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  • Writer's pictureDearbhla

Is the threat of terrorism a justification for American presence on foreign soil?


Guantanamo Bay Detention Centre has been the focus of human rights violations for years, yet still remains Obama's biggest broken campaign promise.


Guantanamo Bay Detention Centre has been the focus of a plethora of human rights violations since 2004, and allegations of torturous interrogation methods inflicted upon detainees at the prison camp have prompted widespread protest over the years. Guantanamo Bay, near Cuba, was originally established in 1987 to house Haitian and Cuban refugees but has since been used by America for suspected terrorists and prisoners of the 9/11 bombings.


In 2009, the inauguration of President Obama welcomed the departure of the Bush administration and with it, the imminent closure of the controversial prison camp. Obama vowed to abolish all forms of torture-induced interrogation methods preferred by the Bush administration in his Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech. However, Guantanamo still remains Obama's biggest broken campaign promise. There are still 'suspected' terrorists being housed in Guantanamo indefinitely without trial or charge which in itself is an infringement of international law. 'Suspected' being the operative word. Despite the death of Osama Bin Laden, the Obama Administration continues to justify the presence of government assigned force units on foreign soil. Obama has deployed over 60,000 more troops to Afghanistan- more than double that of the Bush Administration.


In the wake of 9/11, the U.S. viewed the terrorist attacks as a justification to flout international laws and wage war on not one but two countries within three years. On top of which, the Bush administration concealed the fact that the U.S. was systematically torturing prisoners of war on offshore locations.

Condemning Saddam Hussein’s violation of human rights and denouncing the Taliban’s conduct in Afghanistan allowed the U.S. to redirect public attention on foreign breaches of lawful conduct. This hypocrisy, accepted by the American public and seemingly its allies, served as an adequate deflection of what was really taking place under American jurisdiction.

The United Nations Commission on Human Rights stipulates that the U.S. refused the UN any access to detainees within Guantanamo Bay during this period. The report also states that the U.S. is privy to several human rights treaties referring specifically to Guantanamo Bay; the most important of these are the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, The Convention against Torture and the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination. The U.S. is at the same time party to numerous international humanitarian treaties; the most recognisable of these being the Geneva Convention. All of which have been vehemently ignored by the U.S. government.

The UN report underlines that there should be no exceptions of any kind, with reference to torture or waging aggressive war, and that these obligations do extend to Guantanamo Bay.

The Supreme Court ruled that humane treatment applied to all detainees in the 'War Against Terror'. Yet the Bush Administration maintained that Al Qaeda members were exempt from claiming a 'Prisoner of War' status as it applied only to uniformed and Guerilla soldiers, who wear specific emblems, bear arms openly and abide by traditional rules of warfare. Therefore, in November 2001, the U.S. declared its right to hold prisoners indefinitely as “Enemy Combatants” despite the fact that in order to qualify as an enemy combatant they must have been captured during armed conflict. Since the worldwide counter terrorism struggle is not considered to be 'armed conflict', the U.S. is in breach of human rights laws by refusing detainees their right to personal liberty.

Britain has also been accused of using torturous measures to extract information from suspected terrorists. One such claim was made by former detainee Binyam Mohammed. Mohammed alleges that he was tortured for 3 months in Pakistan before being transferred to Morocco by the U.S. authorities where he states that he was subjected to further torture by British Intelligence Agents. The decision not to release the damning evidence to the public is being highly criticised throughout the United Kingdom. The critics maintain that by withholding the information Britain is only serving to heighten its culpability in facilitating the U.S. in the use of torture.

The evidence given by torture victims on American and British intelligence is irrefutable and in 2006 UN human rights investigators called for the immediate closure of Guantanamo Bay as a response to the accusations. Their request was rejected by the Bush administration.

The attempts made by the Bush administration at spreading 'democracy' to the Middle East have been infinitely misguided and its infringement of humanitarian law has only served to instigate worldwide upheaval and unmitigated disdain for American foreign policy. The new light shed on the clandestine operations occurring in Guantanamo Bay since 2001 serves to highlight the issues surrounding political transparency.

In allowing The Justice Department to cease all investigations into systematic CIA torture undertaken in the name of 'The War Against Terror', Obama is just as culpable as his predecessor.

A report by Human Right's Watch, based on evidence from Libyan detainees, claims that the use of torture was systemic; as well as indicating CIA-Libyan collaboration over detainees. The reckless disregard for human rights over the past few decades is demonstrated by America's obvious contempt for global ethics and international law; as well as the apparent lack of concern over the international repercussions of its attack on Iraq and Afghanistan.

This sense of omnipotence that has been seared into the American psyche is coupled with a bizarre belief in their authority to take down anyone suspected of being an enemy of the state. This became obvious as I watched in disbelief as people danced and cheered in the aftermath of what appeared to be a government-ordered assassination of Bin Laden. A trial was not on the agenda for Bin Laden if Obama's government were now ordering tactical hits on their 'targets'. The suspicious circumstances surrounding Bin Laden's capture and subsequent death leave many unanswered questions; in particular about the stance that Obama seems to have taken with regards to the use of illegal interrogation techniques. It is abdundantly clear that Bin Laden was a dangerous and evil man who needed to be stopped but America's flagrant disregard for international laws and conduct is the fundamental issue. It seems that America, the self-proclaimed guardian of freedom and democracy, believes itself to be above the human rights regulations established by the Geneva Convention, the UN or NATO. After all, the Nazi's systematically slaughtered 6 million Jews and even they were afforded the right to trial at Nuremberg. Riddle me that.

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