Sunday, June 18, 2006

Who wants to close Guantanamo?

Amnesty International Bahrain has proposed an online petition to the US Congress for closing the detention centre at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba. The petition, entitled 10,000 Voices for Justice, also calls for the detainees not to be transferred to another country where they will face further violations of their human rights.

At the same time the UK has just deported a second detainee held without charge under terrorism legislation from Belmarsh High Security prison to Algeria. A home office spokesman said that "The British government is grateful to the Algerian authorities for their co-operation in facilitating the deportation of this individual." Whatever assurances the Algerian government might have given about not mistreating people deported to them from Britain, they are, given their factual record of human rights abuses, hardly worth the paper it was written on – that is if anything was ever put in writing at all.

The Guantanamo Bay concentration camp, detention without charge and trial, extraordinary rendition flights – they all indicate that the principles of accountability of the state and legal protection for its citizens, which Western countries claim to uphold, have become a farce. East London saw the second occasion of an innocent man being shot by anti-terrorism police. Luckily for the Bengali Mohammed Abdul Kahar he survived, unlike the Brazilian Charles de Menezes murdered in cold blood on the London underground in July last year.

Police have apologised in this latest Hollywood style crime bust, but the apology was half-hearted since at the same time they stated that they had no choice, and Home Secretary John Reid even warned that there would have to be more raids like that in the future. He also said: “The police are acting in the best interests of the whole community in order to protect the whole community and therefore deserve the support of the whole community in doing what is often a very dangerous job often involving difficult decisions.” This sounds very much like Alice in Wonderland. It is based on the assumption that the moment innocent people are targeted in an anti-terror raid, they are no longer innocent. The truth is that the whole community suffered a grave injustice at the hands of the police and can no longer feel safe from being terrorised by government sponsored hysteria. Allegedly the whole episode was brought on by a hoax call on an anti-terror hotline. If you have neighbours you don't like, now you know what to do about it.

What recent events also show is that the general public has lost its conscience and become insensitive to the injustices perpetrated by the state in their name. This even includes the Muslim communities who are the express target of the draconian measures put into place after government-sponsored terror acts like 9/11 or 7/7. The prophet of Islam, Muhammad – peace be with him – described the Muslim nation (ummah) as like a single body which reacts with shaking and fever if any of its limbs suffers. I am doubtful whether this is still the case. The petition mentioned at the beginning of this article only aims for a humble 10,000 signatures. So far, there are just over 2000. Maybe a few mouse clicks in support of brothers held inhumanely in a notorious prison camp are just too much to ask.

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