Justice delayed, denied

Unmindful of universal criticism, the U.S. government is holding 660 adults and three teenagers as "enemy combatants" at a prison at Guantanamo Bay. 

The U.S. Supreme Court recently agreed to hear the petition filed by a group of retired federal judges, former U.S. diplomats, ex-military officials and international law experts, urging it to review their indefinite detention. 

The detainees, held at a super-maximum-security prison at Camp Delta, are not given a prisoner-of-war status, so that the Geneva Conventions could apply to them. 

No criminal charges have been filed against them, and they are denied access to a lawyer or a U.S. court. 

Most of these detainees were captured during the war on Afghanistan. Their relatives and human rights groups say many of them were simply in the wrong place at the wrong time or were picked up on bad intelligence. 

The indefinite detention has had a terrible effect on prisoners' morale, and there have been more than 30 attempts at suicide. The human rights advocates, including the International Committee of the Red Cross and Amnesty International, have voiced concern. 

Amanda Williamson, spokeswoman for the Red Cross, the only non-state organization permitted to visit the prison, said in a recent interview, "After more than 18 months of captivity, the internees have no idea about their fate, no means of recourse through any legal mechanism. They have been placed in a legal vacuum, a legal black hole." 

A number of heads of leading law organizations around the world have urged the administration to give these prisoners a fair and lawful trial. 

The chairmen and presidents of law societies from Britain, France, Sweden, Australia and Canada have publicly expressed misgivings at the U.S. plan to put the detainees before military tribunals without jury. 

And attorneys for the prisoners from Kuwait, Britain and Australia had sought hearings on behalf of their clients. 

But the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia denied their request, saying Guantanamo Bay lies beyond the reach of federal courts. 

John J. Gibbons, a former chief judge of the Third U.S. Circuit of Appeals called the decision "ludicrous," since the Navy base is under perpetual lease from Cuba, and the U.S. exerts its full sovereign rights over it. 

Other lower courts have given similar judgments. Thus, although they have consistently upheld the notion that U.S. courts have no jurisdiction over non-Americans detained abroad, the issue is of such importance that it must be resolved in the top court. 

This is all the more important since the administration has obstinately refused to be governed by reasonable rules in detention of foreigners in its "war on terrorism." 

Former Vice President Al Gore, in a speech in November, severely criticized these detentions saying the "handling of prisoners at Guantanamo has been particularly harmful to America's image. Even England and Australia have criticized our departure from international law and the Geneva Conventions." 

"Foreign citizens held at Guantanamo should be given hearings to determine their status provided under Article V of the Geneva Convention, a hearing that the United States has given those captured in every war until this one, including Vietnam and the Gulf War," he said. 

"If we don't provide this, how can we expect American soldiers captured overseas be treated with equal respect? The president should seek congressional authorization for military commissions he says he intends to use instead of civilian courts to try some of those who are charged with violating the laws of war." 

"Review of their decision must be available in a civil court, at least the Supreme Court, as it was in Word War II." 

Thus, as the world leader, it is incumbent on the United States that it does not violate the conventions to which it owes allegiance, but rather continues with good and honorable precedents for others to follow. 

Siraj Mufti, Ph.D., is a researcher and free-lance journalist.

Related Suggestions

The opinions expressed herein, through this post or comments, contain positions and viewpoints that are not necessarily those of IslamiCity. These are offered as a means for IslamiCity to stimulate dialogue and discussion in our continuing mission of being an educational organization. The IslamiCity site may occasionally contain copyrighted material the use of which may not always have been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. IslamiCity is making such material available in its effort to advance understanding of humanitarian, education, democracy, and social justice issues, etc. We believe this constitutes a 'fair use' of any such copyrighted material as provided for in section 107 of the US Copyright Law.

In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, and such (and all) material on this site is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes.

Older Comments:
Salam 'alaykoum
In this article you emphasize the fact that the detainees' conditions violate the Geneva Convention. I agree with you. But don't be hypocrites ! What about the Geneva Convention for the millions killed by the US just in Vietnam ? What about the Palestinians slaughtered in the name of the defense of Israel ? What about the millions of peasants ruined by their economic system ? How can people be so hypocritical when it comes to prisoners of war ? You can bomb civilians, kill and maim millions... but if they are prisoners, treat them well. I offer a solution : kill everybody, no prisoners and no problems with the Geneva Convention.

Matthew Civiletti (peace be with you): technically the detainees are not terrorists - as they were primarily trained to do battle with enemy combatants. They were by and large volunteers for Afghanistan's recognized leaders (i.e., the Taliban). When the Taliban's allies (i.e., Al Qaida) launched an attack on American soil, these volunteers were subsequently brought into opposition against America's armed forces. Hence, these particular volunteers are, I would contend, prisoners of war rather than "criminals" subject to legal proceedings. In my opinion, there ought to be a limit as to how it's considered permissible to detain prisoners of war - whose detaintion is in accordance with actions of the Chief Executive (i.e., in the absence of a declaration of war by Congress).

On another note, I would imagine that you might enjoy more success in rallying "Christians, Jews and Muslims" to, for example, potty-train Hollywood - in lieu of endorsing one's own particular choice of military initiatives. As I understand God's instructions in the Qur'an, the proper course of action (at least for Muslims) is to encourage Jews, Christians and Muslims to conform to their own choice of scripture - rather than "banding togather" in the service of international policy secularized to increase the appeal to individuals of differing faiths. Mind you, that's just a suggestion; it's not imperative.

[Mark 9:41] For whosoever shall give you a cup of water to drink in my name, because ye belong to Christ, verily I say unto you, he shall not lose his reward.

Also, according to Mark 9:40, it appears that if someone is not against us then they are for us. Please note how "not against us" preceeds "for us" in that statement.

I would suggest perhaps negotiating for some sort of "parole" - as was common in the American Civil War (and earlier conflicts). Basically, prisoners of war would agree to return to their farms, professions or whatever. Once a prisoner had accepted parole, he was subject to summary execution - if he was apprehended after returning to the hostilities.

Why this should be a surprise to anyone? This took a lot of planning on behalf of the Bush Administration and the US government. That the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia denied their request, saying Guantanamo Bay lies beyond the reach of federal courts. Indeed it dose-why did they (the US) put all those prisoners in Guantanamo Bay in the first place? Except for this obvious reason, this was perfectly planned just like the 9-11, like the attack on Afghanistan, and Iraq. It's how the US operates because they are cruel, intimidating, heartless, and they feed on the avails of the weak. Now that's what I call evil.
Look how long it took them to find Hussein or as they are now calling him "the rat". They are just using an excuse to stay longer in Iraq. And this way no one will blame them for staying as long as they are. After all Hussein the evil dictatorship has not been captured so the Americans can't leave. So you might agree with me the US imprisons a lot of people without charges or cause and gets away with it doesn't it make you feel ill that the world sits there and let the US get nastier and nastier.
Remember how long they sanctioned against the Iraqis before they waged a full blown war against them. Well that was the strategy to weaken the Iraqi people that the Americans were going to free this way they (US) has the full deck.

Asalam u Alaykum
Allah bless and protect brother H.A, sister 'Mulims Girl', and espcially brother Ahmed. I am 200% with you all.
"You call me a terrorist? American soldiers attacked us, killed my men and my family. And you were with them"
Please check this website:
(those who think they are terrorist, i suggest you read sura tauba, and sura al nisa)

this is all very touching...let me remind quickly that 2 million people are locked up in our country! oh they have "rights", sure! but since when did they get applied?! so lets stop crying about 600 who got caught weapons in hands, wether they were right or wrong doesn't change anything, nothing happening now is new, this is how powers have acted throughout history so... the whole world has jails with torture and humiliation! only a strict application of Shariah could change that but thats an other debate.

The Jews and Christians will always be the enemy of Muslims. The reasons Muslims are humiliated today b/c we got too many infidellic Muslims and they are the ONES who are actively helping OUR enemies (Jews and Christians) to destroy and humiliate Muslims.

However, Muslims who READ AND APPLY THE SCRIPTURES should NOT be discouraged. We should be more determined than ever to repel the evil with good. We should show the Jews and Christians how to be just in dealing with matters.

More specifically, We need to tell them that Saddam can't be your best buddy in one millienum and a World Class tyrant (throwing YOUR Chemicals at his citizens with your Stauchest backing) during the next milleinu. We need to tell them to JUST STOP YOUR HYPOCRISY. We should say NO TO HYPOCRISY.

I really have to blame the Muslims. We are too _______ divided and almost none of us apply our religion in everyday situation, especially the Kings and Queens of Middle East, who are the best allies of U.S. now, but later bound to be tyrant (if they funnel the oil thru a channel that goes eastward instead of westward).

This is the truth. If anyone does not get my truth, I will go into your living room and repeat the truth loudly, but NOT emotionally b/c I am NOT the AMERICAN EMOTIONAL RANCHBOY, whom the citizens of the world consider as the #1 INTERNATIONAL TERRORIST and BIGGEST THREAT TO INCREASING THE ENTROPY OF mommy EARTH.


Hey Civiletti, how do you know these hostages are guilty of anything ? More american fiction at work folks, from the same group of liars who claimed WMDs were only 45 minutes away from the US.
No sane person believes such nonsense. But then again, sanity is in short supply in the states these days.

The Muslims were fighting against their attackers who wants only Usama then why they are treated like this.

A'salaamu alaykum,

This story does indeed bring to mind the question of legality behind the prolonged detention of the probable Al-Qaeda operatives/terrorists. Due to the fact that they are imprisoned on American soil, their detention should therefore warrant a fair and impartial trial before the court of proper jurisdiction. These trials should be take place as quickly as possible to insure that these individuals recive just treatment in accordance with the Constitution. However, something more disturbing lies beneath this issue. This disturbing fact is by no means in conenction with their human rights - they are being treated nicely by their captors. However, the fact rermains that ever since the prisoners have been held at Guantanamo Bay in 2002, they were held arbitrarily with no sufficient evidence to link them to the terror crimes they have committed. They just hapened to be at the 'scene of the crime'. Unless prudential records have been kept by the Armed Forces, their detentions are unconstitutional. moreover, they should be given the opportunity to counsel. I would assume many do have attorneys, but I've read that many lack legal support and they are severely limited financially. Unless they have counsel provided by the state, their detentions are unconsitutional. Careful attention should have been applied to the detention of these men.

Muslims, Jews and Christians band together?
Our Muslim brothers and sisters are being oppressed. Enough of this lets be friends rubbish...all muslims need to get together and wreak holy hell on all those oppressors of our people...including the United States.

As a US citizen, I have become deeply ashamed of the current US government. They continue to violate the most fundamental of civil rights both in the US and abroad. Is it any wonder whatsoever that there exists such animosity toward the United States in the international community?

How can you have peace in the world when the U.S. gov't is the biggest supplier of ammunition to the worst terrorist state (Israel) and when the U.S. is the stauchest ally to all the well-known dictators of the world.

Let me give you history lesson -- Who supported OBL and his buddies in the Afgan war? Why were they called Freedom fighters then????

Now they (OBL and his buddies) are taking shot at you and your gov't with the training of your gov't and old RPG given by CIA, they are called terrorists. Don't you think that stupid???

Are you thinking that Iraq is becoming a peace-heaven? NOPE!!!Another dictator is about to be created. He will be your ally for a few years, but when he wants the same pot of oil as your gov't (exaclty like Saddam), then you and your gov't will lie AGAIN and start another WAR in the name of WORLD Peace. However, next time all your cities might be demolished...earthly mighty WAR machines or Superpower d.n. last forever...Don't be short-sighted.

Don't come here and start meowing... get your history right!!!! Think about what goes on behind the closed door filled with zionists, evangelists, Jerry Falwelll, Crusdaers, oil-stealing thugs, morons, Muslim dictators (who behave like infidels), and morons)). They are the real evil-doers.

I am NOT going to be fooled by stupid propganda of your gov't. The WAR on Terror is a crappy slogan. You yourselves are the main terrorists. A little thinking clarifying what I am trying to say.

Hence, all the detainees should be freed. They are more innocent than you and your gov't (if you are a U.S. citizen). The whole American gov't and the public should be put on trial for all the current mess b/c you're all too busy watching NUDE movies and you obviously don't give a ______ what your gov't has been doing around the world for decades, even when there are BIG BIG BANGS showing at your shores. Next time, it may not be just a few WAR planes.

So shape up now. you've till got time

As Salaamu Alaikum,
I am not against the article but I am against
the treatment of our brothers held in that
prison. I understand that they are blindfolded
and gagged so that they cannot spit upon any
of the soldiers guarding them. This treatment
is for criminals who have been convicted of a
horrible crime. The US should put them on
trial or let them return to their families. I
believe the military is still trying to find
something to keep them detained. They are
allowed to pray but do they have access to
a Holy Quran? Inshala the protesters will have
an impact on their imprisonment.
May Allah answer their prayers.
Peace and Blessings

I understand others' concerns regarding the fate of the detainees, but we must not forget that they were caught on the battlefields in Afghanistan. The detainees are not random civilians, they were not detained because of their religion and/or ethnicities--on the contrary, their detainment is based on the detainees' actions. Furthermore, we must also understand that radical "Islamic" terrorism is directed at humanity and not "the West"; if the detainees were released, many of them would kill innocent men, women and children throughout the world--Christians, Muslims, Jews, everyone. It is therefore imperative that Christians, Jews and Muslims band together to defeat these murderers and hate-mongers. Until then, all the peace-loving inhabitants of the world will continue to live under the bloody fist of terror.

On reflection, it's possible that some of the detainees would seek to live in peace upon their release. On the other hand, I can't honestly say that I would like to see all of the detainees released in time for the Hajj.

Thank You for finally having the courage to write something about this atrocity. It seems that islamicity in the last two years has not written one editorial about our brothers in this situation...interesting...!!!??? whats wrong with you? the apologist muslim love to cry about things especially when muslims try to protect themselves. These brothers in guantananmo bay gave their lives for the sake of their deen, and those that are outside think of them as criminals or the favourite "terrorists" when in reality we should be fighting our hardest with our lives to get them free. In the past, when Muslims were captured the rulers of that time fought to free these captives. AHH! ..the sign of the times that we cant even make dua for these brothers or look after their families. Any Muslim who supports a Kafir in detaining/killing his / her own Muslim brother / sister even if the Muslim were wrong than we have done a great wrong. Those Muslims who have been helping the kuffar by working with their intelligence agencies to help kill or detain Muslims, how will they answer for it on the Day of Judgement? as Allah says...."they buy error at the price of guidance"...what a shame? what a shame!!

Justice delayed is justice denied.Every suspect should be given the Oppurtunity to be tried to proof his innocence and otherwise.The US is a world leader and should lead by example.

Still, it seems preferable to being burned and buried alive at the World Trade Center. (Salam)