The Guantanamo Bay prison is a symbol of human rights violation committed by the US in the Global War on Terror. It underscores the pressing need for Global Justice. The human rights violations perpetrated by the United States of America at Guantanamo Bay belies its liberal credentials.
Paradoxically, the unspeakable human rights violations by the self-proclaimed champion of liberal democracy and staunch advocate of human rights at Guantanamo are not only a travesty of international law and global justice but also a violation of liberal norms and values.
In fact, the US has tried to justify its predatory and imperialist wars on the pretext of protecting and internationalizing such liberal and humanitarian values that it has been trampling upon in the case of Guantanamo.
However, this is not to imply that the US has only been a violator but to argue that it has acted in ways that significantly undermine the international human rights regime owing to its superpower status.
Although it has been a signatory of different conventions including Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (CERD), the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CAT) it has more often failed to honor its commitments to protect the rights of prisoners, minorities, and refugees.
While it has also ratified various human rights treaties including the Genocide Convention and Protocols on child soldiers and child trafficking, unfortunately, it has also undermined the core values of the treaties by going against them.
Guantanamo Bay provides a glaring example of a superpower violating its own principles and values. It was established in the wake of the war on terror by the US and has now become a global symbol of the violation of human rights.
Undoubtedly, it has been frustrating efforts of human rights activists, and other international humanitarian organizations aimed at providing justice to the detainees at Guantanamo.
This paper will critically analyze the reasons why the United States, the so-called ‘champion of human rights’ failed to address the issue and why the international community is not tackling the issue seriously.
Guantanamo Bay camp is located in southeastern Cuba and has been under the control of the US since 1903. The first camp in Guantanamo was established in January 2002 after the attack on the World Trade Center, referred to as the 9/11 incident.
It led the US to launch the so-called War on Terror, declared by President Bush to ‘eradicate’ terrorism and terrorist groups from the world.
In order to eradicate the menace of terrorism, the US carried out search operations, drone attacks, and airstrikes in South Asian and the Middle Eastern countries, especially Afghanistan, Pakistan, and the Middle East countries.
The US employed coercive measures against these countries, forcing them to kowtow to unreasonable diktats. It threatened them with severe consequences if they failed to meet US’ demands.
In violation of the international norm of state sovereignty, the US carried out drone attacks in Pakistan leading to thousands of civilian casualties which were referred to as collateral damage.
As a result of its protracted war on terrorism, the United States ended up detaining nearly 800 prisoners including children from 42 countries. These detainees, most of them suspected Al-Qaeda and Taliban fighters, were transferred to Guantanamo Bay camp.
Most significantly, these detainees were captured outside of the US soil, not charged for any particular crime, sent to Guantanamo, and detained indefinitely without any legal trial.
Clearly, by declaring them as unlawful combatants, the United States of America itself violated the international human rights law and Geneva Convention.
The Bush administration refused to recognize or entitle the detainees as prisoners of war. On the contrary, it dubbed them as enemies who are entitled to fewer rights compared to the prisoners of war.
Likewise, literature is replete with suggestions that the interrogation of the detainees of Guantanamo was conducted in a manner that was inhumane and torturous.
Later the military officials and the Bush administration admitted to using interrogation techniques that were considered cruel, inhumane, and torturous by international bodies.
When the story of Guantanamo became public, the proud citizens of the liberal democracy of America were appalled at their country’s heinous violations of prisoners’ rights.
The international organizations also expressed serious concerns about the US criminal policies in the facility. This considerably and predictably affected the reputation of the US as an advocate of human rights.
Due to its double standards toward human rights, the US became a target of national and international criticism. Various human rights organizations like the UN and allies started urging the US to permanently close the facility.
Yet despite the severe criticism from the world, President Bush unabashedly declared in an interview that “Whatever we have done is legal.That’s what I am saying. It’s in the law”.
Similarly, the Bush administration also refused to characterize the interrogative techniques like waterboarding and forced nudity as torture and claimed that these tactics were consistent with the US obligations under international law.
In a nutshell, the human rights violations at Guantanamo Bay prison by the US and the failure of existing human rights organizations to ensure the full implementation of human rights laws underscore the need for a universal human rights regime protected by a universal, legal, and democratic authority.
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