A U.S. Gulag

Fifty-five percent of the prisoners at Camp Delta in Guantánamo Bay have not committed any hostile acts against the United States or its coalition allies, according to a recent analysis of declassified Department of Defense information compiled at Seton Hall University’s law school. In fact, of the 500-plus prisoners at Camp Delta, only 8 percent are characterized by the U.S. government as al Qaeda fighters. Of the remaining prisoners, 40 percent have no definitive connection with al Qaeda at all, and 18 percent have no definitive affiliation with either al Qaeda or the Taliban.

While the U.S. has released or transferred more than 260 detainees, 500 men have been held in terrible conditions by the U.S. military for more than four years.

When U.S. citizens attempted an independent investigation of the camp—in response to President Bush’s invitation that those concerned about conditions at Guantánamo are “welcome to go down yourself...and take a look at the conditions”—they were denied entry. In February, seven of those Americans were served papers by the Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control threatening them with 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine for breaking the sanctions against Cuba.

The United Nations Human Rights Team attempted to investigate the camp, but decided against the trip when the U.S. government said they would not be allowed to interview any prisoners. “Fact-finding on the spot has to include interviews with detainees,” said Manfred Nowak, the U.N. special investigator on torture. “What’s the sense of going to a detention facility and doing fact-finding when you can’t speak to the detainees? It’s just nonsense.”

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Sojourners Magazine April 2006
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