Shackled For No Crime; Acquitted But Not Told or Released

A commentator on the previous item points out this story, which I’d missed: Chinese Detainees Are Men Without a Country:

In late 2003, the Pentagon quietly decided that 15 Chinese Muslims detained at the military prison in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, could be released. Five were people who were in the wrong place at the wrong time, some of them picked up by Pakistani bounty hunters for U.S. payoffs. The other 10 were deemed low-risk detainees whose enemy was China’s communist government — not the United States, according to senior U.S. officials.

More than 20 months later, the 15 still languish at Guantanamo Bay, imprisoned and sometimes shackled, with most of their families unaware whether they are even alive.

Do Americans understand what’s being done in their name?

For more than three years these unpersons were not allowed a lawyer. When they got one, he was appalled.

One of the Uighurs was “chained to the floor” in a “box with no windows,” Willett [his lawyer] said in an Aug. 1 court hearing…

And all this after they had been cleared — not that the US government was willing to admit this little fact:

All 15 Uighurs have actually been cleared for release from Guantanamo Bay twice, once after a Pentagon review in late 2003 and again last March, U.S. officials said. Seven other Uighurs were ruled to be enemy combatants and will continue to be detained.

Even after the second decision, however, the government did not notify the 15 men for several months that they had been cleared. “They clearly were keeping secret that these men were acquitted. They were found not to be al Qaeda and not to be Taliban,” Willett said. “But the government still refused to provide a transcript of the tribunal that acquitted them to the detainees, their new lawyers or a U.S. court.”

Having wrongly imprisoned them, treated them very harshly at the very least, and having held them long after it had reason to do so, the US government’s position is that these victims should return to their home country — China — a place they fled in the first place due to a well-founded fear of persecution, and where their record of having been in Guantanamo is not likely to better their circumstances.

Words really fail me, here. Can anyone seriously claim to be proud of this conduct by our government? Is there no one in Congress who will act to stop the running sores on the national honor? We do still have a national honor don’t we? Or has that gone missing too?

Oh, do I feel shrill today.

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6 Responses to Shackled For No Crime; Acquitted But Not Told or Released

  1. Yalta says:

    The article says we can’t find a country to take these 15 and China will likely torture or imprison them–oppressing the religious minority. Sounds to me like grounds for political asylum here in the US. Of course the sick irony is astounding that we’d rather chain them to the floors of windowless cells than give them the chance that China might not bother with them much. In their shoes would asylum in the US seem an opportunity or a sick joke?

    Thanks for the post.

  2. bigd504 says:

    When reports like this come out no one can ever be too shrill. Perhaps as Yalta suggests they be given US asylum-but then flee to Canada.

  3. Paul Gowder says:

    Sssshhhh. We can’t talk about “national honor” or respect human rights because then the Mean Evil Terrorists that are Hiding in the Closet will come and EAT US! STOP THINKING! JUST OBEY!

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  5. Kurrt says:

    At a hearing in Washington yesterday, government lawyers said that the United States has moved the men to a less restrictive part of Guantánamo, but that it still isn’t setting them free. The U.S. won’t send them back to China for fear that they’d face religious persecution there, and it says it hasn’t been able to find anyone else to take them in. As the Washington Post reports, attorneys for the men argued that the United States must set them free now, and that putting them into a less restrictive area at Guantánamo simply amounts to “fluffing the pillows” when they’re still locked up behind a fence. The men could be released into the United States population as seekers of political asylum, attorneys said.

    The government isn’t interested. Although U.S. District Judge James Robertson expressed some discomfort with the “big picture” — that is, that innocent men are being held for no reason — he said he wants to think further before making any decision. The government? Having exposed the men to more dangerous elements within Guantánamo, it wants to keep them locked up there until it can find some other country to take them. “We can continue to hold them … for as long as it takes,” the Justice Department’s Terry Henry told the court Thursday.

    — T.G.

    Print Email
    Permalink [10:07 EDT, August 26, 2005]
    From Salon.com’s “War Room”

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