& Moral Sanction
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On: January 15,
2001 Updated On:
February 03, 2002
© Terence T. Gorski, 2001
& Moral Sanction
By Terence T. Gorski
January 22, 2002
This article by Terry Gorski explores the issue of the relationship between
moral sanction, personal moral justification, and the severity of PTSD and
anxiety symptoms in trauma survivors. It points out that helping
people to resolve moral conflicts related to the personal role and social role that
they and their society plays in terrorist acts may be important in the
management and resolution of terrorist- related PTSD, traumatic stress, and
anxiety. A series of articles related to human rights and prisoner detention
of prisoners is presented to illustrate the issues.
appears to be a link between the level of moral sanction and moral
justification and the severity of PTSD episodes related to terrorist
Moral sanction is the
explicit or implicit approval by a legitimate and credible government or
non-governmental organization (NGO) of specific acts of violence as
unavoidable, necessary, good,
right, just, and proper.
Moral justification is the
personal conviction that the experiencing or witnessing of violence and
suffering is personally meaningful, socially valuable, and spiritually
justified. The greater the perceived moral sanction the
stronger the moral justification.
general principles governing the relationship between moral sanction and
moral justification appear to be as follows:
The higher the level of moral sanction (credible arguments from legitimate
authority that the violence, sufferring and death are right, just and
proper), the higher the level of personal moral justification (the belief
that my pain and sufferring is somehow valuable, worthwhile, and has
People with high levels of of moral justification operating in a climate
that successfully provides strong moral sanction for the acts of violence
and sufferring of the victims are likely to experience less severe PTSD and
manage PTSD symptoms more effectively than those who have low levels of
personal moral justification.
doing critical incident stress management it is important to inquire into
the personal meaning that involvement in the critical incident had for the
person. This can often be determined by asking the following series of
Where were you when the terrorist event occurred?
What happened? What happened next? (Develop a sequence of events
that make up a situation map of the terrorist act. Help the person to
objectify the events so they can be remembered rather being re-experienced
in a flashback.)
Empathize with the person's pain and sufferring by saying something like
"What I'm hearing you say is that you were deeply affected by
this. Is that correct?"
If the person says yes, say something like this: "It seems
to me that you've experienced a lot of physical and emotional pain as a
result of what you experienced? Is that correct?
If the person says yes, say something like this: It also seems
to me that you are still sufferring as a result of being involved these
Then ask: "What does this experience mean to you?" You
can explain it like this: "You've been involved in a situation of
horrible violence. You've been deeply affected physically, emotionally,
and spiritually. You've experienced a lot of physical and emotional
pain. You're still suffering as a result of what you
experienced. In your own mind, how do you make sense out of all of
these things? How do you explain all of this to yourself? How do
you explain it to others? Do you think its possible for any good to
come out of these horrible events?
Ask the person what they are doing to take care of themselves and the people
goal of this line of questioning is to give the person permission to think
about the meaning of this experience for themselves and those they
love. My experience has been that people who believe that the violence
they experienced was morally sanctioned by legitimate authority are more
likely to find a strong meaning and purpose in their pain and suffering that
makes it more easy to manage. As a result they are more likely to
handle it well and recover quickly.
the credibility of the legitimate authority providing the social sanction
begins to diminish, the feeling of personal moral justification also begins
to diminish. As the level of person moral moral; justification goes
down, a painful inner conflict begins to emerge. Part of the person
holds onto a moral justification even if it doesn't fit the facts.
Another part of the person fights back by finding evidence that the moral
sanction was flawed and their personal involvement was not justified.
This can lead a person to develop a sense of guilt (based on the belief that
I have done something wrong) and shame (based on the belief that I am
somehow inherently damaged or flawed as a human being as a result of my
involvement in these acts. The inner conflict, shame, and guilt raise
stress and defocus the person from effectively responding to their situation
and participating in realistic and appropriate self-care activities.
As a result their other symptoms of traumatic stress and post traumatic
stress disorder (PTSD) tend to get worse.
process of doing a moral inventory and coming to terms with
the basic "goodness" or "badness" of their involvement
can help settle the cognitive emotional dissonance and encourage a process
of self forgiveness and self-acceptance that normalizes their reaction to
the event and diminishes the intensity of shame and guilt.
also important to make a conscious determination of the
"rightness" and "wrongness" of what others did.
Seeing other people as bigger than life heroes who can do no wrong brings a short term sense
of pride, but in the long-run can diminish self-esteem by leading to the
logical question of "Why couldn't I have acted like that?"
The reverse is also true. Seeing other people as totally evil can promote intensive anger and rage
directed at the "evil ones" by engaging in acts of revenge or
vengeance. These tendencies can motivate people to engage
in self-defeating behaviors and acts of revenge. This leads to adverse
consequences and increased shame and guilt.
level of credible moral sanction is often shaped by the media in response to
specific issues reflecting the question of overall morality. The key
question that begins to surface is this: Who is really the victim and
who is really the victimizer? In our attempt to protect ourselves and
bring the "evil ones" to justice have we gone to far? And in
going to far have we lost the moral high ground and lowered ourselves to
moral questions usually begin surfacing at about three to four months after
a major act of public violence. The first manifestation is often a phenomena
of survivor guilt which starts with the question: "Why did I survive
when so many others died? What right did I have to live?"
These questions can lead to a train of thought that produces the conclusion
that "If I were a good person" I would have died trying to save my
colleagues, friends, and families. The fact that I didn't die trying
to save them means that I am weak, cowardly, bad, or defective as a caring
and responsible human being."
people confront moral dilemma's they experience inner conflict. Part
of them is saying one thing and another part of them is saying something
else. Here's an example of a typical inner conflict related to Post
#1: We are good and they are bad. We are justified in acting violent
because they acted violently against us first. What we're doing is
right and just because these people are different from us. They are
the other and don't deserve the inherent rights that belong to normal human
beings. They have become evil. They are not people. They
are things that deserve to be punished, to suffer, and to die. The
proof that they're all evil is the fact that they see us and the violence we
are using to defend ourselves as evil.
#2: We're not as good as we think we are. We're doing some
terrible things in seeking revenge for the violence inflicted on us.
In many ways we're stooping to their level and becoming as bad or worse than
working with both sides of this inner conflict and helping the person to
find a morally acceptable view of what has happened, how they responded, and
what what they are now thinking, feeling, and doing can resolve inner
conflict, lower stress, and help the person to find a moral and spiritual
frame of reference that allows a peaceful detachment and the ability to
respond appropriately, realistically, and morally.
each person exposed to acts of terrorism must work through this
process. Collectively, every society or culture must also work through
attached a series of artciles that dramatrize different points in this moral
conflict as it arose in the aftermath ofg the September 11th 2000 terrorist
attacks on America. As you read these article try to stay calm and detached
and notice the two opposing points of view and the emerging indicators of a
resolution as a code of morality emerges capable of containing and resolving
these issues are often kept as emotionally loaded secrets by people with the
most severe symptoms of PTSD and anxiety disorders. They are not only
traumatized, they are question the their value and moral integrity as people
and struggling to validate their belief in humanity and in the society of
which they are a member.
result people with severe PTSD tend to block out or to fixate upon and
exaggerate the issues reflected in these articles. stimulate open
discussion and resolution of the issues of moral sanction, personal moral
responsibility, and striking a balance between justice and vengeance.
Experiential Exercise For Teachers
is a series of articles that reflect the surfacing of the moral dilemma
surrounding the management of prisoners in Cuba. The purpose of this
sequence of articles is to demonstrate how the dynamic tension of extreme
positions act themselves out in the mass mind.
you read these articles ...
Try to remain detached and objective without taking one side or the other.
Imagine how reading each articles would affect a person suffering from PTSD
symptoms related to the war on terrorism.
See if you can
identify the steps and stages in which this issue is moving toward moral
resolution in the public mind.
Notice the extreme conflicting positions projected in each article and how
they shift and change as they interact with each other over time.
Stay focused upon the three core moral concerns at the center of the controversy:
(1) the value of each human life regardless of national religious or group
affiliation; (2) the existence of certain "inalienable" human
rights endowed by a power bigger than any government; and (3) the need to
grant each human being dignity and freedom from cruel and inhuman
punishment. Note where in each article these core moral concerns
are referred to directly, indirectly, or implicitly.
you read, keep in mind an idea from Immanuel
person is merely a means to an end. The
life of each person is and always must remain an end within itself.
preserve our own dignity by
taking away the dignity of any other
we are taking away the dignity of all others. It
is upon this
that the survival of all humanity depends." Note
where you objectively stand in terms of your agreement or disagreement with
the general principle expressed in this quote.
Ask yourself "should this principle be applied in the current war on
terrorism and if so how? Are there limitation in its
applications? Should there be exceptions? Are there times when
the violation of human dignity and human rights is necessary and
justifiable? Who should make these decisions? How do those
decisions reflect upon us as a people? How do those decision reflect
upon you as a member of the group (i.e. a citizen of the United States).
Notice if thinking about and talking about these issues raises your level of
stress. Notice if you tend to automatically get angry and fight in
defense of one side against another. Imagine how these reactions
could affect and be affected by the symptoms of PTSD.
Qaeda's Trip To Paradise (01-10-02)
Prisoners Must Be Treated Humanely
International Says (01-10-02)
Defends Handling of Afghan Captives (01-12-02)
International Calls for End to
Legal Limbo of Guantanamo Prisoners (01-15-02)
Detention for Afghan Prisoners (01-16-02)
'War On Terror' Degenerating Into Global 'Dirty War (01-18-02)
to Hear Case Of
U.S. Terrorist Detentions At Guantanamo
Guantanamo Has Europe Hopping Mad (01-24-01)
to Camp X-Ray (01-28-02)
Al Qaeda's Trip to Paradise
January 10, 2002
Some of the terrorists who were taken prisoner in Afghanistan
are being brought to Guantanamo Bay. There won't be any black-eyed virgins,
but it's nicer than home.
by Claudia Winkler
IN A KIND OF apotheosis of multiculturalism, the choicest al Qaeda
suspects captured in the war on terrorism are about to take up residence
under the American flag, at Guantanamo Bay, the U.S. Navy base at the
eastern tip of Cuba that has incongruously stayed in operation throughout
the four decades of Castro's Communist rule. There, side by side--though
separated by prison walls and the base perimeter--will coexist young men
whose heads are filled respectively with the intoxication of jihad plus the
trauma of defeat; newly burnished American patriotism; and whatever
propaganda Castro's impoverished police state reserves for its trusted
Frontier Brigade, which mans the only Cold War border in the hemisphere.
It's a border still to this day fortified against defectors with
Soviet-style minefields, sirens, and searchlights. Almost every night
there's an incident of some kind at the border, says Patrick Moore, an
assistant professor of history at the University of West Florida who visited
Guantanamo in August and is researching its history. "Sometimes it's
just a rabbit hitting a mine," he says. "But the Frontier Brigade
is pretty effective. They stop 95 percent of would-be defectors."
Away from the border, the base is normally peaceful. Residing in its
45-square-miles (most of that area covered by the waters of Guantanamo Bay)
are military personnel and dependents, civilian employees, and contract
workers from Jamaica and the Philippines, about 3,000 people in total, with
all the attendant necessaries of life. The base newspaper, the weekly
Guantanamo Bay Gazette, publishes the lunch menu for the local school. Under
"What's Happening," the current issue lists a karaoke night at the
Oasis Teen Center and free kayaking lessons at the Marina every Saturday and
The arrival of the detainees from halfway around the world shouldn't
directly affect those not interrogating or guarding them or otherwise
involved in their care. The newcomers are currently expected to number in
the hundreds--not tens of thousands, like the Haitians (1991-94) and Cubans
(1994-96) housed at "Gitmo" in the last decade. Those economic and
political refugees (and some criminals unloaded from Castro's jails) were
put up in tent cities that sometimes became tense cities. People complained
of boredom and poor conditions. They didn't like being told what to do by
military guards. There were political frictions, too, even riots and a few
suicide attempts, before the Haitians were mostly repatriated to
"democratic" Haiti, and the Cubans were mostly admitted to the
The new arrivals, high-security prisoners, will hardly be in a position
to make demands. Besides, after the crumbling towns and dank caves of
Afghanistan, they should find conditions at Guantanamo luxurious. They will
trade frigid deserts and mountains for a bright, balmy Caribbean winter.
Gitmo also is desert, known for its cactus and iguanas; locals are urged to
conserve water, even to pour used water on their gardens instead of down the
drain. But there are sea breezes year round. The detainees will be provided
proper sanitation, medical care, and a Koranically correct diet, say
officials, along with access to the International Red Cross.
Contrast all this with the Taliban's treatment of prisoners--the five
months' crippling torture meted out, for example, to a Kabul man suspected
of having converted to Christianity. The Washington
Post's Reporting suggests that the man, who worked in a warehouse of the
International Red Cross, was guilty only of liking to read and owning some
Any Gitmo detainees familiar with the Taliban's jails will probably think
they've gone to paradise.
Claudia Winkler is a managing editor at The Weekly Standard.
Must Be Treated Humanely
Amnesty International Says
January 10, 2002
International expresses its grief and solidarity with the victims of
the September 11 atrocities and their families. The perpetrators of those
heinous crimes must be brought to justice. But in seeking justice, the
world must be vigilant about respecting human rights.
"All those in US custody following the military operations in
Afghanistan must be treated humanely, with full respect for international
standards," Amnesty International said today.
"Reports that al-Qaeda and Taleban prisoners due to be transferred
to a US base in Guantanemo, Cuba, may be drugged, hooded and shackled during
the 20 hour transportation flight are worrying".
According to international standards restraints may be used when strictly
necessary as a precaution against escape, damage or injury. However, if
restraints are necessary, they must be applied humanely, with adequate
opportunity for the prisoner to move limbs, use the bathroom and eat and
Furthermore, sedating prisoners for other than medical purposes would be
in breach of interntional standards. According to Principle 5 of the UN
Principles of Medical Ethics any administration of sedative drugs should be
in accordance with purely medical criteria.
In a letter to the authorities earlier this week Amnesty International
expressed concern at photos showing detainees in Afghanistan hooded while
under guard by US marines. Hooding suspects in detention may violate
international standards prohibiting "cruel, inhuman or degrading"
treatment. The standards emphasize that the term "cruel, inhuman or
degrading" covers mental as well as physical abuse, including holding
detainees in conditions that deprive them, even temporarily, of the use of
any of their natural senses such as sight or hearing or awareness of time or
place. The hooding or blindfolding of suspects during interrogation also
violates international standards.
"Housing detainees in Guantanamo in 6x8 feet chain-link
"cages" at least partially open to the elements would also fall
below minimum standards for humane treatment," the organization said.
Standards for the treatment of detainees require adequate shelter from the
elements. The cage size would be less than that considered acceptable under
US standards for ordinary prisoners confined to cells.
International's letter to the US Authorities
Saturday, 12 January, 2002, 10:18 GMT
Security at the base has been massively beefed up
The United States has defended its treatment of prisoners airlifted from
Afghanistan to a American military base in Cuba, amid international
concern about their conditions.
The US Defence Secretary, Donald Rumsfeld, contradicting the Red
Cross, said the 20 Taleban and al-Qaeda captives "will be handled
not as prisoners of war, because they're not, but as unlawful
But he insisted the prisoners - who are
under heavy guard - would be treated humanely and within the terms of the
Individual cells measuring 1.8 by 2.4 metres
Cells partly open to elements, with walls of chain-link fence
Camp has barbed wire fences, watchtowers and floodlights
Surrounded by marshes and shark-infested sea
The prisoners were transferred aboard a cargo plane to a temporary site
- called Camp X-ray - at the US Guantanamo Bay military base on Friday.
They will be kept separate, in cells measuring 1.8 by 2.4 metres (six
feet by eight feet) with open, chain-link walls, a concrete floor and
The human rights group Amnesty International has voiced concern about
the "cages" used for accommodation, saying they would "fall
below minimum standards for humane treatment".
Despite years of hostility, the Cuban Government has said it will help
the US authorities at Guantanamo Bay.
"We are willing to co-operate with
the medical services required as well as with sanitation programmes in the
surrounding areas under our control," an official statement said.
Cuba said it differed from the United States on the method but not on
the need to "eradicate terrorism".
The prisoners arrived with hands bound and some with shackles on their
legs. Some appeared to resist as they got off the plane.
They were dressed in orange jumpsuits, orange caps, white shoes and
wore goggles covered with tape.
They also wore surgical masks as some prisoners had tested positive for
tuberculosis and at least one prisoner was sedated.
The International Red Cross (ICRC) says it regards the prisoners as
POWs with full rights under the Geneva Conventions.
The ICRC says it plans to start visiting the prisoners early next week
to ensure they are being treated humanely.
Amnesty International said that "all those in US custody following
the military operations in Afghanistan must be treated humanely, with full
respect for international standards".
None of the prisoners has yet been charged but some could face military
courts authorised by President George Bush following the 11 September
The camp is being expanded to house hundreds more
A new prison is being built at Guantanamo Bay to hold up to 2,000
prisoners behind razor wire.
Experts say the use of Guantanamo is carefully calculated - it is
technically Cuban territory, leased to the US military - and if the
detainees are never brought to American soil, they can have no recourse to
appeals under US federal law.
The landing was witnessed by about two dozen journalists, but the US
military enforced strict media controls - banning all photographs and
recordings of the transfer.
The detainees, who arrived from Kandahar, were described by task force
commander Marine Brigadier General Michael Lehnert as the "worst
elements" of the al-Qaeda terrorist network.
The extraordinary security measures have been put in place amid fears
of a prisoner uprising such as happened at Mazar-e-Sharif in Afghanistan.
ICRC delegates have so far visited nearly 5,000 prisoners in about 40
facilities in Afghanistan, and the humanitarian organisation says it will
expect the same free access to prisoners in Cuba.
Reported For Radio Free Europe
By Dan Alexe
January 13, 2002
There are gray areas in the definitions of "prisoner of war"
and "unlawful combatants," at least judging by the explanations
of Catherine Deman, legal adviser to the International Committee of the
Red Cross. Deman, who is visiting camps in Afghanistan where Taliban and
Al-Qaeda prisoners are being held, gave a press conference in Kabul on 13
January to explain the legal background for the application of Geneva
Conventions to the Afghan conflict.
Kabul, 14 January 2002 (RFE/RL) -- According to the Geneva Conventions,
a prisoner of war (POW) is defined as a soldier, a member of a party to an
international conflict, or a member of a militia or volunteer corps --
even if the prisoner professes allegiance to a government or an authority
not recognized by the detaining power into whose hands he has fallen.
According to the International Committee of the Red Cross, this
definition of POWs appears to apply to Taliban soldiers detained in
Afghanistan by the U.S., but it is not the case for suspected members of
the Al-Qaeda terrorist network.
Nevertheless, the ICRC's legal adviser, Catherine Deman, says
nationality is not one of the criteria. She says a member of a
pan-national force still could be considered a POW. Deman and other Red
Cross officials spoke on the topic at a press conference in the Afghan
capital, Kabul, on 13 January.
What is yet to be determined, the ICRC says, is whether Al-Qaeda
members should be considered part of the Taliban armed forces, or whether
they were a militia or a volunteer group not integrated into the Taliban.
The Red Cross says members of Al-Qaeda could be declared POWs if they
fulfilled additional conditions, such as carrying arms openly or
conducting their operations in accordance with International Humanitarian
The term "prisoner of war" is thus a legal term, the Red
Cross says, and offers a specific status. In cases of doubt, as with
"unlawful combatants" or "illegal combatants," only a
court can decide who falls into these categories. This court, the ICRC
says, should be a "competent tribunal" -- independent,
impartial, and legally constituted according to the domestic law of the
Answering reporters' questions, ICRC officials refused to comment on
whether the U.S. has infringed on the rights of Taliban and Al-Qaeda
prisoners, including whether the reported sedation of some prisoners
during their transfer to a U.S. facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba violates
Michael Kleiner, the representative of the ICRC in Kabul, said,
"The question of sedation during a transfer, for example, is not
mentioned in International Humanitarian Law. What is mentioned is that the
transfer should happen in humane conditions and that the security of the
detainees should be guaranteed. And that's all that is mentioned in
International Humanitarian Law."
As for that other term used by American officials, "battlefield
detainees," the ICRC says it is not a legal category and has "no
legal meaning." Nevertheless, Kleiner says the ICRC is in no position
to question the U.S. or the current Afghan government over the reasons
behind its detention of prisoners.
"The International Committee of the Red Cross is not questioning
the reasons why people are being detained. All that we need to know is
that they are detained in acceptable conditions -- I mean, that they
should be given food, water, allowed to wash and pray, and have access to
fresh air," Kleiner said. "This is the minimum standard that
should be fulfilled. Beyond that, there are no particular concerns that I
can voice here. This is dealt with on a confidential basis, and then we
intervene to the adequate authorities and try to improve the situation
RFE/RL asked the ICRC's legal adviser, Catherine Deman, what happens
when a detaining power does not respect the provisions of the Geneva
"When a state or a party in a conflict -- be it a rebel group or
any other entity that takes part in a conflict -- does not carry out its
obligations in terms of humanitarian rights, the ICRC starts by gathering
the most precise and the most reliable information, after which we go
directly to the authorities in charge and try to discuss with them how
they could maintain their obligations," Deman said. "This
implies, of course, a certain form of goodwill on their part."
What happens if the detaining power still refuses to fulfill its
obligations? Can the ICRC apply pressure on intractable governments?
"No, these are the limits of what the ICRC can do. We work on a
confidential basis, and this confidence is based on a mutual contract with
the authorities in the hope that they would take into account our remarks
and that they would try to improve what has to be improved. But if we lack
this minimal working basis, at that moment, we are totally
powerless," Deman said.
Finally, the Red Cross insists upon a semantic distinction. It says
that only persons apprehended by the U.S.-led antiterrorism coalition
should be called "prisoners." The others, held by Afghan forces,
should be called "detainees."
International expresses its grief and solidarity with the victims of
the September 11 atrocities and their families. The perpetrators of those
heinous crimes must be brought to justice. But in seeking justice, the
world must be vigilant about respecting human rights.
This Article On The Amnesty International Website>
(Washington, DC) -- Amnesty International today urged the United States
to ensure respect for the human rights of all people who have been or may
be transferred from Afghanistan to a US military base in Guantánamo Bay,
Amnesty International considers that those who are held in Guantánamo,
who are said to have been captured during the war in Afghanistan, are
presumed to be POWs. If there is any dispute about their status, the US
must allow a "competent tribunal" to decide, as required by
Article 5 of the Third Geneva Convention. This is also the position held
by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), the most
authoritative interpreter of the Geneva Conventions.
"The US is placing these people in a legal limbo. They deny that
they are Prisoners of War (POWs), while at the same time failing to
provide them with the most basic protections of any person deprived of
their liberty," Amnesty International said. "The US has
obligations under international law to ensure respect for the human rights
of all persons in their custody -- including the duty to treat them
humanely and ensure that they have recourse to fair proceedings,
regardless of the nature of the crimes they are suspected of having
"It is not the prerogative of the Secretary of Defense or any
other US administration official to determine whether those held in Guantánamo
are POWs," Amnesty International said. "An independent US court,
following due process, is the appropriate organ to make this
POWs are afforded specific rights. For example, they should be held in
conditions "as favorable" as those of US soldiers; they are not
required to divulge information beyond their name, rank, serial number and
date-of-birth; they cannot be tried merely for having taken up arms
against enemy combatants in the context of the conflict and they should be
granted access to delegates of the ICRC. POWs, unless they are to be tried
for war crimes or other criminal offenses, must be repatriated at the end
of "active hostilities."
Any detainee who is suspected of a crime, whether or not he is a POW,
must be charged with a criminal offense and tried fairly or released.
Denying POWs or other people protected by the Geneva Conventions a fair
trial is a war crime. Amnesty International is opposed to the death
penalty in all circumstances.
The international safeguards governing the treatment of all detainees
facing criminal charges include those of the International Covenant on
Civil and Political Rights, to which the US is a party since 1992, and the
UN Body of Principles for the Protection of All Persons under Any Form of
Detention or Imprisonment. These include the right to challenge the
lawfulness of detention, to be brought before an independent tribunal, the
right to silence, and access to legal counsel.
Amnesty International is also concerned about alleged ill-treatment of
prisoners in transit and in Guantánamo, including reports that they were
shackled, hooded and sedated during transfer, their beards were forcibly
shaved, and that they are housed in small cages in Guantánamo that do not
protect against the elements. "Degrading treatment of prisoners is a
flagrant violation of international law which cannot be justified under
any circumstances," the organization stated.
16 January, 2002, 12:10 GMT
Marines constantly patrol the razor wire perimeter
Taleban and al-Qaeda prisoners flown from Afghanistan to an American
naval base in the Caribbean are being held in tough conditions of
A temporary detention centre called Camp X-Ray has been set up at the
base in Guantanamo Bay, an isolated US outpost on the edge of Fidel
The prisoners are being housed in cells measuring 1.8 by 2.4 metres
(six feet by eight feet) with open, chain-link walls, a concrete floor and
They face intense interrogation by US officials anxious to track down
Osama Bin Laden, the alleged mastermind behind the 11 September suicide
attacks on New York and Washington.
The US authorities have not granted the detainees prisoner-of-war
status, meaning they are not protected by the Geneva Convention.
Washington wants military tribunals to try the prisoners, and the cases
are expected to be heard outside the US.
As the base is located outside sovereign territory, the prisoners have
no legal rights under the US constitution, and no right of appeal to
'Are they kennels?'
Jeffrey Kofman, an American journalist who has visited the base, said
the facility was "very, very minimal".
One person said: 'Are they kennels?', to which one of the
military staff in charge said: 'No they're not kennels, they are
cells, and they're within the bounds of the Geneva Convention'
The cells had concrete floors, wooden roofs and wire mesh walls.
Prisoners had a foam mat to sleep on, two towels - one for washing, the
other to use as a prayer mat - and some form of chamber pot, he said.
"It was a far more bares bones facility than frankly I expected to
see. They say they will be holding the detainees in cells, but really they
"One person said: 'Are they kennels?', to which one of the
military staff in charge said: 'No they're not kennels, they are cells,
and they're within the bounds of the Geneva Convention. What we are
operating is humane treatment, but we're not offering comfort'."
The human rights group Amnesty International voiced concern about the
"cages" used for accommodation, saying they would "fall
below minimum standards for humane treatment".
Prisoners will wear standard orange jumpsuits at all
The first group to arrive - 20 prisoners described by US military
officials as "the worst elements of al-Qaeda and the Taleban" -
wore goggles covered with tape and had their hands tied. Some also wore
They wore surgical masks as some prisoners had tested positive for
tuberculosis and at least one prisoner was sedated.
They will spend most of their time separated, although they will be
allowed out of their cells in small groups for meals, showers and some
They will be allowed to pray according to their faith.
The camp gets chilly at night and there are swarms of mosquitoes.
The base - known by US servicemen as "Gitmo"- is surrounded
by mangrove swamps, salt marshes and dense bush - and the sea is
The camp perimeters - lit up at night - has watchtowers and two fences
topped with razor wire constantly patrolled by heavily armed marines.
At night the camp is lit up with halogen floodlights.
Members of a movement that tried to prevent women working may be
disconcerted to find that some of their guards are women.
"We have no intention of making it comfortable," Marine
Brigadier-General Michael Lehnert told Reuters news agency. "It will
Hundreds of marines and military police have been flown to Guantanamo
Bay to expand the compound to house up to 2,000 prisoners.
American marines landed in Guantanamo during the Spanish-American war
in 1898, and the base was established under a 1903 treaty.
After Fidel Castro led the Communists to power in Cuba in 1959, then US
President Dwight Eisenhower refused to relinquish the base despite strong
objections from Havana.
Although Washington continues to pay the rent - set 100 years ago at
2,000 gold coins a year, and now worth about $4,000 - Mr Castro refuses to
cash the cheques.
Cuban Frontier Battalion troops continue to watch their US counterparts
along the 28-kilometre fence, but tension has diminished since the end of
the Cold War.
American officials have named al-Qaeda and Taleban leaders killed or
captured as frustration grows that some senior Taleban figures are
reportedly slipping through the net.
Among those who have not been questioned by the US military are three
former Taleban ministers who turned themselves into the new Afghan
authorities - only to be allowed to return to their homes.
Mullah Omar: still on the run
The most important is former Justice Minister Mullah Nuruddin Turabi -
known to be close to Taleban leader Mullah Omar - former Defence Minister
Mullah Ubaidullah and former Industry Minister Mullah Saadudin.
US officials are eager to question the three, who they believe may have
vital clues about the whereabouts of Mullah Omar and Osama Bin Laden.
The hunt continues for Bin Laden himself and Mullah Omar, who is
believed to have escaped by motorbike as thousands of Afghan soldiers
closed in on his suspected hideout.
Also on the wanted list are many more of Bin Laden's top lieutenants
who are believed to have evaded capture. They include Ayman al-Zawahri,
the Egyptian Islamic Jihad leader who is Bin Laden's close adviser and
<Read The Report "Rights At
Risk" On The Amnesty International USA Website>
(New York) -- In a new report today, Amnesty International indicts
governments' actions following September 11 that put human rights at grave
risk worldwide. The report, "Rights at Risk," was released to
coincide with a meeting of the UN Security Council that will review the
work of the Council's Counter-Terrorism Committee.
"Amnesty International is concerned that the 'war on terror' may be
degenerating into a global 'dirty war' of torture, detentions and
executions," said Curt Goering, Senior Deputy Executive Director for
Amnesty International USA. "A number of states have introduced new
laws that violate human rights standards while others have used existing
measures to crack down on opposition."
The Counter-Terrorism Committee was established by the Security Council
following the September 11 attacks to monitor the far-ranging steps the
Council said they must take to combat terrorism. Today it will start
examining more than 100 reports from states about those measures.
Amnesty International's 50-page report describes human rights
violations arising from "anti-terrorist" measures taken by
countries around the world both before and after the attacks of September
11, including indefinite detention without charge or trial; incommunicado
detention, which facilitates torture; unfair trials; and infringement of
rights to freedom of expression, association and assembly.
Amnesty International's Secretary General, Irene Khan, wrote to the
Security Council urging it to take concrete steps to ensure that
governments do not violate the obligations and standards of international
human rights law in the process, stressing that "otherwise there is a
grave risk, already borne out in some countries, that security
considerations will prevail over human rights."
In addition, as none of the six experts the Committee appointed to
assist it in its monitoring task are experts in human rights, Amnesty
International is calling upon the Security Council to request the
Counter-Terrorism Committee appoint an expert in international law,
including human rights, to assist the Committee in monitoring the actions
of states, and provide specific guidance on how states can comply with
international human rights standards in the context of implementing
measures to combat "terrorism."
"When the security of a state and the safety of its people are at
risk," Amnesty International said, "it is vital that human
rights standards and the rule of law are upheld. Respect for all human
rights is the only way to ensure real security for all."
to Hear Case Of
U.S. Terrorist Detentions At Guantanamo
January 21, 2001
LOS ANGELES (AP) — A federal court hearing was set for Tuesday
morning on a petition from civil rights advocates challenging the
detention of terrorism suspects at the Guantanamo Naval Base in Cuba.
U.S. District Court Judge A. Howard Matz decided late Sunday night to
consider the petition, filed in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles by a
coalition of Los Angeles clergy, journalism professors and civil rights
The attorney for the petitioners is Stephen Yagman, known for
representing plaintiffs in police abuse cases.
It is the first court challenge of the detention of al-Qaida suspects
and demands that the U.S. government bring the suspects before a court and
define the charges against them.
Several issues were to be considered at the 8 a.m. hearing.
Among them were whether the petitioners exhausted military and
administrative procedures, whether they have standing to pursue the case,
and whether the court has jurisdiction over prisoners held in Cuban
territory leased to the U.S. government.
The petition was prepared on behalf of about 110 al-Qaida suspects who
were taken into custody in Afghanistan and transferred to the U.S. Navy
base in Cuba.
It alleges they are being held in violation of the Geneva Convention
and the U.S. Constitution, and seeks to guarantee due process and to block
any transfer of the detainees from the base.
``These individuals were brought out of their country in shackles,
drugged, gagged and blindfolded, and are being held in open-air cages in
Cuba,'' said Erwin Chemerinsky, a law professor at the University of
Southern California who is among the petitioners. ``Someone should be
asserting their rights under international law.''
U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft has said the detainees are being
held for questioning and some could face a military tribunal, while others
could be referred to criminal courts.
Guantanamo Has Europe Hopping Mad
Time Magazine - January 24, 2002
The handling of
al Qaeda prisoners
raises old fears of the U.S. making its own rules
SHANE T. MCCOY/U.S. NAVY/AP
Detainees sit in a holding area under the
watchful eyes of military police
Jan. 24, 2002
The fuss over the status and treatment of the 158 Taliban and Al Qaeda
prisoners held at the U.S. Navy base in Guantanamo cuts to the heart of
European skepticism over President Bush's "you're either with us or
against us" mantra. What it shows is that even allies have their
limits, and even a nation as strong as the U.S. needs friends.
Amid criticism from European governments and international human rights
organizations, the U.S. announced Wednesday that it had suspended further
transfers of detainees out of Afghanistan, pending new construction at the
Cuban facility. Officially, the U.S. line was that the suspension had
nothing to do with the criticisms and was based solely on the fact that
the current holding cells were full to capacity. But Camp X-Ray's
commander, Brigadier General Michael Lehnert, indicated that changes being
made at the camp would incorporate some of the recommendations made by the
International Committee of the Red Cross, which sent a delegation to
inspect the camp earlier this week.
Even so, European alarm persists: Britain's foreign secretary Jack
Straw said Thursday that his government would press for the British
subjects held at Guantanamo to be returned to the U.K. to stand trial
there, rather than before a U.S. military tribunal. An American diplomat
had further inflamed European tempers by telling the British media that
British subjects held at Guantanamo would face the death penalty if tried
by U.S. military courts — capital punishment is forbidden in the
European Union, and most EU countries won't extradite prisoners who may
face the death penalty elsewhere.
POW or detainee?
Three sets of issues define the controversy.
The first is simply their treatment:
Humanitarian concerns over keeping the detainees in open-sided cages, for
example, were inflamed by the U.S. inexplicably releasing photographs of
newly-arrived detainees bound, gagged, blindfolded and on their knees, as
part of a PR effort designed to show their humane treatment. But it was a
relatively simple matter for the U.S. to defuse those concerns by allowing
Red Cross inspections and accepting some recommendations for improving
conditions at the base. British diplomats who
visited the camp on Monday reported that British detainees were being
The second issue -- whether the captives enjoy
Prisoner of War status, and the third issue
-- how they are to be tried -- are closely linked — , and . The
U.S. has not indicated a preference on this front, although it may be
tending towards using military tribunals — the option least favored by
the Europeans, who would prefer to see the captives tried in either the
U.S. or their home country's court systems, or in some form of
international criminal court.
But the immediate purpose for holding the prisoners is not to prepare
charges against them; it's to interrogate them in order to more
effectively wage the fight against al Qaeda. According them POW status
would necessarily impede that process, if not render it impossible. After
all, the Geneva Convention obliges a POW to reveal only his name, rank and
number, and protects him from any form of duress.
Even though European security and intelligence agencies share
Washington's concern to extract whatever information the prisoners may
have in order to prevent future terrorist strikes, the
European Union has looked skeptically on Washington's claim that the
captives are not POWs, but "unlawful combatants." No such
category exists in international law, say the Europeans, backed up by many
leading international jurists who insist the captives are entitled either
to the rights of POWs, or else to those of common criminals.
The dispute doesn't detract from the fact that the Europeans have
enthusiastically and effectively taken up the war against al Qaeda. They
have uprooted its European networks, shared intelligence and offered
thousands of troops to the U.S. war effort in Afghanistan. But the
controversy over Guantanamo has reminded them of the reasons they regarded
the Bush administration with suspicion before September 11. Tempers were
not cooled by Defense Secretary Rumsfeld's initial reaction last week to
concerns over the fate of the detainees: "I do
not feel the slightest concern at their treatment; they are being treated
vastly better than they treated anybody else." In European
eyes, Rumsfeld's response confirmed fears that the U.S. was using its
military might to set its own rules, rather than abiding by accepted
international legal norms.
do not feel the slightest concern at their treatment; they are being
treated vastly better than they treated anybody else."
Defense Secretary Rumsfeld
And that brought back European concerns over the perceived
unilateralism of President Bush. The administration's reactions to
everything from the Comprehensive Test Ban treaty and the Anti-Ballistic
Missile treaty to the proposed International Criminal Court, the
convention against landmines and the Kyoto Accords have painted Bush, in
European eyes, as the bully on the block rather than a global citizen in
good standing. And while his record on the death penalty may be in keeping
with the American mainstream, it's beyond the pale in Europe.
It depends on what you mean by
But the schism over Guantanamo between the U.S. and its European allies
isn't simply about continental perceptions of Bush. The Europeans who
signed up for the anti-terror war feel excluded from any decision making
over its basic principles. In other words, beyond "with us or against
us" is the question of what exactly "we" stands for. The
British, for example, have grown exasperated trying to get Washington to
take more seriously Arab concerns over the deteriorating prospects for
Israeli-Palestinian peace. The Europeans were, for the most part, content
to let the U.S. call the shots in Afghanistan — although they did feel a
little slighted by the fact that the Americans had little use for the men
and machines they offered to send. But they're unlikely to simply accept
Washington applying its own reading of international law in the aftermath
of battle. There's no question that the detainees on Guantanamo represent
a challenging category of combatant — indeed, of warfare — not
envisaged by the framers of the Geneva Convention. Indeed, the Europeans
may have been somewhat placated by being drawn into a discussion at an
earlier stage over how to deal with al Qaeda captives.
Europeans who signed up for the anti-terror war feel excluded from any
decision making over its basic principles. In other words, beyond the
question of are you "with us or against us" is the question of
what exactly "we" stands for.
Instead, the atmospherics of the anti-terror coalition have been
soured. The Guantanamo controversy won't have any negative effect on
European intelligence cooperation or other concrete aspects of the war on
terror. But the administration's early handling of the issue may have
sealed European public opinion of President Bush's war effort in ways not
helpful to the U.S.
With reporting by J.F.O. McAllister/London
to Camp X-Ray
Jan. 28, 2002
When is a war prisoner not a
When the U.S. brings Afghan detainees to Guantanamo Bay
It's not going to be a country club," said Defense Secretary
Donald Rumsfeld last week, describing the new military detention camp at
Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and nobody ever expected it would be. The 110 al-Qaeda
and Taliban prisoners admitted to "Gitmo" by the end of last
week are, said Rumsfeld, "the hardest of the hard core," men who
had killed "dozens and dozens of people." But though it may lack
tennis courts and a putting green, the amenities are better than you'd
find in a cave at Tora Bora. True, prisoners are now confined to 6-ft. by
8-ft. chain-link enclosures with concrete floors and tin roofs (Rumsfeld
thinks it's "pejorative" to call them cages). But relief will
come; in three months, the Pentagon hopes to replace the facility with
something more permanent.
In the meantime, the prisoners at Camp X-Ray--as the place has been
called since the early 1990s when it housed Haitian refugees--have been
given thin green mats and blankets on which to sleep and pray, and are
allowed to shower and exercise. They are provided with a medical exam upon
admission, and their diet (is someone making a point about diversity
here?) ranges from bagels and cream cheese to rice and beans--all eaten
with plastic utensils--after which the prisoners may clean their teeth
with specially shortened brushes. (The caution makes sense; in 2000
Mamdouh Salim, an al-Qaeda operative awaiting trial in New York City for
his part in the 1998 embassy bombings, used a comb to stab a prison guard
through the eye.)
So far, humanitarian groups have been muted in their criticism of the
conditions at Guantanamo. Last week a delegation from the International
Committee of the Red Cross arrived to inspect the camp and offer private
recommendations on its operation. But in the European press, the
prisoners' lot has become a public issue of contention among those who
demand that U.S. conduct be above suspicion. Three detainees are said to
have claimed to be British citizens. Politicians and commentators in
London are now clamoring that all held in Gitmo must be guaranteed
treatment in accordance with international law. The Daily Telegraph, a
paper usually so conservative that it makes Pat Buchanan look vegetarian,
warned Washington of the need to draw a "distinction between
civilized society and the apocalyptic savagery of those who would destroy
At the heart of the matter is a question of legality. The Pentagon has
resisted calling the detainees prisoners of war, preferring the terms
unlawful combatants or battlefield detainees. It's easy to see why. Under
the Geneva Convention, those holding true POWs are bound to release them
at the end of hostilities; but that is the last thing the U.S. wants to do
with men who may be al-Qaeda operatives. Moreover, by convention (though
the law seems to be murky here) POWs don't need to tell their captors
anything other than their name, rank, serial number and birthday. But for
Washington, the whole point of the detention is to conduct interrogations
and thus head off new acts of terrorism.
The Geneva Convention does contemplate that some irregular forces
captured in battle need not be considered POWs. That may well apply to
members of al-Qaeda, a free-floating band of terrorists. But not all of
those at Gitmo are al-Qaeda men. Some--the Pentagon won't say how
many--were members of the Taliban and presumably thought they were part of
the Afghan army. Are they POWs? Washington says no, because the Taliban
had no clear chain of command and was not a legitimate government. That
may be so; unfortunately, as Amnesty International has pointed out, under
the Geneva Convention the Pentagon has no business making such a
determination. Those who fall into the enemy's hands are entitled to POW
status until a "competent tribunal" has determined their status.
In the case of those in Cuba, that hasn't happened.
More curious still is the matter of the prisoners' ultimate fate.
Rumsfeld has laid out four options: a military trial, a trial in U.S.
criminal courts, return to their home countries for prosecution, or
continued detention "while additional intelligence is gathered."
The last seems a distinct possibility; the Pentagon plans to build 2,000
cells at Camp X-Ray. "This will be a big deal down there for at least
two years, guaranteed," says Army Lieut. General B.B. Bell, who
commands Fort Hood, Texas, the base from which military police have been
deployed to Cuba. But it's hard to find a justification for such detention
in the Geneva Convention or anywhere else. Leaving the prisoners
"indefinitely beyond the reach of any legal regime," said the
Economist last week, "would put America--pre-eminently a nation of
laws--itself outside the law."
Until the Pentagon sorts out the legal issues, criticism from Europe is
likely to grow. Still, things could be worse. The prisoners may be in
Cuba, but nobody has yet forced them to listen to Fidel Castro's
long-winded speeches. Now that really would be cruel.
With Reporting by Mark
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