not the role of a detonator. However, regrettably, it is not playing the role it is supposed to play. It is not maintaining the peace. It is initiating wars by adopting strange theories like 'pre-emptive wars' and 'war against terrorism,' and dividing countries of the world into two camps: good and evil.... 'Neoconservatives' have tailored these policies and theories to suit American interests only."
UAE: "Good News For British Detainees...."
The expatriate-oriented, English-language Khaleej Times observed (Internet version, 1/13): "Four Britons...are to be set free in the next few days from America’s most infamous prison, ...the release has been made possible following 'intensive and complex' negotiations with U.S. authorities. A total of nine British citizens had been held by the U.S...with five being released last March. The failure of the Labour government to secure the release of the remaining four had been a source of embarrassment for Prime Minister Blair, especially since he had pleaded last year with President Bush to release them. That is why the release of four Britons will come as a relief to both their families and the Blair government. Doubtless, if Britons are being ‘gifted’ freedom after three long years, it is thanks to the rare rapport Blair enjoys with Bush. If Blair, despite his proximity to the U.S. leader, found it so hard to have the detainees released, imagine the plight of the inmates whose nations are not in Washington's good books. Who’ll fight for them? It’s estimated that there are at least 550 detainees locked away. Many of them were captured during the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan. Others were picked up from Pakistan and elsewhere. Not much is known about those faceless men except that they have been condemned as ‘enemy combatants’. Which means they do not enjoy the rights of prisoners of war, enshrined in the Geneva Conventions, that have been ratified by all UN member states including the U.S. Earlier last year when some of the detainees were brought before a military commission, the U.S. Supreme Court questioned the legality of such a trial. Criticising the detentions, America’s top court declared that war was not a blank check for the government to undermine human rights. The court held that the detainees couldn’t be tried by the military tribunal and that the detainees could approach a civilian court. The U.S. court ruling was followed by a similar verdict by the UK’s top court, which slammed the Blair government for detaining suspects without trial. Thankfully, the judiciary in the U.S. and Britain continues to remain alert to any rights abuse by the executive. Unfortunately, even judicial activism has failed to make any difference to those held. Isn’t it time the rest of the detainees are set free? They have already paid a heavy price for being a bystander in America’s war on terror. Either they should be brought before a court of law or allowed to go."
"Guantánamo Is A Symbol Of shame"
The expatriate-oriented, English-language Gulf News opined (1/3): "America's so-called 'war on terror' is compromised the moment terror is inflicted on others. Guantánamo is a place where detainees routinely suffer the terror of torture. The camp is no longer a geographical corner of Cuba. It has joined the lexicon of shame along with Abu Ghraib. It symbolises a place where cruelty is tolerated and justice is denied. The American Civil Liberties Union has obtained thousands of documents under the U.S. Freedom of Information Act which substantiate the claims of abuse at Guantánamo. These documents include memos and e-mails by Federal Bureau of Investigation officials and Defence Intelligence Agency officers at Guantánamo which are strongly critical of interrogation methods used. Now the Bush administration is seriously considering introducing lifetime detention for what it considers to be terror suspects. Effectively this means picking someone up, locking the cell door and throwing away the key. No charge, no jury, no judge, just life. No justice. It has been said before, but it loses nothing in the repetition; Guantánamo and what it stands for is a stain on American values and is a self-inflicted wound in the struggle against terrorism. The best thing for Guantánamo would be to empty the place of detainees and lock the gates forever on the wretched place. You cannot win a conflict with terror by using terror. The battle with terrorists will be won, not just by what is achieved on the battlefield, not just by bombs however smart they are. It will be won because values common to decent people the world over are upheld. It will be won because of international goodwill and by protecting cherished liberties, for that remains Washington's trump card. Guantánamo and life detentions without trial delay the victory against terror rather than bring it closer."
EAST ASIA AND PACIFIC
AUSTRALIA: “Painful Truths At Abu Ghraib”
The liberal Sydney Morning Herald enquired (1/18): “What was permissible at Guantánamo Bay, and on whose authority, and what exactly was authorized at Abu Ghraib? The full answers are not likely without the independent bipartisan inquiry now being sought by many in the U.S. Congress. In the meantime, it is clear that a key factor in the whole prisoner abuse scandal has been the readiness of the U.S. to put expediency ahead of principle in the treatment of prisoners taken in the 'war against terrorism'.”
"What Did Our Government Know?"
Julian Burnside wrote in the liberal Melbourne-based Age (1/14): “The U.S. has agreed to release an Australian citizen from Guantánamo Bay and return him to Australia. This looks like a small victory for democracy, but in truth it serves to highlight the way in which our democratic freedoms have been compromised during the past three years.... Habib has not been charged with any offence. It is clear that he has not committed any offence against Australian law: the legislation that might apply was not passed until nine months after his arrest. We can assume that he has not committed any offence against the law of Pakistan or Afghanistan, since those countries have not sought to extradite or charge him. It seems that he has not committed any offence against American law: if he had, he could have been taken to America for trial, but that has not happened.... The overwhelming inference is that the Australian Government knew or suspected that Habib had been tortured, but believed that a military commission could use evidence obtained this way.... Guantánamo is a bad advertisement for democracy and democratic values. It reflects badly on any government that condones it. Great democratic principles, such as the rule of law and the right to due process, can be traced back to the Magna Carta. In the war against terror, it is well to remember that we are defending those principles. In Guantánamo, those principles have been sacrificed.”
"Habib's Detention A Lesson In The Frailty Of Our Freedom"
William Maley held in the national conservative Australian (1/14): "The release of Australia's Mamdouh Habib from the U.S. detention camp at Guantánamo Bay in Cuba will surely come as an enormous relief to his family.... But it also provides an occasion to reflect on the fragility of liberty.... Terrorism is a threat to the citizenry of modern societies. In the long run, however, unconstrained executive power has the potential to be far more threatening to our way of life.... One of the great principles of a free society is that an accused is innocent until proven guilty. In the Habib case, the Howard Government paid occasional lip service to this principle, but in practice, and to its everlasting discredit, treated Habib as guilty from the moment that its "great and powerful friend" decided to pick on him. This should be of concern to far more than just Habib and his family. The philosopher David Hume once warned that it is seldom that liberty of any kind is lost all at once, and in reckless prosecution of an ill-focused 'war on terror,' we run the risk of progressively sacrificing the very principles that we purport to be defending. In this respect, the Habib case should serve as a wake-up call.”
"Excuses, Excuses From A Regime Too Ready To Throw Away The Key"
Richard Ackland maintained in the liberal Sydney Morning Herald (1/14): “Obviously the wheels are falling off the regime of Guantánamo Bay detentions and military commissions. The artifice of the 'enemy combatant' construct is gradually unraveling. The principal architect of this dreadful apparatus, Alberto Gonzales, counsel to the U.S. President, George Bush, is being promoted to U.S. Attorney-General--another example of how in that Administration those who supply wrong-headed advice get elevated or keep their jobs while those who advise moderation lose theirs. The fact that Gonzales insists staff at the White House call him 'judge' is as clear an indication as any of his loose thinking about the executive and judicial divide. The political squirming surrounding the imminent release without charge of Mamdouh Habib and four British Guantánamo inmates is nothing short of nauseating."
"The Price Of A Person's Rights"
The national conservative Australian editorialized (1/13): “If justice delayed is justice denied, Mamdouh Habib has been very poorly served by the U.S. over his long incarceration at the Guantánamo Bay camp for terror suspects. And the Howard government's disinterest in his circumstances reflects poorly on its commitment to assist citizens in trouble overseas, whatever their actions or opinions.... The fact he is now being released demonstrates the U.S. government is not above the rule of law. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled last July that terror suspects could not be left in legal limbo indefinitely. This will be no comfort for Habib, especially if his claims of torture while in Egyptian custody are true. But however bad his treatment, it was an infinite improvement on the fate of innocent prisoners of other Islamic fundamentalists who have been beheaded in Iraq. Habib's safe release demonstrates Guantánamo Bay is no gulag without hope of release. The wheels of justice there may have turned too slow, but at least they turned.... There seems little doubt that Habib has had contact with advocates of violence in the cause of Islam.... The brutal truth is that the war on terror has imposed new rules on us all. There is no case for allowing suspected terrorists and their confederates to plan in peace.... A refusal to accept that dangerous times demand tough responses leaves Australia open to terror attack. And the deaths that such a strike would cause could never be undone.”
"Australia Must Close This Dark Legal Chapter"
Melbourne's liberal Age argued (1/13): “The announcement late on Tuesday that Mr. Habib is to be released from U.S. military detention after more than three years, without facing any charges, shows how arbitrary this exercise of state power has been. In the name of a war that is meant to be a fight for freedom, the detainees have been subject to egregious violations of legal principles, some of which date back to the Magna Carta, the great charter of English liberty. The U.S. and Australian governments have colluded to deny the detainees' rights to habeas corpus, trampled over the presumption of innocence without laying charges against them, denied them the prospect of a fair trial and failed to ensure their protection from ill-treatment and torture.... The [Australian] government has accepted almost everything done to and said about its citizens on the Bush administration's say-so.... The broader concern is whether the Bush administration and Howard government will ever be accountable for their actions.... The concerns about arbitrary state action go far beyond the treatment of a couple of individuals: this is about the consistent application of the rule of law to all citizens. The government cannot expect this to be the end of the matter. It has three years' worth of explaining to do.”
"Freedom Thanks To Democracy"
The popular tabloid Daily Telegraph editorialized (1/13): “Amid all the debate about accused Australian terrorist suspect Mamdouh Habib, one essential point must be remembered--he is now a free man because of the decency and fairness of a democratic society. The gravest allegations faced Mr. Habib, including that he had prior knowledge of the September 11 attacks and had trained with al-Qaida. But the evidence was deemed by U.S. investigators to be insufficient to proceed to a military commission trial. He is being released from his cell at Guantánamo Bay because the U.S. respects, as Australians do, the rule of law--an impartial judicial process and the presumption of innocence. It was principles like these, central tenets of free and open liberal democracies, that the barbarians who attacked the World Trade Center in 2001 were so desperate to tear apart.... Prime Minister John Howard is right to criticize the length of time taken to process the Habib case. Three-and-a-half years was too long. But the perceived injustices Mr. Habib claims to have suffered needs to be seen in the context of September 11 and the Bali bombings. It should never be overlooked that these events were unequivocal, heinous threats to global peace and our treasured democratic traditions. An unyielding approach to suspected perpetrators was appropriate.”
"Guilty Until Proven Innocent"
The liberal Sydney Morning Herald opined (1/13): “There is a disturbing symmetry about the pending release of Mamdouh Habib; we know little about why he was held, and still less about why he is being freed. One thing, however, is plain, and that is Australia's failure to stand up for his rights. The Howard government's meek acquiescence in the detention of Mr. Habib, and fellow Guantánamo inmate David Hicks, has devalued what it means to be an Australian.... The prime minister, John Howard, says there'll be no apology, let alone compensation, for Mr. Habib. Yet the Howard government has much to apologize for. It has failed to make the basic demand that Mr. Habib--and Mr. Hicks--be either charged before a civilian court or freed. It has not challenged their status as 'enemy combatants', which has denied them the rights of prisoners of war. It has largely gone along with the partisan processes proposed for their military hearings, dismissing criticism from Australian and American legal authorities. At almost every opportunity, the Howard government has been the accommodating U.S. ally, happy to sacrifice the rights of Mr. Habib and Mr. Hicks. The bitter irony is that Australia's obsequiousness has been in the name of a war against terrorism aimed at defending the very rights and freedoms which the Guantánamo detention camp so aggressively and unapologetically seeks to compromise.”
"Good And Evil Entwined"
Foreign affairs writer Geoffrey Barker asserted in the business-oriented Australian Financial Review (1/10): “Disturbing moral inconsistencies in government policies and individual actions have emerged in the global response to the tsunami catastrophe.... The United States government and its people are, for example, making immense financial and military contributions to easing the tsunami crisis, yet only months ago U.S. military obscenities in the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq were appalling the world. The few ‘bad apples’ explanation seems hardly adequate to explain these sorts of gaps between national moral aspirations and demonstrated national behavior.... In such a world the question of how we ought to live as nations and individuals cannot be relegated to the academy and the pulpit. It needs to be central to the political debate and politicians have to be accountable for gaps between aspirations and achievements.”
SOUTH AND CENTRAL ASIA
PAKISTAN: "Obligation Of NATO Countries"
Sensationalist Ummat editorialized (1/4): "The manner in which the Muslim prisoners at the Guantánamo Bay have been deprived of their basic human rights is one of the darkest chapters of the American history. Now plans are underway to put them under life imprisonment. Through these lines we would like to appeal to Pakistan, Islamic countries and all other justice-loving people of the world to raise their voices against this worst anti-human American scheme and launch a campaign for the release of the detainees of Guantánamo Bay. The greatest responsibility in this regard lay on the shoulders of the NATO countries and other U.S. allies since they were primarily responsible for the arrest and transfer of such prisoners."
UGANDA: "U.S. Must Think Again"
The state-owned daily The New Vision, opined (1/16): "In its annual report, Human Rights Watch argues that the Abu Ghraib and Guantánamo Bay abuses have significantly weakened the world’s ability to protect human rights. Despite this, the U.S. insists it does not condone torture of prisoners. In Iraq the U.S. has stopped the search for weapons of mass destruction confirming what many had always suspected; that the very weapons used as a pretext for invading the country were never there! And now the U.S. is hunting down insurgents and in the process killing thousands of innocent Iraqis. The U.S. cannot claim to be a defender of human rights any longer. Its policies tell a different story. Similarly, it cannot claim to lead the war against terrorism while using the methods of the terrorists it is fighting. The U.S. should rethink its policies in the war against terrorism."
"Shame On Guantánamo"
The state-owned daily The New Vision editorialized (1/12): "The United States is releasing five detainees from Guantánamo Bay, four Britons and one Australian. None has gone to trial and in particular the evidence against the Australian is non-existent. They have been detained for three years, tortured and denied their basic human rights.The United States argues that the 600 detainees held at Guantánamo Bay are ‘illegal combatants’ who are therefore not subject to the dictates of the Geneva Convention concerning military prisoners. But the United States also denies these prisoners basic civilian rights. They are in legal limbo. The detainees have been saved by the simple fact that they are citizens of countries that invaded Iraq. The United States cannot refuse the desperate pleas of its allies to have their citizens transferred to a proper legal jurisdiction. Other nationalities are not so lucky. This is a disgrace. Many who have been released so far are clearly innocent. One can safely assume that half the remaining detainees at Guantánamo are innocent, but without a trial, they can never prove their innocence. The Bush administration should wake up. Sooner or later, the treatment of detainees at Guantánamo Bay will be recognized as a scandal worse than the McCarthyite with-hunts of the 1950s that still cause deep embarrassment today. Guantánamo will shame the United States for decades to come."
CANADA: "Mr. Gonzales's Record"
The leading Globe and Mail commented (1/7): "Alberto Gonzales, the choice of U.S. President George W. Bush to be the next attorney general of the United States, assured the Senate judiciary committee yesterday that he categorically disapproves of torture and intends to uphold the rules set out in international treaties. His actions, though, have spoken much louder than his words.... While Mr. Gonzales faced an intense grilling at his confirmation hearing over his extraordinary views on the scope of presidential power and the treatment of captives, it would be wrong to assume he faces an uphill battle. The Republican-controlled Senate will back his appointment enthusiastically and he will even garner some support from Democrats, who are glad to be rid of John Ashcroft, his fiercely ideological predecessor, and who would not want to be seen to oppose the first Latino appointment to the top law-enforcement post in the United States. That's unfortunate, because Mr. Gonzales has not demonstrated the necessary independence of judgment, strength of character or unshakable faith in the legal system that would enable him to defend Americans' civil liberties from further erosion and to uphold the rule of law within an administration that has often preferred expediency to due process.... In Mr. Gonzales, Mr. Bush will have yet another crony in a key cabinet post instead of what his administration so badly needs: an independent voice of unquestioned integrity who would put the interests of the American people ahead of those in power, who have shown a tendency in the past to become overzealous and contemptuous of the law when it gets in the way of pursuing their political ends."
ARGENTINA: "Argentina At The UN (Security) Council"
Influential Clarin editorialized (1/6): "Terrorism poses huge challenges to democracies. One of the main ones is to efficiently fight it in full respect for the basic constitutional principles. But temptation to take measures that are incompatible with the rule of law has led to the establishment of fields in which prisoners are deprived of their basic rights, as is the case with the U.S. military base in Guantánamo.... Determined to preserve and spread this sort of imprisonment, the U.S. Pentagon and the CIA are promoting the establishment of a regime allowing for the indefinite arrest of suspects of terrorism.... This plan has touched off criticism from U.S. senators and human rights organizations, which believe it is incompatible with the Constitution. Legality is one of the basic fundamentals of modern societies.... This is why the challenge posed by the fight on terrorism is honoring the rule of law."
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