In January 2002, the first prisoners arrived at Guantánamo Bay Detention Center. Since then, there has been a systematic effort to deprive these detainees of even the most basic legal rights, and strand them in permanent legal no-man’s land.
President Obama signed the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) into law on December 31, 2011. The NDAA contains provisions that could allow indefinite and arbitrary military detention, without a trial or day in court, of anyone accused of any “belligerent act” or terror-related offense—including “material support” allegations based strictly on speech or association. It essentially subjects everyone within the US (including citizens, legal residents, and visitors) to the same lawless standards at work in Guantánamo Bay.
The NDAA subjects these individuals to arbitrary detention without trial, denying the Fifth Amendment’s guarantee of due process and Sixth Amendment rights to challenge evidence and confront one’s accusers. The NDAA also endangers First and Fourth Amendment rights, because the PATRIOT Act expanded the definition of “material support for terrorism” to include crimes of speech and association even by defendants who neither committed nor ever intended to support violence.
One of the most effective ways to keep public attention on due process is to organize support for local statements or resolutions opposing military detention and supporting the right to trial.
Defending Rights & Dissent has drafted a resolution that gives any city or town the opportunity to raise its voice in defense of due process and the right to trial.
The men illegally detained at Guantanamo have suffered immeasurably, held without trial or hope, subjected to torture, indefinite detention, and isolation, many are not even charged with a crime. Now, a powerful exhibition of art created by some of these men has provoked the Pentagon and Department of Defense to suddenly declare that all art created by detainees will henceforth become the property of the US government and may no longer be removed from the prison, even upon a detainee’s clearance and release.
Since September, as the result of an opaque administrative policy shift, medical officers at Guantanamo have stopped force-feeding hunger strikers and stopped monitoring their deteriorating health. This move betrays a disregard for the lives of the men held prisoner there.
This tragedy should not be used to further erode civil liberties nor should it be used to incite racial and religious prejudice.