Guantanamo Terrorism

Guantanamo Terrorism

CHRONICLE – Guantanamo Terrorism, finally. Almost three months of preparation, of uncertainty, of profusely modified military logistics plans. But here I am.

Twenty years ago, almost to the day, a young Omar Khadr landed in the same place, hooded, hands, and feet tied, in terrible expectation of the continuation of an ordeal already well underway.

“I write these few words, which will never be seen, which will never be read and will never be believed”, sang Caya on Guantánamo Bay.

Rudy’s fictional prisoner had it all true: the military base embodies, in the strong sense of the word, the essence of cruelty, injustice, and arbitrariness.

Since its opening, 780 prisoners have passed through its torture camps. Of the lot, only… 41 charges. Of these, six guilty pleas to get out of hell, and only… two “formal” convictions. One of them, moreover, was then overturned by an American common law court.

41 charges, therefore, or… 5.2% of detainees.

A single conviction, or… 0.001% of these.

The accused of September 11? Still, prisoners here, awaiting the continuation of their preliminary investigation.

Majid Khan? Still here despite having served his entire sentence by the agreement reached with Washington. One of the six, with Khadr, the Canadian child soldier, having chosen this avenue.

Guantanamo is not, and never intended to be, a sentencing camp, even one of wacky justice.

Rather and only a camp of detention, torture, and another ignominy in direct contravention of International law.

***

Discussion with a defense lawyer for the accused Hadi, imprisoned here since 2007. The hearings of his preliminary investigation began in 2014 and which I will attend the next day.

After a few usual introductions, it is impossible to elude the essential: the slowness of the process, tedious and interminable.

His answer, practically embarrassed, freezes me: yes, eight years for a single preliminary investigation is (ridiculously) too long. But nothing surprising here. Because we are swimming in the most total absurdity. Because you have to make the trip, every time, every session. Because commission judges are replaced every 2-3 years. Ditto for his lawyers, prosecution, or defense. And the date of the trial? No idea. Probably never.

Very ill, his client is in great danger of dying here, in his cell, before the end of the procedures. Without knowing, therefore, what is his guilt or innocence before the law.

Disgusted with the circus, he tells me that he asked for reassignment elsewhere, far from here.

The question, now, which bothers: in the face of so many machinations orchestrated by Washington, how to find the courage to pursue a struggle where the dice are loaded in advance?

The answer to this question was given to me a few days later by his boss, General Jackie L. Thompson, who was responsible for the legal representation of prisoners on the island.

As he was explaining to me in despair that one of his clients, Majid Khan, was still stuck here despite serving his full sentence, I asked him:

“Do you still believe in the rule of law here?

– Nope. The military commissions are a total and complete failure.

– How and why continue, then?

In a calm voice:

– Let me tell you the story of the starfish.

A man stands on the shore in the evening. The tide is out, and tons of starfish are about to die, parched, on the shore. One by one, he throws them back into the water. A passer-by approaches and says to him: but what are you doing there, imbecile, there are thousands of them! You can never save them! And the man replies: what I do, you see, is important to them.

The general’s eyes are now moist. Mine as well.

Because he is right: all terrorism, regardless of its origin or destination, deserves to be fought. That of Guantanamo included.

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