OPINION by Iqbal Jassat – President Obama’s decision to release five detainees from Guantanamo in exchange for an American POW held by the Taliban in Afghanistan, has sparked outrage in certain quarters.
His Republican opponents have attacked him by claiming that the release of the detainees, violates congressional restrictions and jeopardises safety of America.
Others, particularly Israel have indicated dissatisfaction and argue that Obama has conceded defeat by negotiating with a “terrorist” outfit.
Even President Karzai has weighed in by alleging that as head of state of Afghanistan, he was neither consulted nor asked to approve the deal by the Obama administration.
Obama seems determined to ride the storm and has dismissed the attacks by counter-arguing that no American soldier can be left to perish in the hands of captors.
While this brouhaha continues, it appears that very little debate has centered on the question of Guantanamo’s continued existence and on the practise of detention without trial.
Indeed hardly any mention is made of glaring contradictory positions of Obama as Senator and Obama as President. During his 2008 campaign he had promised to shut down Guantanamo. Since coming to office not only has his undertaking vanished, he has undermined his integrity by upgrading Guantanamo.
As if the expansion programme was not enough to signal his departure from campaign promises, Obama has given indefinite detention an extended lease of life.
Until the release of the five, Obama constantly claimed to be hamstrung by congress. In fact Republicans complain that Obama failed to comply with restrictive stipulations that call for a 30 day notice required by Defense Authorisation Centre.
What the current trade off means is that Obama cannot any longer fall back on the so-called restrictions imposed by congress as an excuse for his unwillingness to release all detainees held at Guantanamo.
Not only is it possible to circumvent any legal provisions, it is incumbent to immediately free dozens of inmates who are in fact cleared for release.
And if Obama has any respect for international law, he should realise that holding people against their will and denying them any opportunity for legal access and due process is not any different to hostage taking.
Guantanamo is a stigma on human conscience. Each day that passes, adds to the violation of detainees’ human rights. Each hour that passes adds to the torture brutally meted to them. Being force fed is no different to water boarding.
Many who marvel at the sight of American celebrities protesting Boko Haram’s abduction of Nigerian school girls would not be faulted if they question their silence on Guantanamo.
Abduction is an act of piracy. It is much worse if such criminal conduct is perpetrated by states. America and Britain, along with Israel and rogue Arab regimes are known to be practicing abductions all the time.
Under the discredited “War on Terror” such violations have been known as “renditions”. An ubiquitous term indeed but it speaks of a well-coordinated and highly sophisticated system of abductions spanning continents.
Many innocent victims have ended up in black-holes and subjected to the most horrendous forms of torture. Some are known. Many more have simply disappeared from the face of the earth. Has anyone accounted for them?
Will we see Michelle Obama holding up a placard loudly proclaiming “BringBackOurGitmoDetainees”?
Any chance to hear David Cameron ranting and raving about Israel’s abduction of Palestine?
Boko Haram’s criminal deeds are an affront to human dignity and cannot be condoned. Yet deafening silence by those who loudly proclaim their disgust at Boko Haram does raise the question whether their hatred of abductions is selective?
Obama is serving his final term and the chances are that unless he acts on his campaign promise, Guantanamo may outlive him.
The seemingly complex dynamics of America’s continued occupation of Afghanistan while simultaneously negotiating with an avowed enemy has opened a necessary debate on abductions.