Guilty or not?

Return of Gitmo in news warrants question of legality of detention centre and interrogation techniques

May 23, 2021

The Biden administration is set to follow through on its declaration of closing down the notorious Guantanamo Bay detention camp, as the US government approved the release of the prison’s oldest inmate, Saifullah Paracha, a 73-year-old from Pakistan. Paracha was initially held for financially facilitating Al Qaeda senior leader Khalid Shaykh Muhammad, and later accused of having met Osama bin Laden. Interestingly, while in his trials he admitted to having met OBL, he was never formally charged with any crime. In fact, his son, Uzair, who was released last year, was cleared of all charges of aiding Al Qaeda as the testimonies of tortured inmates — against both father and son — lacked credibility. This definitely puts into question the judicial process for Gitmo inmates as suspected terrorists were captured and brought to the facility to be tortured and subjected to enhanced interrogation techniques. The testimonies extracted out of this process become questionable given the mental and physical stress the inmates are put through, with some reporting to even have hallucinations. The lack of proof, compromised investigations, and classification of information further hamper the fight to attain justice in the case of terrorism.

The return of Gitmo in the news also warrants the question of the legality of the detention centre and the interrogation techniques such as waterboarding and extreme physical, sensory and sexual assault, sanctioned by the Bush administration during the War on Terror. The government had claimed that the Geneva Convention on the rights of prisoners of war does not apply as Gitmo inmates were neither part of an army nor guerilla forces in a uniform. While this claim was repudiated by US courts which recognised minimum rights for the inmates, the US has still not been held accountable for the torture and holding of prisoners without conviction. Moreover, even after 20 years since the rise of international terrorism, countries have still not been able to come up with an effective, transparent and legally sound judicial and investigative process to put alleged militants on trial, and rehabilitate them to defuse the threat — which is imperative if we are to hope for a more peaceful world free of extremism.

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