Why We Have to March against Dubya; HUMAN RIGHTS ARE CASUALTY IN WAR ON TERROR

The Mirror (London, England), November 13, 2003 | Go to article overview

Why We Have to March against Dubya; HUMAN RIGHTS ARE CASUALTY IN WAR ON TERROR


Byline: KATE ALLEN UK Director Amnesty International

T HOUSANDS of people will take to the streets in Britain next week to voice their anger, frustration and political opposition to President George W Bush's policies.

Some will criticise these protestors, writing off their views as knee-jerk anti-Americanism. But the critics should think before condemning them.

Why? Because after almost three years of President Bush's "war on terror" many would argue that the world is now a more dangerous and divided place than it was immediately after 9/11.

Countries don't protect freedom by attacking hard-won civil liberties, locking up thousands of people without charge or trial, and rushing through ever-more draconian laws.

You don't win the hearts and minds of the doubters and the disaffected by riding roughshod over human rights.

But you DO provide terrorists and extremists with the kind of propaganda they could only have dreamt of a few years ago.

Take Guantanamo Bay. What is the impact of the image of the orange boiler-suited detainees crouching in submission behind Camp Delta's chain-link fences?

Most people in this country seem to be revolted that nearly 700 people are held without charge or trial and without access to lawyers or family for almost two years. They question our own government's weakness in failing to properly stand up for the rights of the nine British men imprisoned in Guantanamo Bay.

RIGHTLY, they wonder whether our government would have been more robust had these men been held by a country like Iran or Syria or almost any other country besides the US.

But, take the understandable outrage in this country and apply it to a Middle-Eastern country. When the manacled men from Guantanamo Bay flash up on Al-Jazeera television, for example, we can easily guess that outrage reaches new levels.

No Americans are being held at Camp Delta. Only non-US citizens.

John Walker Lindh, the so-called "American Taliban", was given a defence attorney and brought before an independent civilian court. Camp Delta's "enemy combatants", on the other hand, have to endure indefinite detention without charge or trial and no access to legal counsel or any court.

Hanging over them is the possibility of unfair trials, military tribunals with restricted rights of defence, no independent appeals and the threat of the death penalty.

It stinks. And that's why Amnesty International plans to make its point - on the streets of London dressed in orange boiler suits.

The journey from the Twin Towers to Guantanamo Bay has been a disastrous one - from an international atrocity to an international disgrace. It is a massive own goal in the war on terror and its sinister consequences are likely to haunt the world for years.

But it is not just Guantanamo Bay that is so worrying. Since September 11 the USA has used its over-arching "war on terror" as an alibi to create a parallel justice system to detain, interrogate, charge or try suspects under the "laws of war".

In mainland USA people have already been held under military procedures as "enemy combatants'. For example, Jose Padilla - the so-called Dirty Bomber - has been held for more than a year in solitary confinement at a naval prison in South Carolina. He is imprisoned without charge, trial or access to his lawyer or family.

Padilla, a former Chicago gang member, was arrested after flying back into the US from the Middle East where he had, according to officials, been plotting to use a bomb packed with radioactive waste on the US.

This is a virtually unprecedented suspension of the fundamental rights of a US citizen in US custody - not to mention a violation of international law. …

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